I don’t know when I began to notice that I was ignoring the messages of encouragement given over and over again. It was like they were on a different frequency. I simply didn’t hear them. I’m a late bloomer.
It was almost like I had earplugs in my ears. I didn’t hear people telling me that I was creative, resourceful, smart. Instead I listened to the negative thoughts, comparing myself to others who had completely different attributes. I also listened to people who told me that there were things I could and couldn’t do.
A beloved Sunday School teacher looked me in the eye one day and told me I was a leader. That statement stuck – in a good way. It has taken many years to accept his vision of my potential. It was one of the best and shortest statements that stuck.
There was Mrs. Hartman, the Assistant Head of School who asked me in 9th grade what I wanted to do when I grew up. I shared with her my dream of being a doctor (that was way before chemistry was even on the horizon). She looked at me for a minute then said very slowly:”You…will…NEVER…be…a …doctor!”
That was it. She sealed that for me. The dream was destroyed in one sentence. I was young for my age and extremely sensitive. I believed her.
Towards the end of high school, my dad, wanting to get the most out of his investment of college for me, asked me to take a job inventory. It seemed innocuous enough. When the results came back, the guidance counselor told me that I had scored in the 98th percentile for executive management. The only trouble was that these jobs weren’t really very available to women at the time. So they told me I could be a secretary. The skills for management and the skills for admin are about 180 degrees apart. Nothing wrong with either but they take very different skill sets.
I tried to fit myself into their definition of what I could be. I failed so many times that I made myself and more than a few people that I worked for, crazy. I hated it. I was terrible at it. I finally quit and vowed never to try to fit myself into what was such a bad fit for me.
I started exploring what I really wanted. It was hard at first. We are so trained to say what we don’t like or what we don’t want that when faced with the question – what do I want, the first result is stunned silence.
And that was when I started listening to the voices that encouraged me.
I remembered that all through my life, people told me I was creative. Somehow it didn’t register in a way that felt valuable.- probably because I was still comparing myself to others. The creativity word did resonate and I explored more: connectedness, community, contribution, strategy – these are my main gifts – oh, and encouragement. I started to remember all the times people had remarked on these things and I experienced hope.
It’s so important to listen to the voices that encourage us. They may be from strangers, they may last only a second, but they may leave deep impressions on our minds.
I know I’m not alone in this. I see it all the time. We let our fear or someone else’s opinion dictate who we are and what is possible for us. There is no logic to it. The only way to shift is to practice.
Practice discarding those thoughts as soon as they start. When you start to go down the rabbit hole of negativity, think of something bigger – so impossibly big that it makes you smile. Write it down. Make a practice of writing it down. Soon, you will start to see a shift in your thinking. When you shift into positive gear, that’s when possibility arrives.
Practice appreciating others, thanking them for even the smallest of good deeds and sharing your sense of what is possible for them. This WILL encourage you to stretch yourself.
Start noticing what you love and write it down – it’s easy to have brain freezes when you start this process. Then you panic and you’re back to square one. Build your list and share it with us.