A common side effect of being human is the instinct to ask ourselves how we measure up in looks, brains, and every other department. Our comparison tests begin the moment we become self-aware, and by our tween years, morphs into obsession.
Adolescent Me wasted much mental energy on “The Amazing Race: Puberty Edition.”
Timing wise, my late December birthday gave me a back of the pack starting position among my friends and classmates. My impatience grew each time one of them completed a key challenge before me — e.g., new squeaky voice, peach fuzz, muscle tone. I felt my scrawniest and most self-conscious in 10th grade gym class. My self image or hope for progress was only lower in the locker room.
But by the following fall, guys I envied were now in the middle of the pack while I had just hit my growth spurt stride that in a few months made me about half a foot taller. It was sweet relief — at least until the fresh set of test subjects in my freshman dorm at college warranted the first of many do-overs.
But today I know that transcendence — no matter our age, no matter our “stuff” — begins in the same place: Our own self-awareness.
My “a-ha moment” was only recent, once I made an effort to test myself — to be mindful of whenever my inner impulse to compare me against the world (on any topic) gets loud.
What I noticed: This voice often sounds like Adolescent Me — less squeaky, perhaps, but just as sarcastic and judgmental. It was in my teens that my sense of humor took a sharp turn deep into wise-ass, know-it-all country — a convenient and effective tool to protect my social stature in lieu of Alpha Male physical prowess. And on a subconscious level, to keep my insecurities out of view.
The most frequent question from this voice: “Who do you think you are?”
But the answer often begins with another question: “Who do you think you are not?”
“Who do you think you are to go for that promotion? You’re not experienced enough …”
“Who do you think you are to teach that course? You’re not smart enough, successful enough …”
“Who do you think you are to ask for her number? You’re not strong enough, funny enough, rich enough … “
My breakthrough came when I connected with a different, deeper voice of Divine guidance and courage that is also within us all the time. What I heard:
You’re never going to have “enough” until you decide you’re good enough right now.
Each of us already has everything we need by virtue of being born. We are all created with Divine intent for unique purpose, blessed with the same Divine energies and qualities. None of us are here by cosmic accident. Rather we are here to love, to celebrate, to connect, to grow, to share our gifts.
If you need to make peace with your adolescent self, do so. Forgive yourself for your former immature perspective. Give yourself permission to let go of the pain you’re carrying around from then until now, whether you’ve been aware of it or not.
This is the key to getting past any sense of lack or limitation once and for all.
Try this exercise for yourself. I’d love to know your results and (hopefully) hear about your breakthrough.
Starting today, unlike me in 1oth grade gym class, run your own race without comparing yourself to who is in the next lane. When you notice yourself ranking yourself lower than you should, refocus your “who you are not” into “who you are” for real: I’m confident. I’m brilliant. I’m creative.
Building this awareness into a habit is a process. The growth may not always be straight and steady. But stick with it and eventually your voice will change in a new way. For good.