“We improve ourselves by victories over ourselves. There must be contest and we must win.”-Edward Gibbon
I bet you, fair-reader, have within you a desire to improve. To make your life and the lives of your loved ones better. To make the world a better place. At least I sincerely hope you have that desire (among others). I want you, I want me, I want my amazing Barista at my local coffee shop to do their damnedest to do that very thing. We strive to leave the world a better place than we found it. But first things first…In order to improve the outside, it is certain we need to start inside ourselves. And it is my contention…(what a great word, just rolls off the tongue “contention”), that the seed we have within us to improve the world is partially planted there to prove to ourselves that we are worthy of such a task.
Statistics abound in the realm of low self-esteem, and they ain’t pretty. Seventy eight percent of women age 17 are “unhappy with their bodies.” (National Institute on Media and the Family). In another study, they found 7 of 10 girls feel they do not measure up in some way, including their looks, their schoolwork or other achievements. (Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Examiner.com. Accessed March 3, 2014.) It is also estimated that 45% of Western men are unhappy with their bodies, that number was 15% 25 years ago.
Self-esteem is not tied exclusively to body image, however. Our self worth is many times improperly connected to our accomplishments or our perceived successes or lack-there-of. In 1978, clinical Psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term/diagnosis “Imposter Syndrome” to describe the feelings one has when they have achieved renown but inside feel unworthy of their accolades/growth. They feel that at any time they will be exposed as a fraud or an imposter. Psychological research in the 1980s found that 70% of people fit into this mold at one point or another. Odds are, you have felt this way too. If so, you are in good company; Maya Angelou, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Michelle Pfeiffer all have stated they have felt this way at some point in their careers.
Inadequacy about our bodies, low self-esteem hindering us from improving our lives, and if/when we do improve, thoughts that we are imposters… it is no wonder many of us feel frozen.
The flip-side of inspiration is fear, and fear keeps you right where you are. I’m not bad-mouthing fear here. Fear (like all emotions) is vitally important to your survival. If you did not have fear, plain and simple… you’d be fertilizer by now. A healthy fear of picking a fight with a hippopotamus is a good thing. Don’t lose that fear. The key is to not let some of the nonsense voices that fear puts into your head lead you. Fear is about withdrawing (and with good reason), it should never lead. During this journey into your soul, into finding your inspiration in order to cultivate and share it, you need to understand fear will attempt to hold you back at every turn. Your job isn’t necessarily to tell it to shut up, but to acknowledge your fears and thoughts of inadequacy and then to push on anyway. Let fear have it’s words. Let fear talk trash. Let fear tell you that you aren’t good enough. Let fear poke fun, point out your gigantic zit on your forehead (we’ve all had that one…right?), by all means let fear have it’s voice. But then get to work proving your fear wrong. Don’t allow yourself to sit by and let fear win your soul. We ALL deserve for you to overcome those fears, because somehow, someway, what you have, the world needs.