How many of us look back on our younger selves and think that if we had only realized that nobody is perfect, and if we had only discarded the insecure voices in our heads, we could have done so many things we put off until we were older and more mellow with ourselves?
When I was a young counselor working with foster kids, my supervisor encouraged me to interview for a promotion. But I knew my disorganization. I knew my time management issues. And I knew my weakness with playing the political game. He always said to me, “You may know those things, but nobody else does – they see your passion, your commitment, the trust you earn. “ When I was 40 and finally took a career change risk in order to afford my son’s college education, I realized my supervisor was right! I figured it all out when it truly counted.
They say that women are more likely to take risks when it will help someone else than when it is for themselves. Why do we do this to ourselves? The famous developmental theorist, Erik Erikson stated that developmental stages go until death (so, you can teach an old dog new tricks!), and I often call a woman’s 40’s the “F-U” stage, because that seems to be the age that we finally stop worrying about everyone else and finally start realizing that we are just as fabulous as everyone else!
When I look back on the younger me – the one I thought was flighty, fat, and forgetful – I see the young lady that was gutsy enough to audition for (and sing) the Messiah’s soprano solo with a symphony orchestra. I see the case worker who fought the state Dept of Human Resources for better support for aging-out foster youth. I see the young mother who found time to help a team raise $78,000 and cycle 100 miles to fight Leukemia. And those deficits, real or perceived, did not stop me . . . but they may have slowed me down from my true potential.
So, if there is one gift I could give a young person, it would not be an Xbox, or an IPhone – it would be the power to see yourself for your gifts rather than focusing so much on your deficits that you let them hold you back from the potential you truly have.
And for those of you who still let your inner demons hold you back (whether you are young or a little older), remember that those thoughts are disposable! The best way to remove them is to act as you would if you didn’t have them – ‘fake it’ a little. And you will be surprised at the confidence you gain realizing that you can actually do more than you thought you could!
Want to take a drink? In the spirit of cast out those inner voices, act out a social action that makes you wince. Keep it simple and specific: Speak to a stranger in the grocery store, try on an outfit that you would not be caught dead in, or wear a hat out in public! Execute this simple experiment on your ability to tolerate and grow from something that your fear holds you back from. Good Luck!
Courage to you All!