I always used to feel that I should be something other than I was. I should be further ahead, I should have it all figured out, I should know better, I should know more.
This constant feeling that everyone else had it all together plagued me and left me living in a constant state of anxiety.
I was convinced everyone else had every aspect of their lives together. That they had the right partners, the right jobs, the right friends, the right hair, the right body shape, the right homes, the right attitudes and ideas.
I, however, felt like a complete mess and was convinced if anyone knew just how much of a mess I really was, they’d lose all respect for me and run the other way.
I speak with women regularly who tell me they struggle with this too – they feel they should know more, do more, and be more.
The thing is, when it doesn’t feel okay to be who we are, we end up trying to be who we think everyone else wants us to be.
We spend so much time trying to be whoever we think others want us to be that we end up feeling like an imposter in our own lives, pretending we have it all together, and worrying someone will find out that we don’t.
I did that for years. It’s exhausting and isolating. But by making two small mindset shifts, I was finally able to stop the charade and give myself permission to be myself – in all my messy glory – and in the process, I learned to love myself!
The following words were life changing for me when I heard them: It’s okay not to be okay.
It was okay not to have it ‘all figured out’. It was okay to be struggling. It was okay to be unsure. It was okay to be unhappy. It was absolutely okay to be exactly who I was and where I was.
The fact that my life wasn’t okay didn’t mean that who I was wasn’t okay. It didn’t mean I was some inherently flawed, hopeless human being.
Knowing this was freedom. It gave me permission to be vulnerable, and I learned the pathway to happiness lies in being able to be vulnerable.
Without vulnerability, we’re unable to allow people to really see us. We’re caught in keeping up the facade of ‘having it all together’. It keeps us disconnected from ourselves and from everyone else.
In her book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle refers to this facade as “sending out our representative”. When we feel that who we are isn’t enough – that we should be doing more, being more, having more – we send our “representative” out into the world instead of ourselves.
Our ‘representative’ is the version of ourselves that we think other people want us to be, and we keep the messy truth about who we are – all of our shortcomings and struggles – a secret.
Our ‘representative’ shows up to the party, the grocery store, the parent/teacher meetings, coffee with friends, on dates, and in our marriages. Our ‘representative’ is the perfect chameleon, becoming the best version of who we think they want us to be, in attempt to gain approval and acceptance.
It’s funny – we think being who they want us to be is the road to connection, but it’s the opposite. It disconnects us. Turns out vulnerability is the key to connection. Being seen for who we really are, flaws and all, actually provides deep, intimate, and strong connections.
I started taking small risks and practicing showing up just as I was, in all my messy glory! And I discovered that when we’re brave enough to own who we are, something extraordinary unfolds – we cultivate self-love.
The second shift happened when I realized I’d been looking at my life through a very black and white lens. My thinking was completely ‘all or nothing’. If I felt unsure of myself in one situation, I must not be able to trust myself in any situation. If I’m not completely ‘this’ then I can’t be ‘that’.
But it isn’t always either/or! We can be confident, competent, successful, strong, capable and smart in many areas of our life and have another part of it completely falling apart.
We can be both. One doesn’t cancel out the other.
One woman I spoke with had always thought she was great at embracing change, but realizing there was one area in her life where she was resisting change had her completely questioning and rethinking her belief that she was great at it. She thought unless she loved change in every circumstance, she could no longer claim she embraced it.
Another said she was always so confident in her job and in social situations, but realizing she was feeling insecure in her relationship had her questioning whether she was really confident at all.
Unless we are one way in every single situation, we discount it completely. But we can be both:
Strong and Fragile;
Agreeable and Argumentative;
Bold and Timid;
Good natured and Irritable;
Confident and Insecure;
Self-reliant and Helpless;
Calm and Anxious;
Happy and Sad;
Successful and Fail;
Brave and Afraid.
Shift your thinking and allow yourself the space to be both. In the words of Alicia Keys, you can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress.
You are always okay exactly as you are!