2019 and 2020 were tremendous years of growth and self-discovery for me, but as beautiful and profound as that sounds, there were many moments where I’ve questioned my direction in life. When I have faced soul-crushing alienation from everyone I knew, and been most brutal to myself in spite of being objectively better than I was in the past decade again.
These years were times of emotional intensity, and of questioning everything I was taught to believe about self-worth. Of breaking myself down in order to build myself back up with the courage to share my words, which I know are wholly flawed, dark, sardonic, pensive, rough around the edges, and a bit too much for some people, but at least they are mine.
The longer I’ve been observing the blogosphere, the more I can conclude that everyone is prone to feeling inadequate in this increasingly highlight-reel-based culture.
It’s hard to turn a blind eye to how authenticity has turned into a marketing gimmick as opposed to something raw, intense, and passionately felt.
But my feelings of inadequacy have been deeply ingrained within me decades prior to the rise of having access to people’s lives online and thoughts on how people “should” prove themselves worthy and reverse-engineer the habits and processes of those that our generation puts on a pedestal.
Because I experienced a childhood of emotional neglect, toxic rage, and a shame-based upbringing, I sought to earn my worth from not only my parents, but from my peers as well.
-If only I could get perfect grades and be a top student at every subject, I won’t ever be called stupid or lazy again. I have to be the most intelligent and hardworking person in my peer group in order to gain their respect. If not, I am nothing.
-If only I could be a multi-talented triple threat in writing, music, and the visual arts, then people would think I’m cool enough to be associated with.
-If I can just be the best at as much as I possibly can, then nobody would hate me or judge me as inferior or weak.
But by the time I turned 22, reality hit me.
-Was shame really that effective of a catalyst?
-Was beating myself up in order to become impossibly great counterproductive all along?
-Or was I simply not good enough and nothing I did could make up for my inherent stupidity?
The older I got, the more (not less) obsessed I became with earning my worth. I had a delayed start in entering the writing world. I still had this insatiable desire to prove that I had what it takes to “catch up” with those who had started earlier than I did.
If you’re thinking this sounds insane, you are absolutely right.
And even as an adult, that childhood fear of not ever measuring up has never truly gone away.
I still heavily impose the same toxic mindset on myself that I try so hard to fight against — that I am not enough as I am, even though I know this isn’t true and it is not helping me honor what’s unique about me.
Even today, my dark side is chasing after proof, in the form of external validation, that I am not just good enough but exceptional.
I still try to prove that I have raw talent.
I still repeatedly kick myself when I’m down, even if my soul is crying out for an overflow of mercy.
I still I brutalize myself for not achieving things faster, even if my heart is pleading with agony, “Why can’t you just love me for once?”
The root of it all is this persistent pressure to tie your own worth with productivity at whatever cost .
But this belief of shame holds you back and counterintuitively, slows you down even more. You should do what is best and most natural for you.
A lot of good has come from people pushing themselves to build bigger and better dreams, I will not deny this.
But what many of us don’t like to ask directly is this — if you have to beat yourself up for being too inadequate to be deserving of going after a bigger dream, is it worth it? If your intense dissatisfaction and lofty expectations to achieve almost superhuman feats to earn the approval and admiration of the crowd puts you in a constant state of anxiety to the point of self-torture, is it worth it?
That’s the question that’s unsettled me for the past two years since I started to do something out of my comfort zone — write for potentially anyone in the world to see instead of keeping my words to myself.
I, too, ended up getting stuck in the vicious cycle of beating myself up for not being appealing enough to this image-conscious digital world and also for not even writing as profoundly as I’d like to be writing.
I love to create thoughtful pieces, and I don’t shy away from internal difficulties because ignoring them will only make problems worse. I love heavily introspective material that analyzes the ins and outs of the human psyche.
I’ve been writing ever since I became inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Words have always been deeply ingrained in my soul and it brings me great joy to express feelings with utmost sincerity, to excavate the darkest layers of my mind in order to bring to light what isn’t commonly expressed enough, and deliver them in a way that flows effortlessly.
