You are enough (and always have been)
How often do you feel there must be so many other, more qualified, more experienced, more talented people than you?
‘My main problem is over-saturation in the blogosphere. I read blog after blog with gorgeously designed websites and interesting, funny content then I can’t get my shit together to begin a blog post.’
Do you notice how easily we constantly compare ourselves to others, and how quickly we get addicted to telling ourselves we’re not talented enough?
Annoyingly, your inner screeching parrot never lets up and you keep wondering:
How do I stop comparing myself to all the beautiful blogs and just focus on mine?
How do I stop telling myself I’m not talented enough to write a blog? And why am I even writing this blog?
It’s a lonely, horribly depressing feeling. You can’t help believing your thoughts.
Even though you have a burning passion for helping people. Even though your friends, family, and colleagues keep spurring you on, telling you how much you’ve inspired them, and helped them.
You’ve had several readers share with you how spot on your post was. To them, it felt as if you were reading their minds. Friends and family want to know more about how your new product or service will help them or people they know.
You’ve inspired them to do more of what they really want. Given them a solution to a problem they can’t seem to find an answer to.
You’ve had wins. You love what you’re doing. You’re obviously talented.
So why do you feel like such an imposter? A fake?
Who else fakes it?
If it makes you feel any better (it does for me), some of the most successful people fake it. They also don’t think they’re good enough.
Take Meryl Streep for instance, the most nominated Academy Award and Golden Globe actor in history. In a news.com.au article, High achievers suffering from imposter syndrome, she states:
“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
Serena Williams, tennis champion with 39 Grand Slam titles explains in Huffington Post’s, 5 Superstars who have talked about their low self-esteem:
“It was tough for me to stop being Venus and become the person I am.”
Even award-winning author and Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou faked it. She was quoted in highability.org’s Gifted and talented but with insecurity and low self-esteem:
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Finally, you’d be surprised to know even J.R.R. Tolkien had his insecurities, which he discussed openly in a BBC interview in 1964 about The Lord of the Rings trilogy:
“…I actually wept at the denouement…there was a tremendous lot of revision. I typed the whole of that work out twice… There’s some mistakes still and also it amuses me to say, as I suppose, I’m in a position where it doesn’t matter what people think of me now. There were some frightful mistakes in grammar, which from a Professor of English Language and Lit, are rather shocking.”
Despite the bright lights and champagne, these successful people still don’t (and didn’t) feel enough.
What hope does the rest of us have?
Building up your self-esteem
We can easily find ways to build our confidence by following advice such as Forbe’s 5 strategies on how to build self-confidence.
We can practice Time magazine’s 5 research-backed methods on how to be more confident until we score that job promotion. Publish 10 books. Or get 10,000 followers on Twitter.
But all the success in the world doesn’t help us get over our hang-ups — no matter how much public recognition we get. Despite how many awards we proudly display on our mantelpiece.
That explains why even the most successful people in their fields feel like imposters.
The truth about self-esteem
Jennifer Crocker, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research explains that self-esteem comes from seeing yourself as above average. From basing your self-worth on external factors. This means constantly comparing yourself to other people. It doesn’t end.
Crocker conducted a self-esteem study and found students who based their self-worth on academic performance didn’t receive higher grades although they were highly motivated and studied more than others.
These students were more likely to have conflicts with professors, more stress, feelings of failure, and anxiety, leading to memory problems.
Knowing you may still feel like an imposter makes you wonder if going after your dreams is actually worth it…
So how can we possibly fill the void in our souls?
How can we find deep contentment and peace within ourselves?
Will we ever feel enough?
One surprising and often overlooked way to feel worthy
There is one way to find long-lasting, soul-fulfilling contentment:
According to a self-compassion study by researchers at the University of Waterloo, self-compassion is better than self-esteem: self-compassion builds a more positive body image and better coping skills than self-esteem.
Their study showed women with self-compassion and an understanding of themselves were more accepting of the imperfections in their bodies. This flowed onto other areas of their lives. They were better at dealing with distress and disappointments in their lives.
Yet all this fluffy, feel-good, love-yourself talk sounds great in theory. But it’s obviously a challenge to love ourselves, or more of us would be floating around in a zen-like state.
The problem is, we often react automatically to situations. Our negative channels seem to switch on by themselves, crackling with static, they replay the same depressing stories.
Those channels keep hounding us to quit while we’re ahead. Reminding us there are way too many other more talented people out there for us to even bother.
Negative thoughts are real
In his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Daniel Amen, a practicing psychotherapist, presents brain scans showing how our limbic system, is physically affected by negative thoughts.
This is an area of the brain the size of a walnut that has many functions, including the way we think.
When the deep limbic system is overactive, it sets the mind’s filter on ‘negative’. They [people who feel negative] are suffering from automatic negative thoughts or ANTs.
They see the world in a haze of grey, feeling pessimism about the future, and regret about the past. Their gloomy, cynical, complaining thoughts seem to keep ‘marching in all by themselves’.
He tells us that if we’re not aware of our thoughts, we can easily believe them to be true. Even if they’re not.
Daniel gives us an insight into clients with a wide spectrum of serious problems ranging from relationships, career, and social interaction. Each client was found to have overactive limbic systems.
Our internal stories matter
Daniel’s findings are consistent with brain research conducted at Stanford which found different brain cells process positive and negative experiences. The more reinforcement we give to either experience, the more our brain cells react and pass on those messages to the rest of our body.
