Growing up, I didn’t spend much time focusing on the future. I knew that I had a good life, one that I should be overwhelmingly grateful for. The appreciation was there, but not in a deliberate sense. For as long as I can remember, I lived inside of a “bubble”; a safety mechanism I allowed my brain to create to keep me from being who I really was.
Like so many of us in life, I fell victim to the protective nature of the mind. My brain didn’t want me to fail, so it did everything it possibly could to keep that from happening. This often included not only playing it safe, but not even getting started. Not speaking up. Not raising my hand. Not sharing authentically what I really felt. I can remember creating this “act” of mine when I was very young; maybe about five or six years old. On paper, as I mentioned, I should have had zero worries. My family was incredible. They were supportive and looked after me. They expressed their love as best they knew how. I couldn’t see that, though.
All I saw was how I was different.
If I played the comparison game, my life would be trumped by probably 95% of the world in terms of what I had to deal with. I didn’t have to go through any objectively traumatic experiences that much of the population has had to shape its character around. What I dealt with was not a product of circumstance, but a product of myself: deeply-rooted insecurity.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all about today’s digital age. I don’t need to tell you about how the general public’s priorities are distinguished. Form your own opinion and share whatever you like. Much of the constant within that opinion however, will probably revolve around the thing that drove my life for nearly three decades.
Like the survivors that human beings ultimately are, I created this defense mechanism to overcome my insecurity. I began getting heavily invested in activities that were different enough to generate the praise and acceptance I so deeply craved, but not so different that I would be ridiculed for having practiced. Despite venturing into the realm of uncertainty that was the activity itself, I never stepped too far outside of the box. I never crossed the point of no return. I always kept my foot on the brake. I never “threw my cap over the wall”.
The act that became my life was centered around appearing like I had it all together, like everything was fine. I wanted everyone to believe I was doing what I loved and had set sail on the journey that was success and fulfillment. Most importantly, I desperately wanted others to believe I was something that I absolutely was not — confident.
At one point, I got so good at “performing” in life that I actually believed that I was confident. Certainly I was confident living in this frame of reference that I originated, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t real. The worst part of the whole thing was it all revolved around me.
The self-fulfilling prophecy I was living within was built for no one else but myself. Therefore, my contribution to the world when it was all said and done would be for no one but me.
Some legacy, huh?
So where does this all leave me?
Well, thanks some incredibly uncomfortable introspection and sound support structures, I can finally say I have identified who I really am. I’m stepping out of performance mode. I know what I stand for. I affirm what I believe in and I know what I’m willing to get chastised or laughed at for putting stock in.
As of this moment, I believe in YOU.
And by you, I mean me. And by me, I mean us. I believe in everything that a human being encompasses when he or she is at the most vulnerable and authentic state.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But if we really did strip away the external factors and compare one another, we’re far more similar than we give credit. The bottomless chasm of comparison is a real threat but it doesn’t have to be all about scarcity. Our similarities bring us together, and there’s plenty to go around.
At the core, we are all the same and we are all different. We each are beautiful in our own unique ways. Given this truth, it is our duty to keep each other clear from the immensely powerful undertaking of self-doubt.
So if you are reading this, I love you. I thank you for being human. I thank you for doing the best you can. I challenge you to put your best foot forward.
You and I both know the best foot isn’t always the prettiest.
“You don’t have to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfection.” — Wilson Kanadi