I understand you’ve been dealing with some issues. Maybe it’s your appearance, or what you feel is lacking in personality or skill. There’s no need to deny it, it’s cool. You’re likely a little too self-critical, though there’s no need to worry because, like most people, you are still probably kinder to others than you are to yourself. It’s funny how that works.
I know the above is likely true because you’re human. We all have things that weigh us down. That is unless you’re a psychopath, in which case you can ignore this entire post.
Try this Thought Experiment:
A student of mine had been dealing with insecurity about her appearance. I asked her to choose one of the following to befriend:
Option A: a physically fit person who can’t stop looking in the mirror, touching up their appearance, and checking for lines and greys.
Option B: a grossly overweight person who tells good stories and funny jokes, is optimistic, and is generally relaxed.
Without hesitation, the answer should be B, hands down, every time. The fit person sounds like a drag, while the overweight person sounds like they’d be great to have around.
I’ve found it useful to keep this comparison in mind when thinking about how others see us. Besides, most people are too focused on their own issues to notice yours, anyway.
A humorous phrase that proves increasingly true: “people often want to be as thin as they were when they first thought they were fat.”
Of course, insecurities aren’t always physical, nor to do with weight. It could be your singing voice, that rather large mole, or your inability to do simple arithmetic. That’s fine. The main thing is identifying your problem.
Once recognized, answer honestly which of the above options – A or B – you feel is a more accurate description of yourself. Do you let your insecurities hold you back, or do you accept yourself? Do you do your best to improve, while still do the things you desire?
It might seem like a contradiction, but accepting ourselves does not require being perfect. Simultaneously, accepting ourselves does not mean completely giving up on improving, or moving toward a better way of life or being.
Take whatever steps you can to improve, but don’t stop living your life while the process is underway. I say this because…
Perfection is Not Around the Bend
When I was younger, I was very self-conscious. I vowed to never get drunk because I thought I’d expose my shameful secrets; I didn’t want to have sex because I never wanted anyone to see me naked; I didn’t want to travel or be in new situations for fear of embarrassment.
“One day, I will do all these things,” I thought, “…when I’ve reached my goals.”
Once I’ve ‘fixed’ myself, then I could finally be free. But here’s the catch: perfection never comes.
These beliefs were rooted in perfectionistic tendencies. This also extended to what I wanted to do with my life, which was be a musician. I wanted to hit the ground running and blow everyone away. I wanted to blind side everyone with my mighty talent. In essence, I wanted to feel worthy of approval.
But did I really think I was capable of being great right from the get-go? Not being immediately magnificent meant I didn’t have talent, right?
Yet, I held myself up to a ‘higher’ standard. So, if that’s what I thought, isn’t that the very definition of arrogance and pretentiousness?
To answer my own question: Yes. Yes, it is.
Stop Spinning Your Tires
Eventually, I discovered that I had actually done nothing except dabble in obscurity and had little to show for it. I performed very infrequently, and didn’t want to pick up the instrument because it would inevitably reflect my imperfections. It’s clear to see why I never became a rock star.
It slowlydawned on me that I had to start anything at all in order to be ever be merely good, let alone great. Jake the Dog from Adventure Time once said:
“Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”
While quoting talking dogs isn’t usually great for credibility, he does have a point. We need to be brave enough to suck if we want to gain any skill at all. That is the requirement to qualify for the mortgage of greatness.
It’s a mortgage – not a ticket – because the work to acquire the end goal will take years of meaningful struggle toward the thing that we desire, and a leap of faith is only the beginning.
Think of your vision of your perfect self, and work backward. Break each big step into smaller steps until you have a bite-sized map you can travel toward personal fulfillment. Anything less, and it will always remain a fantasy.
In the meantime, enjoy your life, travel, reconnect with old friends, and give yourself permission to be flawed.