Be your own Bold, Beautiful, Bodacious Self
You are Good Enough just as you are!
In today's world of constant media exposure, photo shopped pictures and skewed ideas of what is appealing it is the rare person who doesn't find themselves questioning their self worth from time to time.
When one is inundated with images of impossible ideals to strive for in physical beauty, or ideas of how to live better than the next guy it is hard not to find yourself in a comparison mode.
I think it's healthy up to a point to compare ourselves with others. It is what we do with the findings of said comparison that makes it potentially unhealthy.
If one has a good sense of self esteem and self worth, they are likely better able to compare themselves and quickly move on with a sense of security that they are good enough.
But, what if you are like so many others that has just enough self doubt or lack of confidence as to compare yourself and find that you are lacking? This is not cause to be ashamed or disappointed in yourself. This is actually a good place to start from.
Acknowledging that you are prone to finding fault in yourself is a perfect jumping off point to work on feeling like you are just fine right now as you are, warts and all.
I will share a recent experience of mine that has led me to write on this very topic.
Yesterday I had a meeting to learn about being a Docent at my local Art Museum. I got dressed a bit more carefully than usual as I wanted to be appropriately dressed for the venue. I was quite a bit more "done" than I often am. I had on makeup and jewelry and took pains with my hair and makeup. I left my home feeling pretty darn good about myself and looking forward to the meeting.
I entered the very crowded room and immediately took in all the people around me. I was a bit overwhelmed at the sheer numbers of people, and also of all these very turned out women. I almost felt like maybe I could sneak out and go change my clothes. Of course, this was not an option so I just took a deep breath and kept moving forward.
I finally found a table with one chair free and seated myself with the other 6-7 ladies at the table. Most of the ladies were probably in my age group. But, one of them was dressed in a Channel suit! And perfectly coifed hair, nails and jewelry. I found myself looking at my hands and noting my unpolished nails. I had just done a manicure, but I don't use polish. I noted the woman to my left had a beautiful pedicure and very expensive designer shoes. I found myself wanting to hide my feet in their casual sandals with my own DIY pedicure that is adequate but not superb.
Now, it's bad enough that I was getting anxious about how different I looked than these women. The worst part is that I started a litany of negative self talk going on in my head. I am thinking "how can I compete with these wealthy women to be a Docent?" "why would they choose me over one of them" and so on. It luckily didn't last very long as there was a lot of information being shared and I had to shut those voices up to pay attention and learn something.
But, I decided that I better get busy learning how to feel more self confident and more "Good enough" than I did at present.
Finding what is special about yourself and sharing it
One idea that came to me was to find one quality about yourself that you are particularly proud of and focus your energy on that when you are in such situations as to want to compare yourself with others.
I am suggesting that perhaps you have a particularly keen wit so you can maybe make a comment to the group at the table that will make everybody smile, or laugh.
Maybe you are good at conversation so you can be the person who strikes up a conversation with others at your table.
I think that we can always find something about ourselves that we are proud of and feel makes us a bit special.
I realized during my experience yesterday of seeing only the women who were dressed better than me, or had more expensive outfits or better shoes that this is only one group of the many people in the room. My eyes just happened to pick up on those particular people because of my own sense of lack. Had I felt a bit more confident in myself and my own appearance, I might not have gone straight to these women, but seen more of the whole room and all of the beautiful variety amongst all of the attendees.
I did actually take time after realizing that I was getting into a negative spiral by comparing myself to these ladies, that I could look around the room and find many people with whom I felt a sense of connection to. Maybe they were dressed a bit more casually like me; maybe they weren't as perfectly coiffed or just had an approachable and friendly face. Once I let my mind stop feeling that I wasn't good enough and relaxed a bit, I took in the entirety of the room and found many people that I felt I fit in with nicely.
Try Fitting Out, instead of Fitting in
I can't take credit for the term "Fitting Out". Joshua Rosenthal, creator of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition is credited with that distinction. But, it is such a great phrase and describes a way of being true to oneself that I chose to use it here.
I think it is wise to remember that we all have moments in our lives that we may be filled with self doubt when in a large group of strangers. Yes, even those perfectly coifed, manicured and stylish ladies at my table get moments of self doubt.
I don't think the point is to never feel less than 100% confident, but rather what you do about it when you do have those moments. You can sit and stew and list over and over in your head how much you feel like you don't fit in with the other people in your group. You can shrink in your chair and make yourself small; not comment on anything and leave as quietly as you entered.
But, what if there were a more empowering way to cope with this feeling? Yes, I think there is a much better solution to fretting over that which can't be changed anyway.
I suggest when those little nagging voices start getting loud and trying to tell you that you might not fit here, perhaps you aren't "good enough" for what is being asked of you; don't just take that information and stifle yourself. Take that as an opportunity instead to revel in the wonderful ways in which you are uniquely you! Maybe you don't have a designer dress, or shoes, but you might have a beautiful smile that makes your eyes sparkle and draws people in. Or maybe you have some piece of handmade jewelry that while it may not be worth much in terms of money, is unique and draws people to ask about it.
Wouldn't it be just awful if all of us were the same? If we all had the same clothes, sense of style and way of speaking how would we ever remember a specific person? I think it's much better to be remembered for something uniquely you than to blend in as just another one of the "sheep" in the crowd. That is not to denigrate anybody for being a follower, but rather to suggest that not following might actually be more liberating.
What if you could put yourself together for whatever occasion, look in the mirror and tell yourself "You look great" and then head out with your head held high and just show up as you! Yes, YOU, warts and all. Or, literally maybe with 5 extra pounds, or a less than clear complexion or shoes that are scuffed.
If the people you are with are noticing any of these above little details, they likely aren't worth impressing in the first place.
You don't need to be "perfect" or like the others. You simply need to be you!
Share your Unique Self
As one who has spent much of my life feeling like I didn't fit in or that I was somehow different in a way that kept me separate, this topic is one near and dear to my heart.
Though I recognize the value in being one's true and unique self and not buying into trying to fit in with the crowd, I am also human and still find myself at times with those doubts about being good enough.
But, one way I have overcome this from being a chronic problem in my life is developing an awareness of the pattern. I had not been out in a large group of strangers for a while and so I think that I was a bit unprepared for the variety of people I found myself amongst yesterday.
I did catch myself comparing myself to those ladies and then more importantly, caught the spiral of thoughts that starts the whole self doubt cascade. How ridiculous to think that having a designer dress, or professional manicure would make any of these people more qualified than I am! Maybe if the opportunity was one of being a fashion model or stylist, this would be a more valid concern. But, looks had nothing to do with the job description. Rather, a passion for learning and teaching others is what was most desired. And, that I have in Spades! I came to the table full of passion for learning and a strong desire to teach others what I have learned.
By focusing on these strengths, I was able to quiet the voices that had me comparing my clothing or my toenails to my table partners. I didn't need to denigrate them or feel superior in any way; but I needed to not feel inferior to them either.
I think the more you can develop your own sense of self and then abide in that with confidence and pride, the less you will be affected by not being just like the people you are surrounded by.
Find your unique strengths and show them! Use your humor, your smile and your passion to draw people in. You don't need the whole world to love you and approve of you. But you do need the love and approval of yourself.
So, when you are out and about and find yourself in a group that may challenge your perception of how you are seen by others, remember to just be yourself and shine! You want the people who like you to like the real you, not some facsimile of what you think they want.
You can be assured that the right people will be drawn to the real you!