Image courtesy of holohololand at Freedigitalphotos.net/ By trying to prove yourself, you could be sacrificing your authenticity
I feel proud of myself today. Why? Have I been the subject of praise from anyone? No. Have I done anything dramatically wonderful or shown incredible talent? Definitely not. I am proud of myself because I haven't felt the need to do anything to prove myself, my worthiness to others. I have calmly allowed myself to not try to do anything, except be myself. I have not imposed expectations on myself. I am proud because this is a great alteration to what I usually do. I usually have to get through that checklist of "to-dos", get the place "tidy enough" - in other words, I usually feel I have to fulfil a self-imposed standard.
However, my ideals is that meeting these often unrealistic goals to be "good enough" is no longer going to colour my self-perception. Why do I need to prove myself? As I will elaborate on later in the article, there are certain aspects of my person I do feel necessary to prove to others, for me to be considered a friend, a sister, and a daughter.
However, in the areas which really do not matter, to anyone but my "inner critic", I used to think that if I did “well enough” or met some standard that was due to attaining a certain secular standard - whether it be a certain grade, some achievement, then I could feel I was okay, that I was enough. I am not saying this desire to "prove myself" in ways that do not define my humanity are no longer going to dominate my consciousness. Like any other person, I am influenced by society and will have periods where I do feel the need to "keep up with !the Jones' or compare myself. However, I have decided to become self-aware of when I do this, and realise it will ultimately degrade my self-esteem. This is because the things I am trying to "prove" really do nothing but boost my ego - however the ego is fragile, and is never satisfied!
That is, how is ""proving myself", for example, fitting into a size ten, or writing so many articles, making the world a better place? Don't get me wrong. I want to write to share my experiences and so perhaps help other people relate and connect to what I have learned. That is how I am benefited by reading the work of other writers from Self-Avenue. However, if I am doing it "to be published", then I am defeating the purpose of writing. I have decided that "Okay, if an article I write does not get published, that doesn't mean I should stop writing. Perhaps I need to improve my work by spending more time editing it. Maybe I need to spend time describing what I want to communicate more accurately. When I spend this time I am more satisfied because I feel then I am being most authentic, rather than rushing through something.
What am I really giving by being “successful” in terms of, say, how much money I earn? I am feeding my ego, but unless the motivation to do well comes from a reason that is separate from the ego- a desire to give something to the world, and think beyond myself to hone in on the motivations for my aspirations, then I have proved nothing. All I have proved is that deep down, I am insecure, have low self-esteem, and therefore ultimately I am wrapped up in myself and this may sound harsh, but ultimately I will be self-absorbed. I know deep down I am a caring person who wants to help people, but it is a trap that, and I can't speak for others, but that I fall into, when I compare myself to say, my brother who is a well-paid engineer. However, how is what I do any less? How is volunteer work worth any less for that matter? To give of yourself purely for the desire to give is perhaps more a reflection of high self-esteem and a feeling of intrinsic worthiness.
When negativity creeps in and I begin to feel inadequate, I think to myself “Why do I like my friends?” Is it because they are high-achieving, or particularly talented? As if! Yes, they certainly do have talents – we all do, but I appreciate and like my friends because they are caring, genuine, and have a sense of humour. Let’s face it – do we really care about our loved ones on the condition that they make good money or are good looking? I think not. Look at all the celebrities who have killed themselves through overdoses. All the fame, the money, the recognition and success – and they don’t want to live? Perhaps they have become cynical and think without being famous, then it would all be gone? Why are they called celebrities anyway? I often think to myself, is not each life a reason to celebrate? Each and every one of us is a celebrity – as long as we choose not to buy into the secular, fake and transitory fame that comes with success. I have a real problem with the idea we have celebrities. It is essentially giving the message that our lives are something to celebrate as long as we are famous, earning a lot of money and known throughout the world. Is not every life a reason to celebrate?
The other problem with “success” that I have gleaned is that it is never enough. When I was 14, I had an eating disorder. No matter how many kilos I lost, it was not enough. I had to weigh less, and less. When I got high distinctions, I felt good for a while, but the feeling was temporary. Who was I achieving for? I was not in the real world yet, but an institution known as a university. Yes, I had demonstrated that I knew the material, but yet, often during these times, I am ashamed to say that I did not give the time I knew my friends deserved. I could have still passed but remained a much more well-rounded and whole person. In contrast, when we "are ourselves" rather than "proving ourselves" it is always enough - we are living consistently within our own set of values and priorities. We don't have any bar to reach, except to maintain our authenticity.
In the movie “Forest Gump”, a man who is intellectually challenged is loved and admired ultimately by all the lives he touches. His love for his fellow soldiers is evident in his risking his life to save them, his love for this mother, and for Jenny endear us to Forest.
I don’t care what my friends look like. I do not care whether they have degrees or not. I don’t care whether they earn a lot of money. I do not care if they don’t have a job.
I do care about whether they are genuine. I do care about whether they mean what they say – that is a quality I value. I do care about whether they are kind and ethical – I do care about how they treat other people and animals. I do care about whether I can trust them. What good is a friendship if my divulgences are not held as sacred to our relationship? And, since I am no different to anyone else, I assume that their liking for me is because of qualities that they value in me - I have been told I am kind and have a great sense of humour, for example.
Yes, it’s great when we experience success, through work or a promotion or being able to finally afford our own home. It's positive because it allows us to facilitate what is important because of that success. For example, I earned some money and bought a digital camera. The reason that is great is because it makes it easier for me to take original photos for what I enjoy and have chosen to be a source of contribution (I hope) to others - writing. A digital camera is not great because I have a camera. It's great for me because of what it allows me to do.
Therefore, in conclusion, what we have done is not who we are. If we have anything to prove, it is firstly to ourselves – being true to ourselves. And, as Shakespeare said, “To thine ownself be true, and you cannot be false to any other man”. It’s being comfortable in your own skin.
I cannot think of a greater measure of success than just that.