Do you know that feeling you get when you just can't wait to tell the world about your latest achievement? So you can prove yourself to everyone -- especially the naysayers?
This isn't bragging I'm talking about, it's quite the opposite. It's the kind of showing off reserved only for validation and worthiness. It's an entirely different beast.
Last weekend, a fellow lawyer-turned-writer friend of mine was telling me a story about this very feeling. She had moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. -- she left her corporate law job out East to pursue her dream of writing out West. Like some of my old friends, her friends and family were wondering if she was slightly unhinged -- leaving behind so much money, prestige, and success to start from scratch, without any guarantee that she would make it.
My friend moved to San Francisco in September and had planned a trip back East in the winter to visit her nearest and dearest. When December rolled around, my friend freaked out and considered pushing back her visit.
"I couldn't face everyone," she told me, "because I hadn't done anything yet. What was I going to tell them I had accomplished? I had nothing to show for myself."
But from what my friend described about her first months in San Francisco, it was clear to me that she had plenty to show for herself. She had been pounding the pavement, supporting herself doing only work she loved, believing in herself, and generally transforming her life from a depressing daily drag to an exciting adventure. She was going for it, big time.
And yet she felt she embarrassed, ashamed, and not good enough.
Because she didn't have those external markers of worthiness -- she didn't have an article published in a glossy magazine yet or a byline in some fancy newspaper -- she felt like she wasn't enough.
I've felt that same way. And if I'm being honest with myself -- and I guess, with you -- I deal with that feeling somewhat regularly.
Whether you've left socially-sanctioned success behind to do something else or have yet to achieve that kind of success at all, you're probably dealing with the same demons as the rest of us; the ones that are screaming bloody murder for you to win those trophies that will bring you validation from the outside world (particularly from the judgmental family, family friends and (ex) coworkers lurking in your life).
But here's the bottom line -- and I'm attempting to take my own advice on this one: The only person you have to prove anything to is yourself. And what you have to prove is this: you are worthy right now. You are enough, just as you are.
There isn't a title or a job or a byline or a weight or a marital status that will make you good enough. You are good enough right now. Plenty worthy of love and praise and acceptance and celebration.
How does that feel?
When you start believing that you are worthy, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. And then you can take that trip to the East Coast even though you don't have a fancy byline yet or face your judgmental family with pride over Thanksgiving, despite the fact that your life doesn't fit squarely in their box marked "success."
Frankly, the people that don't think you're good enough just as you are right now will probably be impossible to please no matter how many gold medals you hang around your neck. These are the kind of people who will always look ahead at all the things you haven't yet done rather than celebrate the amazing person you are right now.
Though some people may say that the need to "prove yourself" is a great motivator -- a fantastic way to get you from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you'd very much like to be) -- I think they're completely off-base. It is simply the wrong fuel.
I would bet that the enthusiasm you have for making it to that proverbial point B is quite enough to propel you forward. It's the pure, heart-centered, Supreme type of ammunition. The energy you get from seeking approval, on the other hand, is tainted -- with shame, embarrassment and unworthiness. That can never be good.
So try this out. For a day -- or an hour, or a minute if it's feeling difficult -- just accept yourself for who you are and where you are, right now. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture yourself delightfully satisfied. If you soak in that feeling long enough, you'll start to believe it. And then you can go for the gold on your own terms, for the right reasons. And enjoy your road to victory -- one step at a time.