Say, for example, we keep telling ourselves we’re not good enough to write. Our brains physically react to this negative thought. We simmer in a murky, stinky cauldron of hopelessness, dejection, and loss of motivation.
These feelings impact us physically through tiredness, stress, irrational thoughts and actions.
When we take the self-compassionate route, it’s a completely different story…
A self-compassion study published in the Journal of Research and Personality found people with more self-compassion were not only happier, and more optimistic, they were also more curious and willing to explore, took initiative, and less likely to be neurotic.
They concluded self-compassion affects a person’s psychological health, beyond their personality.
So instead of tearing ourselves to bits over our website design, or obsessing about our brilliant competition, what can we do?
In practice: how to be nicer to ourselves
Daniel Amen (the psychotherapist we met earlier in the article) shares the 7 steps he uses in his psychotherapy practice. These steps have helped his clients improve their relationships, get motivated, and feel happier in their lives.
Step 1: Acknowledge your thoughts are real (they affect the cells in our bodies)
Step 2: Notice how negative thoughts affect your body (what reactions do you have?)
Step 3: Notice how positive thoughts affect your body (how do you feel?)
Step 4: Notice how your body reacts to every thought you have
Step 5: Think of bad thoughts as pollution (they pollute your mind and body)
Step 6: Understand that your automatic thoughts don’t always tell the truth (thoughts can lie — but know you don’t have to believe them as truth)
Step 7: Talk back to ANTs (choose positive or negative thoughts, train your thoughts to change the way you feel)
If you’d like to know more about Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, check out Daniel’s TED talk:
Let’s apply these steps now to see how they work, shall we?
Think of the last time you had a win.
Remember how exhilarating it felt when you got an overwhelmingly positive response to your latest blog?
Or how it felt when a reader shared with you how spot on your post was, as if you were reading their minds? How incredible it felt to know you’ve inspired them to do more of what they love, and given them useful ways to move forward.
Now when you feel those vicious taunts coming on: acknowledge your negative thoughts about crappy drafts, writer’s block, and not feeling good enough. Write them down. Watch the thoughts, as if you’re an outsider. Notice how you feel physically.
Imagine a black, putrid, smelly smoke wisping into your mouth, traveling down your throat, creeping down your arms, settling into your fingers, your tummy, your legs, your toes, your heart, your lungs.
Polluting your body.
Invading your soul.
How does it feel?
Now imagine your best mate has told you these negative thoughts. She’s feeling really down about herself. Dejected. Hopeless. Her self-esteem has taken a hit.
What would you say to her?
Perhaps you’d tell her everyone’s first drafts are shitty. And woohoo, you’ve actually written a first draft. Let’s grab a glass of wine to celebrate!
Perhaps you’d empathize about her writer’s block. Yeah, it really sucks, you’d say.
But you think of ways she can get past it:
Leave the writing when you’re stuck and take a break.
Get some air.
Call you for a chat.
Write about your writer’s block.
You rack your brain for as many solutions as you can to get her over this hurdle eating away at her.
Now think of yourself as that best mate.
Give her ideas.
Love her no matter what.
Isn’t that what you’d do?
You wouldn’t let her simmer in a pool of shitty thoughts about herself. You’d pull her out of it with a burst of positivity, no matter how cliched or over the top it sounds. She needs it right now. She’s worth it.
And so are you.
You are enough (and always have been)
In yoga, we use an ancient Sanskrit greeting that roughly translates to ‘I bow down to the divine in you’ or ‘The Spirit in me salutes the Spirit in you’
We bring our palms together close to our hearts and bow our heads.
This term resonates strongly with me as a meaningful way of acknowledging ourselves — and each other — in the most authentic, deepest way possible. An acknowledgment of souls, the essence of our beings.
Beyond the superficial.
Beyond your looks and your clothes.
Beyond your doubts, your ego, and your feelings.
You were born enough (and always have been).
You are precious.
You are a gift.
When we connect with the divine inside us, we realize we are enough. We always have been.
I bow to the divine in you. Bow to the divine in yourself.
You are enough. You always have been.
If you want to get anywhere in life, you can’t wait for other people to constantly feed you scraps of attention the way a seagull eyes off your leftover chips.
You can’t just put your feet up smugly and expect your self-worth to thrive.
Your self-worth needs to be fed with nourishing, energy-giving food. It needs you to stop peering anxiously at the clock. Obsessing about the person next to you. It needs gentle and kind words. Every day.
Your self-worth isn’t deceived when you get 10,000 blog followers, publish 10 books, or land that promotion. It’s about forging a bulletproof armor. Creating a mantra to stick by your bedside, on your computer, everywhere you look:
I am enough (and always have been)
It’s about fighting sword against sword with the negative thoughts that creep in stealthily, hoping to take you by surprise and cut you down while you’re writing your first draft. Starting your first business. Negotiating your salary.
That means writing an over-the-top love letter to yourself without any inhibition or silliness, not because you are egotistical, but because you know deep down inside you are a star, an incredible person, a divine being that was made to be loved. That you have always been enough.
Your self-worth is more than just buying yourself a new collection of shoes. Watches. Or clothes. It’s more than clinking champagne to celebrate your latest success.
Your self-worth is a seedling and you are the sunshine that makes it bloom.
So go on, shine!
What will you do today to show yourself some love? Leave a comment. You may inspire another reader to love themselves more.