Today I was reading the reflections of fellow personal development blogger Karen Bell when the following sentence stopped me dead in my tracks:
All of a sudden I realised that one of the main reasons I’m attracted to personal development is a subconscious fear of not being “good enough” just as I am…I noticed the difference in energy between a person who is “on the path” because it’s fun and a person who is “on the path” because s/he feels intrinsically flawed.
Ouch. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she said that. It really hit home. Personal development is a large part of my life, but there’s definitely a point where I delve into it as a means of escapism; as an excuse that I’m not attracting what I want into my life because I’m not “good enough” yet.
I am an incredibly self-critical person. The counsellors I have seen post domestic violence have been left flabbergasted by the vile tirade of self-deprecating nonsense I spew when I’m given free reign. I say the most cruel and hurtful things about myself that I wouldn’t even dream of saying to anyone else in a million years.
I’ve had plenty of people tell me that I’ve been an inspiration to them, ranging from helping them leave abusive relationships, to thinking about situations in new ways, to wanting to interact with other people more like I do. I get positive feedback from the people around me every day. The problem is the feedback is incongruent with how I sometimes feel about myself.
Most people who meet me would have no idea that I usually feel plain awkward in most social situations. I feel as though I don’t know what to say, I say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I say flat out stupid things because I don’t listen. In fact, most of the time I feel as though I can’t string two sentences together without feeling like English is my fifth language. Still, no one else seems to notice this, or at least if they do, they are incredibly diplomatic. Maybe this is because they are dealing with their own social insecurities and aren’t paying that much attention to me. Maybe I overcompensate for the fear of social inadequacy by educating myself on people skills, open conversation, body language, and developing friendships, then realise that there is still so much that I don’t know.
I constantly beat up on myself because I don’t write more frequently on my blog. I figure I have no discipline because I don’t get up at to go swimming at 6am every morning before work. I decide I’m terrible with people because there are some people with whom I just can’t seem to connect. I cringe at myself for turning into a babbling ditz around men in whom I’m interested. I admonish myself on a daily basis because I am late for everything. I get irritated with myself if I sleep in or can’t muster the energy to do something productive. I stress constantly that I’m not good at my work. I kick myself if I make an unhealthy vegan choice instead of a healthy one.
When I sat down and thought about it, I realised I had a lot of insecurities for which personal development was acting as a band-aid. One of my good friends looked upset when I told her about some of my personal development plans. “Don’t you go changing so much that you get rid of the inner Taz”, she would caution me. “And stop being so hard on her. She’s a really great person!” At the time, I understood intellectually what she was trying to tell me, but it wasn’t until I read Karen’s review that it really resonated strongly. I too, am always striving towards being better and better – not always because it’s fun – but because I feel intrinsically flawed.
You know what Karen’s post made me think? Screw it! I’m not going to lose myself to pursue a futuristic ideal where I’ll never be satisfied because I’ll just raise the game as soon as I get there!
Some of the regular negative thoughts that plagued me were:
- I’m not a good enough daughter. A good daughter would be less lazy and do more to help her parents
- I’m not a good enough friend. A good friend would listen much more actively than what I do
- I’m a bad girlfriend. A good girlfriend would be in a serious, committed relationship with a nice man by now
- I’m not good at my work. Anyone could do what I do
- I’m not healthy enough. I eat too much junk and I don’t exercise as much as I should
- I’m not financially successful. I don’t have my own place and financial freedom yet
- I’m not good with people. I can’t work a room like Dale Carnegie
- I have no business sense. I have no idea how to sell or market myself, or how to run a business, even if I had a good idea for one
These are not nice thoughts to be feeding your subconscious mind on a daily basis, so instead of instead of clogging up my neurons with that nonsense, I started thinking along a different track.
Maybe I’m not the most helpful daughter in the world. But you know what? I was a total goody-two-shoes kid growing up. I hardly swore, I didn’t drink or date until I was 18, I never did drugs, I was never one of the sheep that had to do or have something just because it was cool, and my parents and I hardly ever had disagreements through my teenage years. I think the biggest difference of opinion my parents and I had was them lecturing me about skateboarding on the road because it was dangerous. When I moved out of home, I’d come back to see them every weekend, and we still have a great relationship today. So sure, I can be lazy, but so can the other 100% of the human population. All in all, I was a dream child. So stop beating up on myself for being a normal human being, and give myself a break.
Maybe I don’t always remember important details about my friends, and perhaps I don’t listen as actively as what I should. But you know what? I’m always there for my friends when they need me. I always try to understand and empathise. If they need to talk, I just let them talk. If they want a solution, I always try to challenge them to see problems from another angle. I do my best to make them smile. I befriend people based on their morals, personality, and mutual compatibility and interests, not on what I can get out of them. It makes me genuinely happy when I see my friends achieve, and genuinely sad when something goes wrong for them. I’m late to nearly everything, but I’ll always be the first person there when a friend is in trouble. I’m notoriously stubborn, but I’ll go out of my own way to accommodate others in genuine need. I’m may not be particularly funny, my jokes may not make most people laugh, and I have a bad habit of indulging in self-deprecating humour, but I love making my friends laugh and seeing them happy around me. It makes me feel good that I can bring a smile to their faces. I always see the good in my friends, even when they can’t see it in themselves. I don’t see myself as particularly talented at anything, but I see potential in those around me and encourage them to embrace their gifts. I can easily see why my friends are worthy, special, fantastic, and loved by those around them. Maybe I can’t be a great friend to everyone, but I do my best with the personality that I’ve got. So realise that I make an important contribution in my friendships just by being me, and give myself a break.
