For a big part of my life, I hung out on the sidelines, waiting and hoping for that one moment where I would be good enough to actually participate in my own life. I was so full of shame that I couldn’t bear the thought of people looking at me and judging me, even when it came to the most mundane of tasks. It was drummed into me from the moment I could speak that I was imperfect – that there was something wrong with me – that I wasn’t good enough. Other people were good enough. Other people could enjoy their lives, but not me. I had to get to some place, or to some arbitrary marker, where once there, I’d be normal, then I could live – but not until then. In the meantime I could dream, I could hope and I could long.
My mother placed a premium on beauty. In her eyes I was not. I know I embarrassed her and she let me know every chance she got. She would tell me at the age of 5 that I had my father’s genes, (my father was a large man). As a young child I internalized that to mean that there was something broken in me. I understood that I couldn’t enjoy being normal like other kids could. That I wasn’t like them and couldn’t enjoy the freedom of being just like everyone else. I was different in a bad way and if I wasn’t self-conscious enough I had school mates that would always be there to remind me.
I grew up to be hyper-critical of myself and of other people. This obsession with needing to be perfect had me feeling not right in my own skin. It kept me feeling uncomfortable and unable to focus or be present in my life. I was always distracted, always wishing I could be something unobtainable and always believing that I never measured up
All of these feelings kept me from living my life. My imperfections were, in my dysfunctional thinking, permanent or at least for the most part unchangeable. I had understood that I had to live with these disadvantages. What this did was it robbed me of my courage to even try. It had me play out the self-fulfilling prophecy that I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t deserve things. It kept me stuck in this never-ending loop of wishing, then trying in a half-heartedly, while knowing that it would never work out because I wasn’t perfect, to it not working out and back to hoping again.
Probably the defining moment came when I achieved those things I believed were unchangeable. I realized that the biggest obstacle for all of us is believing something is possible, when we had previously believed it wasn’t. When we believe something is impossible it changes the amount of effort we put in and it again becomes that self-fulfilling prophecy. When we know something’s possible it changes everything. So I realized if my mother was wrong about that then what else was she wrong about?
Changing Your Perception
I started to become mindful of the beliefs and attitudes that I had been brought up with. It didn’t matter if a person wasn’t beautiful or if they were overweight – they still had value and were worthy of love, care and respect. I would get very angry at the way my mother would dismiss people because of their physicality it really made me ill.
I became aware of when my fear of being judged was stopping me from trying and I pushed forward. I got very comfortable feeling uncomfortable, but in a different way than I had in the past. Now I would face my fear and I was able to find joy in the doing and being a part of life and part of activities I enjoyed. Facing your fears is scary – not living your life because of them is even more terrifying. When I stopped caring what other people thought of me I became less critical of them and a hell of a lot more compassionate towards them and myself.
I stopped letting what other people thought of me affect me. Sure we all want to be liked but when I cared more about what I thought of me and less of what other people thought of me my life really changed. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to hand over the reins to my self-esteem to a stranger, who didn’t know me, to determine my worth or what I could accomplish.
This acceptance of myself didn’t mean that I just gave up and didn’t try to change the things about me that I could change. I think we should all always be striving to be better, but in the meantime we should be out there living our lives laughing, and enjoying the moment, because this moment is all that we will ever have.
When you sit there waiting for conditions to be perfect you miss out on the right now. If you believe that others are good enough, but you’re not, you live life on the periphery, waiting and hoping that someday you will have your chance, then you will be waiting forever and watching your life pass you by.
The question is, how do you judge when you’re good enough? Is this an arbitrary place in time and space where once you’ve reached it an alarm will go off and then you can enjoy your life? Or is it one of those travelling set points that keeps moving every time you get close, so that it will never be achievable?
The definition of happiness and of having a good time has changed for me – it used to mean Saturday nights dancing at the Boom-Boom room, trying to pick-up guys with my girlfriends. Now it means being connected. It’s deep meaningful relationships with people I care about. It’s lively debates at dinner parties. It’s playing baseball with friends. It’s enjoying a BBQ at my brothers with the kids running around. It’s spending alone time at the cottage, it’s being in nature. It’s making a difference in the lives of others and it’s taking care of myself.
I don’t feel that I have to be perfect to enjoy my life anymore and at the same time I’m not afraid of doing things that challenge me to step away from my comfort zone. The only opinion that matters is my own and that opinion has become a hell of a lot less critical.
In the game of life there are players and there are passengers. Don’t spend your life waiting for some moment, some objective, or some person, to tell you that you’re good enough. Opportunity waits for no man. You can’t ask it to come back in 6 months when you’re ready. Life is a participation sport. Stop waiting and get in the game.
