I’ve had to write a few bio’s lately and let me tell you, it’s daunting. The truth of the matter is my crowning achievements…are a little out of the box.
Here are two of my all-time greatest successes.
Number One: The day my son had no lunch in between his double-header, and I didn’t feel guilty or exasperated.
For years we’d been teaching our son the importance of being prepared. We showed him how to pack enough water, choose good snacks, put his equipment together the night before, bring sunscreen, and pack food to eat in between games. He, invariably and repeatedly would forget a cleat, be hungry, and get sunburnt.
One of two things would ensue. I would either pack everything up for him and lecture him incessantly the whole way to the game, or I’d run out in between games and get him food and lecture him incessantly the whole way home.
This time, the only emotions I held were sadness for his situation, and excitement for my own plans that day (which I allowed to prohibit me from fixing his problem). I told him how proud I was for how he played his first game, we hugged, and I left. No drama. I had overcome my need to control his life and destiny.
Number Two: The day I listened to Brene Brown without feeling worthless.
When I used to press play on one of Brene’s books, I’d have half a cringe in my heart. I wanted to hear what she had to say, but I’d also be thinking, “Why don’t I have her fame and fortune? Shame and vulnerability are my jam. I’m a social worker, why didn’t I do anything like that with my life? I could have done her research, written her books, been on a Ted Talk stage!”
Then came the day I just listened. I didn’t beat myself up for how little I’ve done with my life when she said stuff I already knew, and I didn’t tell myself how stupid I was when she said something brilliant.
Around this time, I also noticed I’d developed a bizarre response of genuine excitement for others without comparing my own circumstances. I had overcome my less-than complex.
I feel like the momentousness of these events are being lost on you.
Don’t get me wrong, I have quarterly goals and I have every intention of achieving them. I have dreams too. I want to be a New York Times Best Selling Author. I’d like to be a Ted Talk presenter someday. Making oodles of money wouldn’t be bad either.
But those external accomplishments aren’t nearly as challenging (or rewarding) as overcoming myself. Those accomplishments fuel my ego, they don’t require me to take my ego on.
My greatest achievements have to do with changing who I’ve been. It requires taking all the normal effort and diligence but turning it inward instead of outward.
I had to rewire the thoughts in my brain that said if my son doesn’t learn how to pack a lunch, he’s going to wind up in a box under a bridge, and the behaviors that followed that terrifying thought.
I had to unmemorized the emotions of less-than in my body which have been my companions since I was a child. I had to be aware of how envy feels in my body, and I had to teach my body a new feeling in the midst of challenging experiences.
Like any achievement it took courage. It began with noticing the thoughts and feelings I no longer wanted to have, and then making a different choice. Other life achievements include no longer taking other’s behaviors personally, and no longer gossiping to get validation.
These are big, people!
What would dinner party or professional convention conversations look like if our biggest accomplishments were what we’d overcome about ourselves?
“Hey Shirley, how’s it going?”
“Fantastic, Jim. This year, I stopped living my life like a to-do list. How are you?”
“Omigosh, that’s awesome. Me? I don’t feel shame anymore when I let someone down.”
“Congratulations! Next I’m working on not making my value about whether or not I have a man or child in my life.You?”
“Amazing. I’m tackling not losing my mind on the kids after work, so I don’t hate myself at the end of the day. Let’s do this!”
I have no doubt if I achieve the material things I want in my life, I will be ecstatic, but what really gives me joy is the satisfaction of being the best version of myself.
In other good news, by redefining our success in this way, we have a chance to win every day. When we lay ourselves down at night, we can be proud of who we were, and when we wake up in the morning we’re energized by our chances of success in the new day.
The beauty of overcoming ourselves is that it frees up a whole ton of energy to create the outer rewards we seek, which of course is gratifying. But, at the end of the day, those achievements wear off quickly and we’re looking for the next. It’s the ones that cause us to love ourselves a little more that stick.