Maybe the people to whom I’m attracted aren’t attracted to me and vice-versa. Maybe all of my relationships thus far have turned to a big steaming pile of shit. But you know what? I’ve learned from every relationship I’ve been in. I’ve learned what it is to truly love someone, and what it means to have your heart broken. I’ve learned that sometimes the most loving thing to do is to fight for a relationship, and sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to set a person free. I’ve learned that truly loving someone is to just let them be themselves with all their eccentricities and give them room to grow, even if that means growing away from you. I’ve learned love is not trying to possess a person and mould them into your ideal. I’ve learned that love is stronger than hate, and that forgiveness is more powerful than a grudge. I’ve learned that being alone is not a scary beast to be feared; it’s an opportunity to find who you really are. I’ve learned that you can dominate a person’s mind and body, but you can never dominate their soul. I’ve learned that just because you are attracted to a person, doesn’t mean they are right for you. I’ve learned that just because a person is “nice” also doesn’t mean they are right for you. I’ve learned that there are many more types of relationships than what meets the standards of social acceptability, and just because they are alternative doesn’t mean they are wrong. I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel and it’s okay to cry. I’ve learned that ending a relationship that no longer serves you is not weak or bad – it’s the most courageous thing you can possibly do. I’ve learned the best relationships are those based on trust, mutual respect, and genuine acceptance. I’ve learned that relationships never really end – they just change form with the recalibration of people’s energies. Who knows, maybe I am a terrible girlfriend and an unattractive, boring prospect to be passed over in search of someone better, hotter, smarter, more successful, and less stubborn. More likely, I just haven’t yet found that person with the qualities I respect, the right chemistry, and who sees relationships the same way as I do. I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to settle until I have, so quit whining about it and give myself a break.
Maybe I’m really not good at my work. Maybe I’m not as intelligent as the people around me. But you know what? I have a job that I enjoy. I am a perfectionist and determined – I don’t give up until I’ve done something to the best of my ability. I’m honest, helpful, and patient. Maybe I’m not a great writer, but I started this blog to help other women escape domestic violence regardless, and I’m getting better. People who I consider far more intelligent and competent than myself ask me for help with things I consider elementary. Maybe I should start focussing on my strengths instead of my weaknesses, and give myself a break.
Maybe I don’t yet have the financial freedom to travel, purchase my own house, and do what I want, when I want. Maybe I’ll never have the business sense, the marketing know-how, the sales techniques, the foresight, or the confidence to build and run my own business. Maybe I’ll never be the success that I want to be. But you know what? Maybe I will. Maybe I don’t have those skills because that part of business doesn’t interest me. Maybe there are other ways to financial independence that I haven’t yet thought of which are more compatible with my strengths. Maybe I should stop focussing on scarcity, shift my mindset into the frame of abundance, and give myself a break.
Maybe I’m not a whole food vegan and don’t have the discipline to sculpt my body to the frame of a supermodel. But you know what? I liked the taste of all meat, loved brie and crackers, had a full-cream cappuccino every day before work, and was addicted to pretty much every chocolate bar known to man, but I went from meat-eater to vegan, partly because witnessing the cruelty inflicted on innocent animals as a result of human’s unconscious habits and choices literally makes me break down and cry. So what if I don’t live on a perfectly balanced vegan diet? I’m pretty sure I’m still doing better than most of the population. I’m not a perfect size 8 with DD boobs, a perfect butt and killer thighs, but I now love and respect my body enough to consume a diet that is compatible with my biology and no longer subject it the abuses of binge drinking. I’m far from the most fashion-oriented female that has ever walked the earth, but have a quirky, individual style – and I’m fine with that. Maybe I should give myself props for what I do right, and give myself a break.
Maybe I really do have poor communication skills. Maybe I have an underdeveloped sense of humour. Maybe I’m borderline autistic and can’t read social cues or other people’s emotions. But you know what? Maybe it takes two to have a good conversation. Maybe instead of analysing a social situation that didn’t go well and thinking it just proves that I’m bad with people/I’m not funny/I can’t communicate/insert other self-deprecating nonsense here, I think maybe the other person has poor people skills. Maybe that person just had nothing in common with me, and they are not a good social match. Maybe they don’t laugh at my jokes because they have no sense of humour. Maybe I’m not communicating effectively because they ask stupid/inappropriate/personal/boring questions and I just don’t want to do the socially acceptable thing and answer because it bores me to tears. Maybe I should stop worrying that the world is examining my insecurities under a microscope, and give myself a break.
I’m not advocating that you palm off your own shortcomings onto other people – that robs you of the power to change. What I am suggesting is that you take a moment to look at your insecurities from a more empowering angle. Think about the people who love you. How do your best friend/partner/children/parents/pets see that part of you? If you were on your death bed right now, how much would your insecurity even matter?
I’d like to leave you with some food for thought a friend of mine recently gave me. She doesn’t see herself as the prettiest, smartest, or best at anything in particular, but she realised that she makes a unique contribution that no-one else can just by being herself. She realised that her particular strength and what makes her happy is to be there for people and help them through difficult personal times. This woman has a great gift – she is an amazing listener and has the ability to bring clarity to the most complicated of situations, all without uttering a word of unsolicited advice.
Every single one of us has a unique strength like my friend. Maybe we need to take some time out to quiet our negative chatter so we give our positive whispers a chance to be heard.
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