(Published on DailyO)
‘You are very talented,’ someone texted me recently in response to a random piece I had written and shared on Facebook.
‘Thank you,’ I texted back, pinning a smiley with it self-consciously, and wondering what their words ‘you are very talented’ actually meant or implied.
I got a rapid sense that the person was being nice and kind to me – like several others before them have been. I am an average writer, better than many perhaps, but clearly not a patch on several outstanding authors out there. It’s hard to beat that dismal thought, no matter how many miles you have charted in the sea and how many islands you have seen.
Self-doubt is a constant with even the most successful people in the world.
‘Am I good enough?’ is an inescapable thought that can plague even the best pianists and painters. This self-deprecating itch that begins at the back of the ear slowly grows and gnaws at our creative innards.
Many motivational speakers mention their own brush with diffidence and depression, caused by a sense of inadequacy. They are people who have been there, seen that and eventually overcame the condition to become life coaches.
Adding to the woe is our tendency to compare our work and progress with that of others, especially those we look up to and say, “Chuck it. I can never be that good.’ And if we are not alert and don’t fortify ourselves against this, it will dry up the very wellspring of all the good things that we create.
But here’s the redeeming truth. No matter how we evaluate ourselves – and what we think of our capabilities – we have had our own highpoints in life. And that’s what will salvage us in moments of acute self-doubt and low self-esteem.
Scour your past, dredge deep and find those pearls of accomplishment. It can be anything. From raising fine children to winning a culinary contest to completing a marathon to getting the ‘best employee’ certificate to clearing that driving test to writing random poems to even losing a few pounds and getting back in shape.
It would help to remember that none of these happened on its own. You invested time, energy and commitment into it, and if you don’t pat yourself on the back for it, who will?
I have realised that as much as this excites and inspires us, external approval from people around is just that. External.
Our real anchor lies deep inside. It would help to remind ourselves that if we could do it once so well, we are good to do it again. It’s in our own little accomplishments that the inspiration we sorely need in times of low self-esteem rests.
Having said that, let not the triumphs be mere passing moments that you reminisce over now and then, and sigh over as a thing of the past. Record and document them. Make pictures, videos, souvenirs and anything that will help you relive the memory and fill you with a sense of worth and fulfillment. Draw your strength and motivation from these self-made tokens of appreciation.
Every single feat is a validation of your capabilities.
Put them up prominently, as props, in places that you will see. Take time to pause, look at them whenever the mood is flagging, and tell yourself, ‘I did this.’
No, it is not bragging. It is an effective way to knock you back into the realisation that ‘you are good enough.’ It is not arrogance. It’s a technique to silence your malevolent inner voice that deflates your spirit time and again.
Taking a cue from this deliberation, I framed the cover pictures of my three books a month ago. Along with them, I displayed the best of my paintings and created my own ‘walls of fame’ in our living room. Now, every time self-doubt threatens to cripple my creativity or I suspect a compliment to be a nicety, I take a moment to consider how these books and paintings came to be.
And I smile, not with conceit, but with a buoyant sense of self-assurance that makes me believe that if I put my mind to it, I can even write a magnum opus.
They remind me every time that ‘there is a little magic in all of us’ as JK Rowling famously said. Magic that we fail to see in our scramble to measure up to others’ standards.
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