"I probably can’t. I probably shouldn’t. I'm not good enough. I probably don't have what it takes. I'm not as good as everyone else. In fact, everyone else is better, because everyone else knows what they’re doing, and I'm still just lost. I haven't figured out anything! I suck!"
We all have it, that voice in our head that sneaks in. Maybe we’re not even aware of it, because we’re so used to the voice being there.
But let’s flip the perspective for a moment, ask yourself this: How often during a day do you give yourself praise? How often do you tell yourself with real joy that “I can do this! I am capable! I deserve everything good! I am enough! I’m good at what I do!”? How often do you genuinely smile at yourself when you catch your own eyes in the mirror, as a token of appreciation for who you are and what you do?
We are SO used to being critical, especially towards ourselves, and also towards others. It’s linked, you see. If you are not appreciative and generous with yourself, it’s very hard to be appreciative, supportive and generous with others. That’s why we always hear “if you want the world to change, you have to start with yourself first”, because your outer world is a reflection of your inner world. How you relate to the things happening around you, is a reflection of your thoughts and believes. Are you grateful for the good, or are you constantly focusing on and judging the bad? Do you feel that life is something that happens to you instead of for you?
The real answer is that life is something that happens through you and from you. The law of attraction states that what we put out is what we get back. What we give is what we receive. Which means that what we’re lacking is what we’re not giving (food for thought. More on that later). What we believe, think, feel, the way we talk and act, becomes our reality. So, the question is, what kind of reality are we creating for ourselves and the people around us? What do we believe to be true? What stories are we creating our lives around? And where did the stories come from anyways?
For example, let’s say you had a difficult time in school as a kid. It’s not that you’re dumb or stupid, but the methods used in our school system didn’t really work for you. Cramming numbers and grammar didn’t do the trick for you. Your brain just isn’t wired that way. Does that mean there’s something wrong with you? NO! You are probably creative, so you need visuals, like mind maps and pictures or sound or hands on practical experience to connect the dots. Your thoughts don’t move linearly, they move in curves and circles and spirals. But the system wasn’t built in a way that could support this for you when you were young, which resulted in a feeling of never being good enough, or smart enough. So teachers, authority figures, in your young life treated you like you weren't anything special. They didn’t expect you to excel or to accomplish anything great, just average. And you absorbed this story as truth, you made it your story. Kids are extremely alert and absorb information like sponges. So this became true for you, though really it’s nothing more than a story, a misunderstanding, but still it became your reality. You accepted it as your story, and then you grew up. But the story kept on spinning, even though you became an adult, and it became one of your “truths”. You kept telling yourself that you were nothing special, and that you probably wouldn't accomplish anything great, that you were just average..
I realize that this example doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s just an example. What I’m trying to illustrate is how we create stories in our minds, identities, throughout our lives based on other people’s perception or interpretation of who we are or how we are. What we can do or can’t do. And it’s not the truth, but still we base so much of our identity on these stories. Becoming aware of them is of great importance.
The less attached you can become to the stories you and others tell about who and how you are, the more freedom you will give yourself to discover your potential. You can't grow fully into your potential if you're constantly being limited by negative ideas and thoughts that tell you that "you can't" or that you're "not good enough". Just imagine how many different boxes you have to fit yourself into after a whole life of stories and different identities. So many roles to play. The result is a feeling of being fragmented, not whole, of failing and that's what causes the suffering. The goal is to free yourself from the labels so that you can feel whole and give yourself support and freedom to be fully you, unattached from other people’s opinion about you. They're just opinions after all, and has nothing to do with reality. Even your own opinions about yourself is just your opinion, and not the whole truth.
So what can you do to identify these false stories or identities? Look at the authority figures and trusted people in your life when you were young. This is not to place blame, we’re all just victims of victims. It’s about identifying your own judgements towards yourself and understand where they came from, that they are not you, so that you can free yourself from them and start to replace them with positive thoughts and beliefs instead. So try not to judge or become angry, just observe the general feeling these people bring up for you. These can be teachers, parents or friends or other important figures in your early life. How did they look at you? In what matter did they talk to you? How did they phrase themselves? How did they talk to you when you had done something “bad” or “not good enough”? What did they say when they were disappointed in you? Then look at how you talk to yourself when you feel that you're not good enough. Any similarities? What feelings come up?
Connect these feelings to how you think that these people perceived you or saw you. What was their story of you? This can tell you something about the stories you’ve created around their interpretation of you. Looking at that story now, as a grown-up, you can decide if this is really your truth. Is it your truth now? Probably not. Now you can make a choice, to change the thought pattern that is based in this story. To change the way you talk to yourself, the words you use. This is how you take your power back, by identifying, re-evaluating and making a choice to change it. Every time you become aware of negative words you use to describe yourself or negative ways you talk to yourself, consciously replace them with positive ones. This will feel strange in the beginning, maybe even uncomfortable. It's like a mental muscle that needs to be stretched and trained, so please be patient with yourself.
Here's a story that have made a very deep impact in my life that beautifully illustrates the danger of believing the stories we're told:
"A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth—we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.» *
So, you see what I’m trying to say? You don’t have to believe all the stories that people tell about you. You don’t even have to believe the stories you tell yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t, because it’s just limiting you and holding you back. Especially if you judge yourself a lot and fall into spirals of self-doubt and self-pity. Take a moment to meditate and journal, define the stories, and free yourself from them. They are not who you are, they are just stories. You are not your thoughts, so stop giving them all the power.
I find myself spiraling back into self-doubt, self-judgement and fear all the time. It happens, because we’re humans. But because I can identify where they come from, take a moment in silence, get back to reality and realize that they are not my truth, they are not me, I can get out of the negative mindset and back to myself faster. Yoga is great to burn away fear and doubt and take us back to our heart, it’s helped me a lot. Just the breath that anchors us back into the present moment is so healing for any self-negativity, because it snaps us out of the story telling.
So please, take a moment, identify, re-evaluate and make a choice: do you want to live in the stories or do you want to set yourself free? Please set yourself free, it’s so much more fun! Trust yourself, define for yourself what to carry and what not to carry with you. Let’s all do it. And then we can change the world.
Stay in your power!
* From the book "Awareness" by Anthony De Mello (recommend!)