Have you ever met a person who seems lighter than air, supremely self-possessed and self-confident, who captures every opportunity before them, who doesn’t seem to have any fears? Someone who is able to open doors to reveal a path of fulfillment down which he or she walks without hesitation?
Even though you may think EVERYONE is more like this than you, chances are this person doesn’t really exist.
We all suffer from moments of insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of failure. We hold in common the continual search for a meaningful place in this world, and the feeling that there might not be anywhere to go, or anyone who cares – the thought that our individual life has no meaning - is the worst existential horror there is.
I look back at the last 4 decades of my life with as much appreciation as I can muster. But amidst my ‘self-reflection with an earnest dash of gratitude’ exercise breathes a gnawing ambivalence, a knee-jerk prevarication toward placing any kind of worth on my experiences and achievements.
Why is it so difficult to appreciate the quiet moments that make up most of our lives? Why do we place value only on the meta-achievements – I wrote a NYT best-seller! I won the Nobel Prize! I made a gazillion dollars!! - instead of revering the precious little pieces of experience woven together to create the fabric of our everyday?
What holds us back from liking who we are RIGHT NOW, as opposed to the person we keep clawing forward to become? Will we ever arrive there, and meet ourselves, and fall in love?
My introspective whiteboarding has helped me identify some rabbit holes into which I burrow when I'm feeling less than sure of my purpose. I hope this helps you better embrace the real-time miracle of YOU when all is said and done…
Achievements are awesome. Accomplishing goals, completing important tasks, earning accolades for feats of excellence – what's not to love? But the slippery slope is when we base our essential self-worth on our achievements. Failing to dissociate our intrinsic value with the accomplishments we’ve earned perpetuates the belief that if we don’t succeed at everything we try, we not only have failed, but we are a FAILURE.
So why do some of us possess this paralyzing mindset, where others can try, fail, learn from their mistakes and try again?
Much of it has to do with how we were raised. If our parents focused only on the quality of our grades, and in so doing we children began to associate our intelligence with our scores, then anything less than 100% was a sign that we must be stupid. But had our parents acknowledged effort and exploration over results, inculcating a sense that making mistakes was a part of the learning process, we might have felt safer venturing into unknown terrain without the fear that a mistake was linked in some way to the value of our character.
If you grew up, like I did, with one or both parents driving you to “get the A”, you may be your own present-day worst enemy. But we can flip the script by raising our own children differently. Check out this Wall Street Journal article on the language we use with our kids and how it can influence their willingness to take risks.
My Gen X childhood was, relatively speaking, typical. My parents, mismatched from the start, divorced when I was 11. My dad moved out and my mom went back to work. My brother and I, damaged in our own distinct ways by the split, yo-yo’d between being the closest of comrades and the most bellicose of enemies. Every member of my family dealt differently with the demise of our little unit, but we all have our own story of what happened and how it shaped us.
(not my family... but it could be)
This broken moment in time is not, of course, the only narrative driving my behaviors, but it was the lynchpin connecting many years of sadness and struggle within my family. It still chokes me up to remember how unhappy we all were for so long, and how difficult it was for each of us to get through it with our bruised and weary hearts.
If our past is what makes us who we are, then how much importance should we place on the experiences that may have been less than positive? How much power do we give to the events that scarred us, that stopped us in our tracks and prevented us from moving forward? I do know that constantly looking back with resentment and digging our nails into the stories that caused us harm are actions that guarantee we will never grow.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR STORY. You must let it go.
Whenever I procrastinate, whenever I feel afraid to attempt something I know I’m capable of but refuse to try, whenever I scrunch my face and scream about how unfair life seems, I realize I am holding on too tight, blaming my inertia on a history I can’t possibly change.
Our greatest gift is the power to create our own story, to move beyond our negative narratives and author a better one, one that expresses the best of who we are. It takes courage and a leap of faith, but taking responsibility for who you are now is the highest form of self-love. We are all magical, creative creatures filled with meaning, so trust yourself to open your heart and let the world hear a new story.
We, by nature, are beings bound to each other, born of stardust and blessed with the knowledge that each of us plays a small part in the revolving rhythm of our cosmic consciousness. I’m not a religious girl in the formal sense, but I believe that we all are ONE, that we each contribute our energy, good and bad, to the swirling pool of this precious moment in time. We all need love and connection, like we need food and water. Love is required for our very survival. Love is our birthright.
When I’m feeling like I’m about to fly off the earth, when the ground moves underneath me and the anxiety rises, I reach for these yahoos.
Although I’ve made peace that my demons may never shut up, my beautiful family has made those dark voices a mere whisper in the background of the blessings before me. My husband and children, who love me whether I feel deserving or not, remind me that they are here to support me as I battle my fears. They never fail me, even when I feel like I may be failing myself. They believe in me as I learn to let go and grow.
So remember... You are not your achievements. You are not your story. And you are not alone.
You are YOU. You are MEANING. You are a MIRACLE.
Now go tell it.
Xoxoxo – Lara