I’m an introvert; I admit it.
I spend a lot of time thinking and rationalizing things. My latest thoughts center around our perceptions of ourselves vs. the world in which we live. I’ll just get right to it so you’ll be able to see where I’m going with this.
Many of us see ourselves in a totally different light from how others view us. We may think we’re “the best of the best” but others may not agree with our assessment. The opposite is also true, and may be more common. Many of us think of ourselves in lesser terms than others think of us.
Recently I went out with a girlfriend for a late lunch and to talk. As I spoke and shared a few things about me to her, I realized that my self-awareness and personal level of impact was VERY different from what I had imagined. She shared with me how much she felt that she needed to get to know me from the first time she saw me. I sat there, quietly ashamed of the tirade on myself that I had just subjected her to a few minutes before.
You see, I’ve never seen myself as some “grand” person, wanting to be with the “in” crowd or fitting in. When I was a child I learned the hard way that I was too different to blend in, and honestly none of that has changed. But in my quest to be “me” yet remain likable there were things about myself that I had started nitpicking at, all in an effort to “self-improve”. I think it had the opposite effect on me, as my heart and mind turned into a war zone. It was like a mental debate event where each side tries to prove that the other side is wrong. I would look at things I didn’t like about myself and either criticize it in an effort to justify doing something about it (or to beat myself up over), or ignore or downplay GOOD things that others may mention that should make me feel better about who I am.
This ongoing mental war has had a profound effect on many aspects of my life. Whenever you tell yourself that there are limits on what you can achieve, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve told myself that I “didn’t belong” in certain circles, or in the company of certain individuals because I felt odd, and honestly I told myself that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to offer them. The discomfort in breaking away from these self-imposed limits has made the mental debate now a center-stage event, as now I fight consciously against the limiting lies I’ve fed myself for years. I would look at my background (my family, etc) and my personal past and automatically disqualify myself from levels of success that I’ve never experienced before.
Being genuinely happy for others’ success has always been the fuel to my fire. Others’ hurts and celebrations always became mine because of my high level of empathy and caring for others. But here are some questions I’ve had to ask myself lately: What about my opinions on things? How do I truly feel? What about my desires and wants? Do I know what those are, or have I talked myself into saying “Whatever makes (others) happy, makes me happy.” Is that REALLY TRUE???
After my marriage failed, I purposely pushed the world away from me for a couple years in an effort to reconnect with my inner voice. I’d forgotten what I sounded like. Before that period of self-imposed isolation & reflection, there were always people calling to offer unsolicited advice or to rehash the last 3 things my ex-spouse did or said before I moved out. After a while, I realized that the baggage others were placing on me prevented me from living my new life on my terms. I even had people trying to get me to reconnect with an ex-boyfriend after they heard that my marriage had ended! (Really???) Living my life on my terms is in no way meant to minimize my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s just that I loved Jesus and I loved others but did not love ME enough! I felt that others were more important than me, that their desires and opinions were more important than mine – even if they affected the quality of my life. I gave in to demanding friends and their requests. There were no boundaries. My phone rang any time of the day or night and I answered it, fully anticipating the draining conversation I was about to have.
The pain of burying my heart’s dreams and desires continued for years after until I was tired of living vicariously through everyone else. I decided to step out and go after one dream at a time, one day at a time. Some of my desires I kept to myself because others became so used to me “being there” that I saw the uselessness of informing them that things were about to change – until they changed! I published my first book in 2011, and when that happened, I started to see flickers of who I am on the inside. As I read reader reviews and as people stopped to tell me how they were impacted by its contents, it was difficult to receive at first. After a while, I graciously accepted their compliments with a simple “Thank you”.
Graduating with my MBA was definitely a HUGE life-goal for me, one that I felt to give up on many times. As I walked across the stage with my head held high, I realized that there was so much in me that was yet untapped or untouched. Even with that enormous highlight, the mental wars continued.
Now I am at the threshold of another series of changes and challenges, and I’m facing myself and saying “STOP! You CAN’T keep pushing success away just because it’s different from everything you’ve always known!” So I’m saying this to you as well. STOP saying you can’t be a success. Don’t ever say you don’t deserve recognition for a job well-done or for achieving a life goal. NEVER embrace staying where you are because it’s safe, or because that’s what others expect of you.
Expect MORE! Be MORE! Live your life passionately and to the fullest! You are unique, so your life-story is yours to tell. It won’t sound exactly like anyone else’s, and no-one else is more qualified to tell your story than YOU are. If you have a passion, a dream, a desire – GO AFTER IT!
I’m thankful to be surrounded by my great cloud of witnesses. They’re in the form of friends (who are also pursuing greatness) and mentors. My Dad is one of my main cheerleaders, and I’m thankful for that.
Find friends who are also pushing to live productive lives. You can encourage each other as you go. Allow people to offer sincere compliments to you. ACCEPT them as well! You’ve worked hard, so you deserve it!
“There’s more to come, ’cause I’m not done!” ~Michelle Cameron. How about YOU?