But in order to get myself back to my roots as a creator and a writer, I have to put a stop to these toxic, limiting beliefs about self-worth in relation to how the world may perceive the pursuit of my passion.
I recognized the following as hindrances to not only my output quantitatively, but to the healing of my soul:
- If you don’t go viral early on or have at least 10,000 followers on social media, you are lazy, unattractive, unsuccessful, and not competitive enough to make it as a writer.
- You have to write at least four blog posts a day to catch up with other successful writers who have been in the game for five years. If you don’t, you are not a real writer.
- You need to be incredibly special and find a special way to prove it. Or else nobody will pay attention to you or think you’re worth reading.
- If you dare to rest or do any soul-searching that takes time away from trying to push yourself to be the best, then you are lazy and entitled.
- People ultimately don’t like you as you are, so to earn their admiration, you have to show them that you are hyper-competitive and exceptionally talented, but if you naturally aren’t, you have to beat the flaws out of you to make yourself become that.
You can list your own limiting beliefs, depending on what your biggest goals in life are.
Even though I have plenty of other goals (and limiting beliefs that stop me from achieving them) in other areas of life (career, relationships, spiritual, etc.), writing is the biggest dream of mine and being in the thick of it (instead of just casually doing it for fun), has made me increasingly aware of my deepest insecurities, my broken mental state, and every toxic belief that puts me in a hyper-competitive state that ultimately makes me super critical of myself, which I wrongfully associated with brute mental strength and toughness.
I thought that being incredibly harsh with myself and shaming myself for not being enough would motivate me to push through faster so that I can actually get good enough.
I also believed that being brutal and having a more pessimistic worldview would shield me from criticism and from being called delusional. That it’d make me stronger and tougher than those who believe in the best. How wrong I was.
But here’s the truth – beating yourself down into the ground will only make it excruciatingly more difficult to get back up.
Trying to catch up with other people who are faster than you will only push you further away from where you actually want to be (and not everyone can be super extraordinary geniuses that are at the top, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your own version of an attainable dream and not being famous or extremely prolific shouldn’t make you feel too worthless to try what you are curious and passionate about).
It is courageous, not delusional, to stand up for yourself, even when the naysayers and skeptics say that you have no proof of being good enough. Believing in the worst is petty and weak.
And the point of daring to push yourself to greater heights as an artist is to share your soul and all the intricate layers within, not to earn the approval of people or compensate for your own lack of self-worth. Even if the world is harsh to you, it doesn’t mean you have to break yourself down to appease it or to show that it is right.
Because it isn’t right. You deserve to take a chance on yourself and do more without breaking yourself down if you don’t meet external results as quickly as you’d like – because succumbing to self-doubt and the pressure to give up based on a few mistakes is what crushes your genuine, fiery spirit.
And it can be incredibly helpful and encouraging to write counter arguments to your limiting beliefs. Here are mine:
1. Create what you need to, in order to make survival more bearable, heal, gain clarity on who you are, and say something in a way that resonates with those who have suffered similarly. Making an impact, no matter how small, can help someone know that there is so much more to creative work than just “making it big.”
2. Don’t pressure yourself to hustle hard. If you neglect your physical health and forego time periods for soul-searching, you will end up rushing through content that you won’t be proud of. And you won’t get to where you want to go any faster, either.
3. You cannot control how others perceive you, period. So why worry about it? Focus on what you can do best and let the rest go.
4. Rest is one of the most productive things you can do, if you do it deliberately and periodically. You don’t have to act like a drill sergeant or a domineering boss in order to succeed (at least when it comes to self-directed projects).
5. Some people will love you for you and others will hate your guts for standing up for yourself. Your worth cannot be defined by people’s subjective opinions. Your duty is to present your truth to set yourself free.
Sure, be realistic and have a healthy dose of skepticism – to a point – but never lose that fire that drives you to believe in better, more abundant possibilities.
In the end, that’s what will help you evolve in a healthier way, flourish beautifully, and show what more can be possible if you treat yourself with grace and dignity and have faith in who you are, even when nothing else is supporting it.