“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.” ~Helen Keller
It’s discouraging, isn’t it?
Walking around every day feeling as if you’re never enough?
Comparing yourself to others and continually coming up short?
You feel as if you’re not smart enough, talented enough, organized enough, or disciplined enough. You’ve made mistakes, some small and some big but all of them embarrassing.
Fortunately, you and I are gloriously human and perfectly imperfect. We falter and fly, fall and triumph, cry, laugh, forget, remember, hurt, heal, dream, and love. Our one-of-a-kind uniqueness is amazing, really.
I couldn’t appreciate this earlier in life due to a childhood in which I was too skinny, too clumsy, too emotional, too shy, too sensitive, too everything.
When I was in kindergarten, I wanted nothing more than to stay inside alone and draw at recess. You can probably imagine how that went over.
The teacher called my mother and informed her that I needed to go outside and play with the other children because I would never develop my large motor muscles.
I already knew how to swing on the monkey bars, and I craved some quiet time. At the tender age of five, I decided there was something horribly wrong with me because too much noise and chaos set my nerves on edge.
My secret guilt and shame for being so flawed began to unravel when I became a mother. Three babies in four years taught me more about love than I could ever have imagined.
I wanted to protect and cherish the tender senses of self in my care, so I began reading every self-help book I could get my hands on. The more I honored the perfection in my children, the more generosity of spirit I developed for myself.
My journey inward included books about dreams, intuition, and spiritual development, and in time I realized that my sensitive and nurturing nature was actually my greatest gift and not a trait to be deeply ashamed of.
I can talk about it now from a genuine place of self-acceptance, but the pilgrimage from there to here was far from easy.
What I have learned so far.
It’s not about you.
Stop taking it all personally. In the journey toward self-acceptance, this is rule number one. How others see you is largely a projection and has little to do with you.
A great example of this is any politician. She may be viewed as an inspirational hero or incompetent fool depending on the person describing her. Same person just being viewed through vastly different lenses.
If you have ever been brave enough to play the game where you ask several people who know you to describe you with one word, you’ve already seen the diverse range of perceptions people have about you.
How people perceive you is more a reflection of the lens they are peering through than it is about you.
Once you truly embrace this concept, it will free you from the weight of other’s opinions or judgments. How you feel and what you know to be true of yourself is what matters.
Perfect people are annoying.
Don’t try to be one of them. Nearly everyone I know and those I have consulted with have something about their pasts or their personalities they are deeply ashamed of or embarrassed by. It may be a dysfunctional family, failed relationships, or financial difficulties.
We all hide our secrets convinced that if others knew, they would criticize, or worse, disown us. Some of us spend inordinate amounts of emotional energy trying to hide our embarrassing flaws, carrying around deep shame and guilt over our perceived shortcomings and mistakes.
Unfortunate choices, bad hair days, saying too much, saying too little, getting jealous, and losing things are all part of what makes you gloriously human. Your mishaps are what make you relatable and loveable.
None of us want picture-perfect friends because, frankly, they’re intimidating. We crave genuine friends. Friends who lock their keys in the car, fall for Mr. or Mrs. Wrong, and tangle up their Christmas lights.
Embrace your weird self.
I find it fascinating that billions of people walk the Earth and no two are exactly alike. If you are human, let’s face it, you have a few loveable quirks.
Bask in your strangeness and you’ll attract your tribe. When you stop pouring energy into being someone you’re not, you have more time and energy to be who you are.
In honor of my kindergarten teacher, I now stay inside and draw whenever I don’t feel like playing outside. So there.
Words can and do hurt you.
“Don’t be silly. You can’t do it. You mess everything up.” Sound familiar? If it wasn’t a harsh parent or teacher wagging a disapproving finger, it might have been coming from your own head.
Stop the madness.
If you wouldn’t dream of uttering such things to your best friend or child, then for Heaven’s sake stop saying them to yourself. “Oops cancel that” halts my negative self-talk in its tracks and helps me laugh at myself rather than heaping on more shame.
A miraculous shift occurred when I began extending compassion and patience toward myself. I noticed that others began to mirror my improved inner attitude. My harshest critics were nowhere in sight, and my new friends were oddly fond of solitude.
Now just imagine it. You make a mistake at work, at home, or in a relationship. This time, instead of beating yourself up, you calmly tell yourself that you’ll know better and do better next time because mistakes are great teachers.
Doesn’t that feel better?
Imagine being able to laugh at your blunders and accept your peculiarities.
Go ahead, right now.
Toss the burden of worry, shame, and guilt off your back.
Sit up straight, toss your hair back, and say, “I am enough.”
Ashamed girl image via Shutterstock