My 13 year old brain had a shocking revelation. I was sitting in my little desk/chair combo in Ms. Higgin’s 8th grade classroom, quietly working on the school newspaper, laying out a page about my graduating class. Amy Silver was voted to be the most likely to be a leader. Danica Katz: a movie star. Richard Lewis: a great inventor. And I…was nowhere to be seen.
My heart lurched in my chest. Why didn’t they pick me to be a leader or a movie star? Why didn’t they pick me for anything?
But I knew why they didn’t pick me. Why would they? I wouldn’t have picked me either. Amy was our class president. Danica was in all the school plays. Richard was a Science Fair award winner. I, on the other hand, hadn’t done much of anything.
Suddenly I wanted to be known for something. The desire to be a leader, a movie star, an inventor; which had lain hidden inside of me, dormant, now erupted. No one would ever have guessed it of the mousy bookworm who faded into every classroom.
The Pros and Cons of Comparing Yourself to Others
I wasn’t content with who I was anymore. I had compared myself to others and found myself to be lacking. I’m sure you do that too, sometimes, noticing the diverse talents and strengths of the people around you. It can be a terrible feeling to feel less than others in one way or another. But it may also be a catalyst for personal development. Other people inspire us to develop new aspects of ourselves.
When you look at others you can see how you’d like to be and also how you don’t want to be. You see someone who’s very sociable, chatting easily with everyone at a party and you say, “I want to be like that.” You see a classmate getting yelled at by a teacher for being rude and you think, “I don’t want to be like that.” This is how we learn and grow from each other.
Negative and Positive Ways to Think About Your Personal Growth
But my first reaction was for my ego to take a nose dive. You can say, “I’m not good at this or I’m not good at that” and feel bad about yourself and get stuck there; feeling inferior to others; feeling incapable of being the sort of person that you admire. That kind of thinking is a trap that saps the joy and energy out of you.
There’s another kind of thinking that’s a source of freedom. Appreciating who you are now but considering your desire to grow and learn as a strength that’s healthy, courageous, and invigorating. It may be uplifting to realize that your desire to be a certain way is an indication that the possibility already exists within you. You just haven’t developed it yet.
The Fear of Trying Something New
Trying to learn or do something new can bring up fears. You can spend a lot of time worrying about whether your goals will be fulfilled or not. You’re afraid of failing and being disappointed. So some people don’t even try. That’s one of the reasons that some people stay stuck.
The people who have the greatest fear of trying are probably also the harshest critics. If it’s intolerable to be a beginner and make mistakes because your inner critic is calling you terrible names like “stupid” or “loser” that’s when you most need to focus on building that healthy foundation of self-acceptance.
The Gift of Desire
The desire to learn and grow is also excitement, energy, challenge…goals. If it weren’t for desire, human beings wouldn’t have walked on the moon. People wouldn’t create beautiful works of art or discover life-saving techniques in medicine.
Without desire, you wouldn’t take that writing course that you really enjoyed. You wouldn’t overcome insecurity to ask that person out for a date. You wouldn’t register to run a marathon. You wouldn’t live your fullest life.
Finding Fulfillment Wherever You Are
I’m not saying that everyone will become the President of the United States, but if you discover that leadership is your thing, you could become president of the PTA, Toastmasters, or your condo board. If you want to be a writer…write! If you want to be a hero, volunteer for a non-profit that’s work inspires you.
Be Good Enough and Getting Better
There’s a problem, though, if you get trapped into thinking that you’re not good enough until you develop those new and admirable parts of yourself. Not being able to appreciate who you are right now is a lousy way to spend your life; always disappointed with yourself, always chasing your ideal self.
Feeling bad about yourself makes it harder to maintain the courage and energy you need for the challenge of learning new skills and behaviors. It’s hard to grow in nutrient-deprived soil. If, on the other hand, you appreciate and accept yourself as you are now, you’re not weighed down and discouraged by the “have to” or “necessity” of being different in order to be acceptable, you will have the confidence and energy to keep moving forward.
Be Inspired and You Will Inspire Others
So, let yourself be inspired by those “most likely to…” and allow yourself to work towards becoming your best self. If you can continue to learn and grow throughout your life, without criticizing yourself for who you currently are, then you’ll definitely be the most likely to live an exciting, evolving, engaged life. You might also become the most likely to take up surfing at 70. And that will be inspiring for us all.
If you’re interested in freeing your personal growth, but feel stuck in old patterns and negative self-talk, I can help. In Los Angeles, contact Rena Pollak, LMFT for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I have a private practice in Encino and Calabasas.
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