I was always one of the last kids picked in gym class. Me and sports were never friends. I especially remember when we played baseball, I had no idea what was going on. When I was in the outfield I could rarely catch the ball. If I did, I had no idea where to throw it. And forget when I was up at bat. On the rare chance that I hit the ball, I couldn’t figure out when to stop running. I once made it to home plate with someone chasing me to get me out, so I kept running circles around home to get away from them. For years, I couldn’t live that down.
By high school, my lack of athleticism was just one among many reasons I found to dislike myself. And what I didn’t love about me, I tried to hide from others or fix. I hid acne behind a ton of makeup, wore blue contacts because I didn’t like my green eyes, started dieting to lose weight, laughed at people’s jokes when I didn’t actually understand them, and I was thrilled to find a friend who taught me how to get away with cutting gym class.
As a young adult, I’d already developed a concept of myself as not being good enough. I didn’t feel pretty enough, thin enough, or smart enough. In my relationships, I never spoke up when I was mistreated because I was afraid of not being liked. I felt envious of those I thought had it all together. And I beat myself up over every mistake I made. I felt stuck and unable to see all the good in myself. I lived with that mindset through my mid-twenties until I decided it was time for a change.
For the last 15+ years I’ve learned to live authentically and love ALL of who I am. Serendipitously, this is the core theme of the work I do with my private clients and university students.
Here are 8 strategies that have been keys in my transformation, and that I use to help my clients and students.
- Own & Share Your Strengths:
Identifying and using our strengths is not egotistical, its critical. When we know what we are great at, we can use those strengths at work and in the community to do good. Giving our gifts to others not only benefits them, but makes us feel good about ourselves.
- Say Nice Things to Yourself:
When that inner critic inside your head starts questioning your decisions, berating your choices, and attempting to sabotage your future, tell it to be quiet! Replace those critiques with reminders of the good things you have done, the ways you have triumphed over challenges, and the strengths you have that are going to help you accomplish the things you set out to do.
- Seek & Live Your Purpose:
We are all here on this earth to do something. Ask yourself what matters most to you? If you could use your strengths to fix one thing in the world, what would it be? Seek work, volunteer work, or personal activities that allow you to engage your unique purpose. A meaningful life helps us feel great about who we are.
- Be a Lifelong Learner & Goal Achiever:
We feel good about ourselves when we learn new things and achieve goals that are important to us. If there’s something you want to learn, do some research, read a great book, take a class, or seek a mentor. If there’s a personal or professional development goal you want to accomplish, break your goal down into smaller achievable steps and get started on step one. We feel pride when we accomplish even the smallest steps towards meaningful goals.
- Live with Gratitude:
Pay attention to the good things you experience throughout your day—the person who opens the door for you, the driver who lets you make a turn, the birds singing in the morning, and the house you go home to at the end of your workday. It reminds us that our lives are good, people are good, God is good, and so are we.
- Celebrate the Gifts & Successes of Others:
Congratulate others on their accomplishments, compliment their strengths when you notice them, and be happy to see others living their purpose. We feel good when we genuinely appreciate the good in others. No person is great at everything. We have our gifts and others have theirs, and by sharing them with one another, we collectively make this world awesome.
- Use Your Voice to Stand Up for What You Believe In:
If someone is mistreating you, tell them. If someone is abusing another person or group, speak up. We show that we believe in our own and others’ worth when we express our thoughts passionately, yet diplomatically. It’s hard not to feel good about ourselves once we can do that.
- Share Your Story Proudly & Vulnerably:
Sharing our stories—mistakes, struggles, strengths, and all—is transformational. Through sharing, we no longer feel we have anything to hide about ourselves. Our challenges give us wisdom that can help us in the future, as well as guide others.
I sometimes miss the plotlines of jokes, can’t follow—nonetheless play—most sports, am not Hollywood glamorous (though my underlying grey hairs have helped me achieve a great blond), and I make mistakes. I’m no longer the least bit bothered by any of this. In fact, I love all of it. I’m eccentric, laugh loud in restaurants, sing passionately in my car, and dance while sitting in my seat wherever there is music. I’m also infinitely excited about life, deeply empathic, crazy driven, very forgiving, and easily see the good in others. I’m a fabulous tapestry of imperfections, challenges, gifts, wisdom, and purpose. So are YOU! And that’s worth a whole lot of love!