You are not nice to yourself.
Think about the cumulative effect of all the negative things you’ve told yourself about yourself. Even for relatively happy, normal, well-adjusted people, it’s almost impossible to turn off that voice that tells you you’re not good enough.
The iron of it? We think about ourselves, constantly, all the time, but when it comes to using that self-obsession to make our lives better, the effectiveness of our minds suddenly drops.
We all want to be successful. Sure, that definition changes depending on who you ask. Yes, most of us have had successes in our lives and live pretty good lives, too. But few of us feel like we’ve maxed out our potential and really gave it our all at something we cared about.
Deep down, many of us feel unworthy of our dreams.
Do you feel this way? I know parts of me did when I was trying to accomplish the ludicrous goal of making a living as a writer.
You think to yourself, “Who the hell are you do have these dreams? Basically no one pulls a dream like this off. Do you really think you’re different? Really? Think of all your mistakes. You have no evidence that shows you’ll ever change. Why try?”
We all have some iteration of this conversation with ourselves. We’re hurtful to ourselves. Truly mean and cruel in a way we’d never be to other human beings.
Where does this come from? Why do we do this to ourselves? How can we fix it? How can you succeed?
It doesn’t help that you learn to view your own behavior through the lens of right and wrong, mostly wrong, from a very young age. You spend your whole life being told what not to do.
When you’re little it’s “don’t touch that.” When you get older, almost everything you learn is predicated on avoiding failure instead of achieving success. It’s not so much that you wanted to get good grades. You didn’t want to get bad grades and feel shame. Not so much that you wanted to get the degree, but that you didn’t want to be a disappointment or you didn’t want to be a part of the “out crowd” who doesn’t have that piece of paper.
You’re always playing defense. Always trying to avoid making mistakes. Looking bad has always been weighted more heavily than feeling good. Our entire society is a comparison trap. Grades could easily be pass or fail — the arbitrary nature of the grades has nothing to do with whether you really know the information or not. You take “standardized tests” as if human beings are standard issue and achieve success using the exact same rubric. Everything is standardized — standard home, car, degree, job, neighborhood. And our goals are set by society — don’t fall below these standards.
After you go through this mental ringer, this regimented structure of life, for decades, it’s no wonder you don’t feel worthy of a life where you step outside the conventional path. Society taught you to view yourself in terms of what you lack from the jump.
How do you start feeling worthy of the life you actually want? First, let yourself off the hook for being tricked into having low self-esteem in the first place. Take the burden off yourself and realize you’ve been put under this spell. Give yourself permission to feel bad about that so you can move on.
A lot of people double down on the societal scripted life because they can’t let go of the sunk costs. You’ve been trained so well and invested so much that the idea of letting it all go to start over seems like a waste. Call the mulligan so you can move on. Unburden yourself to live by these standards anymore so you can move in a different direction.
I went through that path, that process of living by the narrative and letting it go. $70,000 in debt for a degree I didn’t even get, stuck in a crappy job, kind of hating life. I had to let the past go and accept where I was.
Next, and this took years as I was learning and developing new skills, I developed a new voice in my head to combat the negative self-talk I’d been trained to engage in my whole life.
Subconsciously, even sometimes literally out loud, I started to engage in real positive self-talk. I’d logically make arguments for why I could and should be successful. Let me now tell you some of the things I’ve learned to tell myself over the years.
What is the big insane fault you have that you can’t be successful? Are you the dumbest person ever? Or are you pretty sure you’re capable of much more if you’d just buckle down?
You’ve tried to buckle down before and failed? Ok, fine. Why does that have to count now? What rule says you have to keep this running permanent record of all your failed attempts?
Why can’t you just let it go and start over? Seriously, why not you? Why is success for other people and not for you? What is the superhuman quality you see in the people who’ve achieved the dreams you have? Are they gods or do they bleed blood just like you?
To this day, I go through this process over and over again — just questioning my self-doubts to death until I obliterate them. This process, combined with developing competence in a skill, job, business, niche, hobby, whatever you enjoy, will slowly help you build your self-esteem.
The actual work itself gives you the ‘proof’ which I’ll talk about in a minute. But when you’re at the point of total inertia, you have to trick yourself a bit and fake it til you make it a bit because you haven’t done anything yet.
The power of the mind is no joke. Dealing with self-doubt is hard as hell, maybe the hardest thing to do, period. We all know this. Honor how hard it is and fight back accordingly.
The good news? Competence does create confidence. Once you create enough evidence for your own success you’ll no longer have to rely on tricking yourself and faking it. I don’t have to believe in myself to write anymore. I’ve written three books, hundreds of blog posts, and millions of words. I have proof I know how to write.
It’ll work the same for you with your dream. 80 percent of your effort goes towards hitting critical mass, the tipping point, breaking that wall, and then achieving your dream is just a matter of time — the other 20 percent. The beginning phase of building any dream is so fraught with doubt and difficulty that it basically destroys most people dead in their tracks almost right away.
But if you understand that it’s the hardest part and that you won’t always feel that heavily full of doubt, you can take your bumps and bruises upfront until you reach the other side. And the crazy thing about it? Your mind is mostly in the way. The actual steps aren’t that bad.
Take something like starting a business. What do you have to do, really? Research what people want, make the product or service they want, sell it to them. Might have to build up an audience or online presence for it. Ok. All those skills are learnable. Might have to learn technical skills. Learnable.
You will have to face rejection. But do you know what rejection and embarrassment really are? They’re just physiological responses — you get that heart in your stomach feeling for a few seconds and then it goes away. Feeling bad or discouraged about anything is just your interpretation of what happened. You know this, but over time, you’ll know this.
You will start to feel worthy as time moves forward. The first time you pull off something you thought was outside your capabilities, you’ll fully understand how limiting your beliefs are. I still have limiting beliefs about some of the big hairy audacious goals I still have. But now I know that my current normal life would seem absurd to my past self, so I let go of the need to have one hundred percent belief in myself and I just keep doing the work.
When was the last time someone told you that you’re good enough? How often do you tell yourself that? Unfortunately, we lack positive reinforcement in our society and even in our own upbringing sometimes. But you can always be your own support system.
Start thinking of yourself as a friend and start taking care of yourself. Make a conscious effort to do that. I’m weird. I literally talk to myself. Sometimes looking in the mirror. I try to remind myself of who to trust — not my irrational monkey mind liar, but me.
That negative-self talk voice isn’t you. You know that, right?
“This is just the way I am.” Not true. It’s the way you’re choosing to be. It’s the way you default to being because you listen to that negative voice instead of listening to yourself.
I can’t even imagine what’s going on in your mind on a day to day basis because I personally have a hell of a nasty self-talk voice and I’m a self-improvement writer who studies and practices this stuff seriously, which is the answer to your problem.
At the end of the day, you have to seriously take care of yourself and take your relationship with yourself seriously. You won’t always have good days. Clearly, self-help isn’t foolproof, to say the least. But, what choice do you have? Either you try your to make it work or you give up and let your lizard brain run your life for you.
Keep having those conversations with yourself.
You owe it to yourself to live a better life.
You deserve to live a better life and you know it.
Here’s what will happen if you do decide to listen to yourself. One day you’ll look back on everything you’ve ever done and you’ll thank yourself that you were there for yourself.
You’ll have a level of confidence no one can take away from you ever. Success doesn’t solve all your problems, but it does give you the peace in knowing you cared about yourself enough to follow through with something you cared about.
There’s no feeling quite like it.