In his famed essay Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson makes a bold, forward-thinking case for the importance of self-acceptance: "Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong is against it. " Emerson's essay, and this passage in particular, offers prescient insights about the Third Metric: he invites us to reimagine the meaning of success by emphasizing the importance of personal integrity and authenticity, rather than external notions of what is "good."
The other day over lunch, our conversation turned to the importance of the idiom "own it." We realized that owning it -- honoring ourselves and acknowledging our unique tendencies, talents, skills, desires, fears, and neuroses -- succinctly sums up how we can all go about living in a way that is full and filled with integrity -- in all facets of our lives.
When we experience trouble at work, for instance -- whether because we are feeling overwhelmed with projects, threatened by a colleague, or simply stressed out by the office environment -- we often blame others or ourselves: "What am I (or what is she) doing that is making me feel this way?" we tend to ask. We should perhaps consider an alternative, simpler set of questions: First, "How am I feeling?" and second "How can I find peace given my circumstances?"
More likely than not, you can answer the second question immediately upon recognizing and articulating the nature of your feelings to question one. Say you're feeling overwhelmed by your workload. Own it: recognize your need to implement a change in your routine to decrease your stress level and increase your focus. Maybe you'll find you need to take few breaths before you begin each new task. Maybe there is a song that makes you feel upbeat and happy, so you take a five minute break to dance around your office (or even at your desk!) between projects. The key here is that you are not denying your feelings, nor are you judging or questioning them with undercurrents of self-blame. Instead, you are realizing your potential as your own advocate, as an agent of self-empowerment.
Owning our individual needs, desires, skills and even insecurities allows us to see the value of setting intentions for ourselves and our actions, and working toward a sense of integrated self-definition and an authentic sense of security in our work and in our lives.
Most experiences in life that inspire us to learn, grow, and thrive are challenging and scary. Often times, when we're presented with an exciting and unfamiliar opportunity, we defend ourselves against fear by rationalizing our limitations: "I'm not really the kind of person who does X." But this kind of compartmentalization only leads to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Perhaps you truly believe you are not the kind of person to "do X," whatever "X" may be. Well, start by asking yourself why that might be. If the answer is fear, own it. Maybe you are not ready to deal with the fear -- of failure or success. But maybe you are up for a challenge. In that case, acknowledge your fear, but go forth with courage. If it is disinterest, own it, and challenge yourself to think about what does interest you. Integrating what we think of as the different parts of ourselves -- diverse dreams, skills and images of who we are -- is the vital work at the base of creating an authentic career and personal life.
The two of us represent different generations, and yet we realized that we both have a natural tendency to shy away from fully acknowledging -- owning -- that we are already "enough," with quite a lot to offer our clients, colleagues, friends and family. There's no doubt that it takes guts to step up to the plate and make an unwavering statement about who you are, what you want, and what you have to offer the world. We would wager that there is no other way if you want to achieve the holy grail of peace and empowerment -- and inspire others to do the same.
Etymologically, the word "inspire" means "to breathe into." If we allow ourselves to be inspired, literally to breathe in our experiences, allowing them to fill us with a sense of opportunity for growth and self-expression -- we work toward connecting our bodies and minds, allowing ourselves to feel more integrated, authentic, and self-possessed. All each one of us has to do is study our individual constitution a bit more. The good news is we already own it.