Do you realize how amazing you are?
Why are we so willing to believe the worst about ourselves?
I had a conversation with a friend recently. She tends to believe she presents herself worse than she does. She accentuates her perceived weaknesses and berates herself for being “stuck”.
When I commented on her strengths and her perceived weaknesses (more on that), she smiled. “Yeah”, she said, “A friend once told me what my real problem is. My friend said, ‘Your problem is, you don’t realize how amazing you are.”
I agree with her friend.
I told her about a presentation I made last year, to an auditorium full of people. I’d goofed pretty badly–thought I was doing a presentation on one topic, only to realize the night before I was committed to a different one.
I was still more than adequately prepared. I’ve taught this workshop before, and have plenty of material on hand. But throughout the presentation, I kept apologizing. “I’m handing out a resource list–I’m so sorry, it would have been longer….” “Blah blah blah, sorry!, blah blah.”
When I read the evaluations later, everyone raved about me.
Except for one astute soul who commented, “The presentation was excellent, good information. Just one negative. She apologized too much. I found it distracting.”
It’s time to quit apologizing for ourselves.
It’s so easy to see this in other people. So hard to see it in ourselves: Not trusting our instincts. Focusing on our weaknesses and flaws. Taking our strengths for granted.
Taking ourselves for granted.
So in the interest of full disclosure, here’s the back story behind my blog:
I merrily make my art/write my column/prepare a seminar. Things are humming along. Life is good!
Then I hit roadblocks. An envious peer. A missed deadline. A new injury (usually acquired doing something absolutely stupid.) A rejection from a show. Oh, and a very low checking account balance.
Some people thrive in adversity. Yay for them! (And we all can do that sometimes.) But often we are struck in vulnerable places. The roadblock looks similar to a struggle in our past. And there are some people in this world, in a kind of pain themselves, who know exactly where to aim their blows.
If I’m in my powerful place, I shrug these off as annoying but manageable, tiny little bumps in my path. I will not be deterred from my journey.
But if I’m in a fragile period, I get knocked off-center. “Why do I bother making this work? Nobody likes it!” “How can I make her like me and stop being so mean?” “I’m so disorganized!”
Soon I feel like there’s no place for me in the world. No gifts I can offer. No way I can contribute. I’m just a whirling bundle of fret and anxiety and unkindness and ineptitude. (I thought I was making that last word up, but spell check says no, I’m good to go. Until I spelled “spellcheck” wrong….)
I eventually sit down to write. I dump it all out onto paper. I whine, I cry, I resent, I blame.
And then something wonderful happens.
I realize how amazing I am.
Not in the swelled-head, I’m-okay-you’re-not, aren’t-I-grand kinda way.
Just…amazing…in the ordinary way. A person, here in this world, in this time, trying to love and be loved. Trying to be kind. Trying to shine. Trying to do the work I was put here to do. Trying to do the best I can. (Another friend, years ago, said to me, “I like to believe people are doing the best they can.” It brought tears to my eyes.) (Although it’s hard to remember that when someone cuts me off in traffic.)
For a few wonderful, incredible minutes, maybe a few hours, maybe even an entire day, I see how powerful I am, how brightly I shine. Just enough for me to get back in the saddle and try again. (OH! A riding metaphor!)
At some point, this struggle, this journey, turns into a blog article, or a keynote speech, or a new wall hanging. If it’s funny, it goes to my column at The Crafts Report.
I write about the struggle. I write about how I end up in the hard place, and how I find my way back from there.
And how I still end up there again.
And find my way back home, to my own heart–again.
I write about how our weaknesses are not something to be cried over, but something to be celebrated. Because our weaknesses are the true source of our strength, if we let this awareness happen.
If we are the victim of cruelty, we can still choose to be kind.
If we are gripped by sadness, we can simply embrace that, for now. Or we can choose to act as if we are happy. Or we can help someone else who is sad.
If we grieve, it is because we loved. Or because we wanted to love, or to be loved.
These things are not imperfections. Or rather, they are imperfections. They are what make us beautiful, just as as stress, flaw, disease and even death make something beautiful in wood.
If we don’t think we are amazing, it is simply because we are afraid of what that might mean. We think we don’t know what that looks like. We don’t know what might change or what we might lose, or that we are setting ourselves up for even bigger failure. We are afraid we will have to work harder, and we are afraid we won’t be able to.
We are afraid we are not enough.
And yet, in each of us, is the potential to simply be ourselves. To be present. To respect our gifts, and USE them.
What inspires me, what makes me cry, is that this very place that’s so hard for us–”I am not enough”–comes from a very powerful, very beautiful place–”I want to be somebody</em, somebody worthy of love, respect, kindness, joy, achievement. I want to be seen and cherished. I want to do good work. I want to be remembered after I'm gone."
Don't you think it's amazing that we all want these things?
Isn't it astonishing that this desire drives everything we do, every choice we make, whether we act on this consciously ("I'm going to hold the door open for that person behind me.") to unconsciously ("Huh! That person cut in front of me! He acted as if I were totally not worth his kindness!" or choice words to that effect….)? (I am praying you did not get lost in the punctuation of that last sentence.)
And that's why, when people say I'M amazing, or do such beautiful work, or write something good, I do a little foot shuffle and blush, and say, "Aw, tweren't nuthin'…"
Because I DON'T have this all figured out, or rather, it doesn't STAY worked out. I'll have to do the same thing tomorrow, and next month, and probably for the rest of my life–fall down, cry, take hope and get back up.
I know I just have to do this. And I don't have to do it perfectly, either.
Because when I look at my work, at my art, at the artifacts, the fiber work, the little bears and otters, the grumpy fish, the horses….oh, the horses!
When I remember my story I tell about myself and this work, what it's done for me spiritually, and what others say it does for them….
When I remember how far I've come from that lonely, sad place, where I was so sure there was no place in this world, I actually tried to leave it….
When I look at the wonderful guy who is my life partner, and our children, our friends and family, even the stranger on the street who chooses to be kind… When I realize all the opportunities there are in life to BE that partner, that child, that friend, that stranger…
I realize we truly are all made of stars.
I am. And so are you.
p.s. Thank you, Moby, for the title of this post.