If I could go back in time, I would say to my teen-like self, “you are good enough just as you are.” I would remind myself when the chips were down, that it is what it is. I would forgive myself when I faltered. I would have found a technique to stop the self-limiting thoughts, and I would have found a way to mitigate all the gut-wrenching moments of ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’
Honesty, I was the teenager that would do almost anything to be valued by others. It was important that my parents recognized my achievements and my closest friends saw me as equal. Whether I worked hard at getting good grades for parental recognition, played piano for hours to get praise from my teacher, or invited to a PJ party to hang with friends – recognition was paramount to my happiness.
Now, I can see the incongruities. Despite my yearning to be seen and valued, it didn’t make me happier. I spent countless hours feeling guilt, shame and even inadequate. Actually, it stressed me out. Fast forward, years later, I now get it that the things that make me different make me. As a parent and educator, I communicate to the next generation to reach towards what matters out of a sense of purpose, not a sense of duty or a fear of disappointment. I’m insistent that they should know both their strengths and limitations and to use this information to do what’s noble.
Sounds selfish, right! Well, on the one hand it is. On the other hand, it isn’t if one is taking action based on ethical choices and compassionate understanding. The point is that being comfortable with being different is going to be the means to actually finding a slice of happiness. Let’s face it that if we only have one life (that we know about!), then the idea is to live it in flow with the ideas, interests, and dreams that make us.
Five Tips to Charting a Successful Path:
- Accept your strengths, fears and challenges. (Life is complex!)
- Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and emotions and accept them just as they are.
- Confront difficult emotions with honesty. (Even though it’s much easier to ignore them!)
- Defend your values without worrying about what others think. (It takes courage especially in adversity!)
- Lead with compassion. (Difference and conflict can be met with understanding!