As a coach, I spend a lot of time helping people stop sabotaging themselves so they can achieve their goals. Translation: I spend a lot of time convincing people to stop being their own worst enemy, and instead invest that energy in developing their potential so they can create the opportunities they need. In the nature of a public service announcement, here are the 12 most common things I find myself reminding clients who are attempting to re-create themselves:
1. Learn from your (and others') mistakes: And the lessons to be learned are, why did this work, or not, and why? If, for example, you failed to get a job, look honestly at your application, at your application process. Were you presenting at your best, or is your LinkedIn profile and resume a stream of consciousness novel that would make Joyce wince? If your resume is a mess, could it be because you don't, at heart, think you deserve to succeed? Understanding, for example, why you think you're a disgusting loser, and re-conditioning yourself to drive those voices out of your head, is how you're going to start turning your mistakes into victories.
2. Narrow your choices to widen your horizons: Start small. Whatever it is you want to do, you're going to have to start with what you got, right now. I learned Russian, which eventually took me to Russia, where I worked for NBC News and embarked on a career in TV news, but it started with me in my college dorm room, banging my head against the wall, whining. But as miserable as those early years were, it was worth it, when I was finally chattering away in Russian. If I had given up, I would have missed out on some incredible experiences. Start small and focus.
3. Finish what you start. Since most of the interesting things you'll want to experience, are going to be truly horrendous at the beginning. When I started speaking Russian, I literally sounded like this: "Me to store to walk to buy... to chicken?" My landlady's children found me hilarious. I used to pass out, at 7:00 at night, from the stress of "functioning" in a foreign language. Fast forward, years later, and Russians would ask in what area of Moscow I lived as a child. (Ha!)
4. Think Less, Do More: Think too much about something you want to do, and odds are you'll probably convince yourself exactly how and why it'll all end in tears. And while you're talking yourself out of yet another thing you're interested in, someone else is just going for it. (This is why, when clients who want to write books, for example, whine to me about all the crap books published, I'm not super sympathetic. I remind them that the books in questions may be crap, but SOMEONE SAT DOWN AND WROTE THEM, FROM BEGINNING TO END. These clients then tend to glare darkly at me, but I survived Russia, law school and working for Nancy Grace: I don't intimidate easily.) What if you just gave it your best? What if it works out? (I know, that's also terrifying, and that's also the point, right?)
5. Failure isn't final and success isn't forever: So many people seem to think of SUCCESS as some magical place where everyone is gorgeous, and dressed wonderful and just having multiple orgasms. But successful people have crap days, and unsuccessful people have runs of good luck. It's what you do with what you have. It's the minute-to-minute, day-to-day choices you make. (And yes, not making a choice is a choice.) Countless frustrating, terrifying, humiliating, enraging, exhausting moments went into the creation of someone's success. Stop judging your worst day by other people's (edited) perfect life. Success and failure are both only as powerful as you allow them to be.
6. Do it before you're ready. Whatever your personal "it" is, get started today. Right now. Otherwise, you'll never do it, because you'll never be ready. Do it today, so that you can start becoming ready.
7. Perfection is death. In high school, I wasted years of my life as an anorexic. In my "prime" I weighed 107 lbs, and worked out for about two hours a day, seven days a week. In my "prime," all of my actions (i.e. my life) hinged on the scale: What would the numbers say? Would I be hideous or gorgeous? (Barf. Just writing this makes me want to go shove a pound of dark chocolate, fried in bacon, and smeared in Nutella, down my throat.) Thus, when people say, "I can't start a blog, or start a business, or write a play, or LIVE MY LIFE until everything's perfect..." That's a shame. I immediately flash back to being anorexic, and I get grumpy. If you're waiting until everything's "perfect," you're going to wait a loooong time, my friend, probably until you die, and meanwhile, your life is going to consist of a lot of boring down time. You're not perfect, thank god, you're something better: you're human. Now, forgive yourself and get to work.
8. Forgive yourself. The hardest part of changing your life is re-conditioning yourself to reject the internalized emotions, from childhood onwards, of other people's hatred/fear/insecurity, and make your peace with yourself. Shame is a very powerful tool. Maybe you want to write a novel, for example, but you worry that if people see the "real" you, they'll be horrified and stop loving you. (Maybe you kinda sorta hope that'll happen, allowing you to be free to be yourself.) You think you're the only one who has a weird/dirty/disgusting/hilarious/shameful/wonderful/messy/scary/enraging/cat hair-covered life? Go spend some time on Craigslist, my friend. People are complicated. Life is complicated. And the more time you spend hating yourself is more time you waste NOT achieving your goals. You're keeping yourself on lockdown when you could be out playing in the sun. Free yourself from other people's (false) values and get started today.
9. Choose happiness. You think you have a choice? I guess you could invest in your self-loathing and misery, but the people who do that tend to end up in prison and/or Congress, making everyone else suffer for their (human) failings. I'm going to go out on a ledge here and tell you that you deserve more. And no, I don't think it's "easy" to be happy, but I know it's even harder to pamper your pain. The world owes you nothing, but you owe yourself the world.
10. Stop comparing yourself. If you want to act, but you feel like you're not as talented as your idol...yeah, no sh*t. Your idol's been acting for decades, probably, and you, probably, are just getting started, or just starting to think about getting started. Your comparison is false and all it will do is make you feel like crap. Stop sabotaging yourself and get to work. Stop wasting your own time.
11. You cannot make people love you. Love you? Christ, you can't even make people be nice to you. This is why pets are so popular. Your cat is unlikely to ever humiliate you because they've had a bad day. So when people show you who they are, believe them, and go walk a shelter dog, or something.
12. Commit. Seriously. You may have to give yourself a pep talk every 10 minutes, you might be sick to your stomach every morning, but get over it, you are not the only one going after goals that both compel and terrify you. (Nor are you the only one who feels like a fraud. Some people are simply better actors and/or liars.) Whatever it is you want, IT WON'T JUST HAPPEN. What will just happen is time will pass, and your confidence will continue to collapse and suddenly you look in the mirror and wonder, "What the hell happened to my life?" You have to commit and create the life you want.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.