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The only thing I dislike about your blogs is that they come to an end eventually. 🙂 Keep ‘me comin! You make a difference
Thank you for this. It came at a perfect time. I’ve recently realized that while I have achieved alot of success in my life, my negative thoughts about my appearance and the need to be perfect have held me back. It has also allowed me to choose the wrong partner time and time again. While I am confident in my abilities as a Mother and in the business world, I lack confidence in myself in other ways. I need to fix that and hope to find my way. It isn’t easy to erase all the years of negative self-talk, but I’m working on it.
Home run!!!!!! Your timing is impeccable!!!! I am embarking on some important decisions regarding work and my own happiness. The last few years of working on me is giving me such great perspective and your articles play a major role in that!!!! Thank you so much for what you do!!!!! The more we can focus on exactly what you say in this article the less that self denial of happiness emerges. Thank you again!!!!!
I totally get this. My parents used to tell me all the time that I looked like my father’s mother, who was fat. They said I had a “pretty face” like she did but they meant that i was fat like her. They also told me that I was lazy and they told my sister (who was thin!) that she was a very hard worker but not as smart as me. Thus started a lifetime of competition and hatred between us that lasts to this day. And, you know what? I am still (sorta) fat but I am not lazy! Watch out for those childhood labels. They precondition you to accept much more crap and much less than you deserve. When my husband said he cheated because I was fat, and that I was lazy because I “only” worked two jobs, I believed him. Why shouldn’t I believe him? That was exactly what my parents had been telling me my entire life. Then they wonder why I stayed with him until he finally left for good. When you grow up believing you deserve less, that’s what you expect. Trying to expect more for myself now.
I never reply to these comments, but yours really touched a nerve. I was brought up to believe I had no choice, I was going to be fat, because the rest of my family was. So, I never even tried to control my eating habits. I was always told that fat people were ugly and lazy and sloppy. So I was. The first and only boyfriend, I married ,believing it was my only chance. When he cheated it was my fault , I wasn’t good enough. I was lucky to have him. Fast forward 36 years. He had cheated many times that I know , but this last time I finally grew a spine. I was not born a doormat. I finally realized I deserved much better. I was not ugly, I was not lazy, and I was clearly deserving of a better man. No matter what, no one deserves disrespect , or apartner that uses and abuses them. We have to love ourselves, so that we attract the people we deserve. I am finally a happy, outgoing , attractive,confident, strong , survivor. Living life as it was meant to be lived. Congratulations on living an authentic life, the rest will be much easier.
I love this. I needed this. It acts as a reminder and a step towards learning or re-learning how to love myself, take care of myself, accept myself. It is hard, after putting everyone ahead of me, for so many years. Somewhere I lost myself along the lines. Listening to the negative speak and memories of family members and classmates harsh, hurtful words, that I have carried with me for years that somehow I wasn’t good enough, or wasn’t living up to their expectations. Going through bad relationships and becoming a pleaser, I lost myself. God it’s hard to let go of that baggage! Thank you for your time and articles!
Savannah. I have learned so much this past year about myself which has helped me realize to stop chasing my belief that I need to get “there”. Wherever “there” is. I have achieved much and have found a man who is not perfect but either am I. I can be happy and content with someone who loves me just the way I am. I am not a “type” but a human being with feelings and a history. And so is everyone else. When I started Really loving and a accepting myself , I was ready to share my life with someone else. Don’t get me wrong. I still have those negative thoughts but they don’t run my life anymore. Thank you for this blog and today’s topic really hit home.
When I look back I see whole arid chunks of several years when I was so bowed down by life that all I did was wait. In between were times when I did a stack of stuff and achieved things but it was always all or nothing, and illness would soon follow the hective activity years and I’d be petrified into inaction again…for an even longer time.
Once I began to get somewhere with working on myself I started to have self respect for which helped me to be more balanced and to stop having those awful seesawing ups and downs.
Something I remember is the revelation that just because I did some things differently from my parents and sisters didn’t make those things wrong or bad. I realised that there was no right or wrong way and the reason I did things differently is because it’s purely my nature. That would probably sound really odd to someone with a decent upbringing, but it’s difficult to see any differently when it’s been ground into you from day one that to have distinctive and separate characteristics is bad, and it took me until I was aged around 60 to finally get over that one and to have no problem in me being me. Once I realised that, I started to relax more. It’s been a long haul, and I still have the odd days when I realise that I’m all clenched up with a tense anxiety, but as a work in progress it’s continually getting much better and I’m very grateful to mostly be simply happy and content with life at last. 🙂