Are you asleep? I know you’re thinking, “how can I be sleeping if I’m reading this?”, but I ask because I find that many of us sleepwalk through our lives. By being extremely critical of our bodies or blind to our talents, by constantly comparing ourselves to others or generally living in a state of ‘not-feeling-good-enough’, many of us fail to recognize our intrinsic worth. Unconsciously, we have become slaves to a life of striving for accomplishments and approval from others.
Over the years, I’ve wrestled with this concept in relation to body image – perhaps some of you can relate. As a teenager, I spent five years struggling with anorexia and compulsive exercising. I remember constantly being praised for being so thin and fit. These compliments fuelled my obsessive behaviour and gave me what little confidence I had. My feelings of self-worth were completely wrapped up in how I felt about my body. I had the overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t good enough the way I was and so I spent all of my efforts and activities on my appearance, hoping it would validate that I was OK.
Another example of craving external validation came a few weeks ago when I was asked to teach in front of a group of fellow fitness instructors. I’ve taught fitness classes for over twenty years but I felt particularly nervous teaching in front of my peers. What if I made a mistake? What if they thought I was a poor instructor? As it turned out, all went well and my fears were a waste of energy, but the experience served to remind me that, in order to achieve my fullest potential, I need to detach myself from the opinions of others.
Our society teaches us to gain approval from others to prove that we are ‘good enough’. It teaches us that, in order to be perceived as successful, we must have more, be more, and do more. Take a look at magazines, movies, television, and the web. These mediums are crowded with images of happy people who (apparently) got this way because they bought the right cars, clothes, mascara, or skin care products. Advertisers spend billions of dollars selling products by appealing to our insecurities and, in believing them, we fail to experience our own brilliance or radiate our true selves. It’s time to wake up.
Iyanla Vanzant says, “If you really want to know who you are and what you are capable of achieving, you must be willing to live without the opinions of other people.” We need to stop beating ourselves up and waiting for others to give us the approval and recognition we desire. We need to give ourselves what we want others to give us. We need to be gentle and kind to ourselves in the same way we would be towards children. We need to stop chasing what we think will make us worthy and define our own concepts of self and of success.
But how do we do this when we’ve been taught that the appearance of success and the good opinion of others is essential to our happiness? If we are to live our best lives and soar above mediocrity, we need to take time to do some introspective work. If you haven’t done this, I urge you to confront what is holding you back – it is worth the effort.
Many of us don’t focus on self reflection until our concept of self becomes unbearable – but why wait until it gets to that point? Whether it’s through journaling, seeking professional help, prayer, meditation, and/or practicing daily affirmations, wake up to your worth and beauty. Remember, no matter how you look, what you’ve achieved, or what you possess, you are magnificent. You are brilliant. You don’t have to strive. You are enough.