View part 1 of this series here.
Accept that you will never be perfect.
There are so many talented, driven, amazing people in this world who are downright terrified of themselves. They pore over decisions endlessly, frightened by the possibility that they might make a mistake.
What if my secret gets out? What if others discover that I’m not as smart/pretty/nice/powerful as they think I am? Will they still love me?
At the end of the day, most of us run on affirmation from others. We want to do a good job because we want to be recognized, valued, esteemed. We want them to give us a sense of worth that
we cannot give ourselves.
That we WILL NOT give ourselves.
Many of us go through life holding our self-esteem ransom. It is to be earned by achieving the “right” kind of success in an appropriate time frame.
“When I get the promotion, I will be happy”
“When I have children, I will mean something to someone”
“When I get a spouse, I will believe that I am worthy of love”
“When I prove to my parents that I am a success, I will know I have made it in life”
The problem with each of these statements is that none of them are guaranteed, and none of them allow us to be happy in this present moment.
Release yourself of a victim mentality
A victim mentality will rob you of your present and future. A major hindrance to fulfilling our own potential is the belief that someone else is keeping us from being successful.
If we were to cease all activity in this world for a moment, and focus on what has been done to us to limit who we are, there are few human beings who would find themselves with no one to blame in some way.
However, successful people move past the pity party, past the blame. They take ownership for what they can control in their lives, and don’t waste time focusing on what does not ultimately help them to advance.
Can you imagine that the very setbacks you endured have a fundamental role to play in how you help others and contribute to this world? Rather than stripping away your power, you can choose to be strengthened by the fact that you have overcome… by the fact that you are still here.
No one else has the power to tell us who we are, to keep us from fulfilling our purpose. No matter what others believe about you, or do to stand in your way, it is what you say and do that matters most. Life is all about how you respond.
It is easy to dismiss this encouragement as coming from someone who is young, or who does not know much about the world. Perhaps hearing it from people who have had very tangible, understandable setbacks that could have reasonably stripped them of all power, motivation, and ambition will help.
Consider the following powerful quotes from people who had every right to complain about their situation in life:
“Learning to read music in Braille and play by ear helped me develop a damn good memory.”
“A jealous man can’t work and a scared man can’t gamble.”
“No matter how or why we might be different from anybody else, we should learn how to love who we are and be proud of it.
“I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death… I think… peace and tranquillity will return again.
“I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
If being a blind, poor, orphaned black boy in the segregated Rural South, a young Jewish girl living in the Holocaust, or being a blind and deaf girl could not, would not stop these individuals from living out their potential, what is stopping you? How can you get out of your own way?
Start fighting back
The fears that we have may be deafening, but that does not make them true. You have the power to talk back to those familiar voices inside of you that discourage you. Remember, they are not who you are.
You can decide to shift this mentality by reminding yourself that you are capable of more than you think you are. Tell yourself that you are worthy as you are, apart from all that you do.
Will it be easy? Not at all. Sometimes feeling discouraged and defeated is the path of least resistance. It is familiar and well-worn with tangible grooves, because you have taken this route for so long. Wanting more for yourself can feel like wading into deep water.
Will you be able to swim? The answer is yes: one stroke at a time. Practice. Practice. Practice.
What if you are defeated? What if you start out trying to love yourself and fight your fears, and they come back stronger than ever?
Resist the temptation to believe this is a fault of your character, of who you are. Understand that everyone fights this battle.
You feel alone because no one really talks about their doubts and fears. We hope that we can hide behind our prestigious jobs, our fashionable attire, our new cars, our well-designed homes, our fancy vacations, our successful children.
We hope that they will make the statement that we cannot make for ourselves: that we are doing well. We fear our dying young because we fear that without the appropriate achievements, we are incomplete.
If we never have a marriage, a family, a successful career, if we never become powerful, will we be remembered? Our greatest fear is fading away.
However, we should truly be more concerned with fading away while we still have life. Power is a vain, empty approach to self-worth. We should be more concerned with what we are doing, right where we are, with the people who surround us, to serve this world and help one another. We want to be important, but our perception of what is important is all wrong.
Which leads us back to how you view yourself. If you measure yourself by things that lie outside of your control (whether your boss promotes you, whether someone you like also likes you, whether your parents are proud of you, whether your peers respect you), your perception of self-worth is all wrong.
Remember the quotes listed above. These individuals could have understandably had a low sense of self-worth, if they chose to define themselves by their limitations, by what was outside of their control.
However, they defined themselves by what they could do, and it made all the difference. Their worlds were so filled with possibilities that their legacies were born from them. As a result, their limitations were made less significant in our memories of them. They are remembered because of their fortitude and perseverance in the midst of challenges that would have understandably taken many of us out. They decided that they wanted more from life, and would not settle for less.
Whether you start moving forward, or continue to let what you fear shape your life, remember that this is a conscious choice you make. You decide.
Are you holding your own life ransom? What will you do differently to get out of your own way? Sound off in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Portia Jackson, DrPH, MPH helps professionals achieve success without burnout. Visit www.portiajackson.com to learn more.