I had a work dinner last night, and as I sat there at the table, surrounded by successful business women, I began to feel I didn’t belong. Honestly, I’d tried to get out of it at the last minute, that feeling of less-than surging throughout the day. Not one of the women was treating me as if I didn’t belong, and I realized it was the voices in my own head telling me I was out of place. I took a deep (internal) breath, contributed what I could to I could to the conversation, relaxed, and ended up having a great evening, leaving for home feeling empowered and lifted up. As competitive as women can be with each other, its usually our own selves putting us down the most. This particular group of women is all about lifting each other up. As much as I thought I hadn’t wanted to go, I’m so glad I went.
Why do we let those voices in our heads even get through? I’ve written before that we are our own biggest bullies. (You can read that post here ). I still completely believe that’s true. Those voices in my head, my own negative talk, is louder and meaner than pretty much anything anyone has ever said to me. And I was saying a LOT of negative things to myself yesterday and last night….a ton of negative things, comparing myself to others, and negating any success I’ve had in my life. On the way home from dinner, I was repeating those comparisons, all the negative things I’d been thinking, and made myself come up with a counterpoint to my own negative speak. It went something like this:
- “I’m not a VP of this, CEO of that…I don’t own a company, nor do I make million dollar deals.” Well, guess what? I successfully work part-time, manage a crazy household, take care of myself, volunteer in multiple organizations, and have three pretty decent, smart kids. Do I sometimes look at the women around me who have all those letters after their names and wish I’d made some different choices in my life? Duh, yeah. But the lack of letters after my name does not equal a lack of success. It’s just different success.
- I have friends who can hike twenty miles in a day, ski down the scariest of mountains, do triathlons like it’s nothing, run marathons multiple times a year…friends who aren’t afraid to get out on the open water in a kayak or on a stand up paddle board…friends who mountain bike crazy courses. I hear that voice in my head telling me, “You can’t do that…you won’t ever do that….you’ll never be that adventurous.” Well, voices, I’ve run six half marathons and I’m training for my seventh. I’m not fast, but I’m out there, and I do it. Not everyone can say that. I’ll probably never win a race, but I’m in the race.
- The voices say, “Your house is a pit. Look at this house…they have kids and their walls aren’t dinged up, their carpets aren’t stained, their windows aren’t covered in fingerprints or dog snoodles.” Yeah, well….my kids live in a happy home that doesn’t tell them to only drink juice in the kitchen. They do ride their skateboards up and down the front hallway. The back bedroom (supposedly a guest room) has essentially been taken over by their video games and computers. Our couch is more comfortable than it is pretty.
- The voices say, “Look at that blog….it’s been around half the time of yours and it has ten times as many followers as yours, they have so many comments, so many likes, and you have like 5.” Then I remind myself I don’t write this for the glory. It is amazing and awesome to engage with other writers, but this is primarily my therapy. I do write with the hope my words, my honesty in what our family faces will somehow help someone else. But I don’t write each post with the thought it’s going to go viral, nor that I’ll get 100 likes, nor that I’ll reach 10,000 followers by next week.
- The voices say, “You’ll never write that book.” Yep, I may never write that book. But then again, I just might. The fact is, I can. It might completely suck, but someday, I just may do it. I’m working on that courage factor.
- The voices say, “You suck at this fundraising thing. Look at that team…they’ve raised twice what you’ve raised in half the time.” Then I remind myself it’s not about the total, it’s not about the recognition. It’s about who is helped by every penny we raise. What we do, what we’ve done, makes a difference. End of story. That people continue to support us twelve years into this continually amazes me.
Shutting down those voices takes practice….daily practice. The trick is to not let them get louder than the positive voices in your head. I keep telling myself to not let the negative speak win. I have a feeling I’ll be working on it forever, but I will keep working on it. I’m giving myself a seat at the table because yes, I do belong.