Every second spent lamenting who you are is stealing a second from realizing your worth and potential. Have you ever thought, “I will be happy when I; lose weight, buy a bigger house, make more money, have more of this or less of that.” How often do you convince yourself happiness lies on the other side of an imaginary line? How much time do you spend cursing your fate because of your perceived shortcomings?
A Perspective Shift
Anyone could write volumes about what they lack, you and me included. Indeed, you probably have a mental list right now. I beg you to tare the list into tiny pieces and set it on fire. Please don’t waste any more of your strength highlighting weaknesses! It only brings misery and feelings of worthlessness. I know because I have done it! I cannot articulate the years I spent focusing on what I am not, throwing away countless could-have-been-joyous moments.
Thankfully, after thirty-something years of living, and an unforgettable example from my son, I finally understand an empowering lesson:
I directly influence my happiness by how I choose to see (which means you affect your joy, too). Note: I am not negating the reality of mental illness. I understand, on a personal level, how dark and lonely the fight against unseen demons can be. I am, however, emphasizing the power – positive or negative – of the words we speak, especially about ourselves.
First, my son
Me eldest son, now 8, believes he is the strongest and fastest dinosaur athlete in the world. If he’s playing soccer, he’s not a second grader playing another team, he’s the leader of a pack of velociraptors hunting down a t-rex. Or vice versa. If the other team wins he sees it as a minor loss in the millennial battle he knows he will win. In fact, after the soccer game ends, he resumes dinosaur athlete training as soon as the brown snack bags are handed out. He does not walk away heartbroken. He runs away shrieking out war cries, warning of his return!
While I cannot relate to the depth of his imagination, his example got me thinking, “Am I a mighty dinosaur or just a kid who lost a game?” So, as is my way, I wrote two personal sketches, each one from an opposing view.
The “weakness” perspective;
“I am never satisfied and demand perfection. I am obsessed with being on time and make people uncomfortable with all my rushing around. I am too emotional and often blow things out of proportion. I can’t sit still and always have to say something, even if inapplicable to the situation. I am slow to learn math and science, preferring to talk about things that cannot be quantified. Also, people think my clothing choices are bizarre.”
The “strength” perspective;
“I strive for excellence in all I do and rock my multi-decade wardrobe while doing so. To me, being punctual is a sign of respect. I feel emotions with my entire body and think best when my body is in motion. I believe participating in a conversation is a sign of caring, and would rather sound awkward than let someone feel as if they are unheard. I believe beauty is found in, and after, chaos.”
See the difference? As I wrote the first sketch, I started to feel the familiar tentacles of inadequacy creeping around my throat. But, as I wrote the second, reminding myself of who I am, they slithered back into their festering hole. Words make an impact.
Please Stop Waiting
How long will you wait for the universe to align in your favor before accepting the truth that you are are worthy of happiness? Worthy of having a voice, making a difference, and pursuing your dreams?
You do not need to wait for someone else’s approval, a number on a scale, an account balance, or a diploma as proof-of-value.
If there are things – habits, relationships, etc. – that are binding your wrists and keeping you small, do something. Seek help either from friends, family, or professionals. All three, if necessary. The sacrifices – as painful as they can be – are worth it.
Like all journeys, learning a new way to see requires many small steps and a lot of time.
Here is my suggestion for getting started;
Write down (on paper) one cruel thing you say to yourself.
Cross it out.
Write something kind about yourself in big letters, something someone who loves you would say.
Cut it out.
Tape it to your mirror.
Read it out loud every time you see your reflection.