Have you ever consulted a friend or a mentor on a topic that they are good at, and found yourself saying, “This seems so easy for you, why is it so hard for me?”
I said this recently to a friend and advisor, and here was her response:
“Our zones of genius are easy for us but so valuable to others.”
I looked at that text for a long time while my three impatient gray iPhone dots urged me to respond.
Suddenly I was reminded about that seedy, cheap, shifty, guileless part of our personalities – negative self-worth – the mastermind behind all of the questioning and all of the uncertainty of the miraculous beings that we all are. There’s good self worth, of course, and if good self worth were any sort of an issue I wouldn’t have a blog to write about. But negative self-worth, now that is a juicy black hole of a character that’s deserving of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Always there to question the leader, it’s like a membrane of impenetrable substance slimes us from head to toe, leaving us stuck. It makes us question who we are and where and if we belong. It organizes factions among our peers and family, determining who we should align with and who we should tear down.
There are actually a lot of supporting actors in this negative self-worth cast with a lot of different specialties – one who talks to you about body image. There is one who chastises you about how much money you have or don’t have and equates what you earn and how you spend to who you are as a person. There is another who gives you an earful about your intelligence and education and yet another who measures you up societally, against your friends and the row of perfect families that line your street, or any street for that matter. There is still another who tells you what kind of parent you are, and another who tells you what kind of child you are to your own parents. One chatters in your ear all day about what you eat. Its pal edits what you say to please others or get attention. There’s a whole sub-camp of extras who are ready to rise up and remind you about your religion, your gender, your sexuality, your likes and followers, the number on the scale and the number in your retirement account. Yet another gives you a piece of its mind on how well your do your job – what it thinks of you if you don’t have a job – and what you are worth according to that job (or lack thereof.)
The list isn’t over. There is a really sleazy negative self-worth actor that tells you all about how you are intimately and humiliates you if you don’t perform or if you haven’t gotten married or have gotten married…just more than once. And another, who pretty much just organizes all the others into this psychological tribunal of shame, teaching the whole cast, if all else fails, to just default with “you’re not good enough” for any given life scenario.
As a note of transparency and as a rule to myself, I do not usually write about depressing things. I just don’t want to put that out there, there’s plenty already. So bear with me, I’m getting to the point…
There is a lot of chatter.
And sooner or later, we have to figure out how to filter out the trash and capitalize on what we are great at, or just fucking rip the band-aid off, admit that we don’t know everything and ask for help.
I have come to a pivotal point in my life where I am choosing not to wear the “I’ve got it all together” mask. I never ever wanted to wear it anyway. I am messy and I fuck up a lot. But what is different at 42 than what was at 22 or even 32, is that I’m willing to admit that I am messy and ask for help from people who are way better at stuff that I am. I have to go to people I trust and say, “Look. I don’t know what to do here. I am out of tools. I don’t need to be the hero anymore. Help me figure this out…” And simultaneously, in my brain, I have to look at the whole cast of drama queens and say, “Back off, assholes!”
I am messy. And until recently, I never realized that is also my genius. The messy-ness forces me to stay sharp and it pushes me to be better. It squeezes me to think differently and innovatively and maybe most importantly, compassionately. It humbles me. It makes me listen and not talk. It makes me learn and not teach. It pressures me to choose new ways. Each one of those self-worth actors has value if I choose to see them as assets to my self-development versus a shameful aspect of my identity. Maybe they are teaching me what not to do. And thank God for that.
I am swapping my brilliant friend who is a whiz at my struggle suits with things that are easy for me but hard for her. We both feel so excited about this trade and are helping each other see that what we are not strong at is only going to get stronger if we work together. It’s an alliance against the negative self-worth bully.
And the next time someone says to me, “Gosh how do you do it all? You seem like you have it all together…” I am going to reply with,
“Yes. Yes I do. In the most beautiful of messy ways, I have it ALL TOGETHER.”