My friend Rebecca, who is the only person besides my husband that I told about this blog, said that our own suffering enables us to help the suffering of others. In my life, the only real suffering I’ve faced is from judgment—my own judgment of myself and others and the judgment of other people toward me. Judgment creates disconnection and separation from your true self. It says that you and I are different and that there is right and wrong.
I spent a lot of time and energy growing up trying to create good judgments. I wanted to measure up and get praise from my parents, teachers, and peers. And I did get praise, and criticism as well. The problem was that I let others define my self-worth. I yo-yo’ed back and forth between a superiority and an inferiority complex, which at their root, are both expressions of the same insecurity. Nowadays, with my teacher, Ilchi Lee, talking so much about self-worth and true value, I’ve had a chance to let go of a lot of the information in my mind that damages the value I give to myself.
We all have things about ourselves we want to work on, great and small. Perhaps we want a better hairstyle, or, like me, we need to commit to arriving places on time. Maybe we want to legitimately see ourselves as a “good person,” however we choose to define that.
But in trying to improve ourselves, we can forget to value our good points. Nowadays, differences are celebrated more and more, and there are plenty of experts telling us it’s ok to be this or that. But the trick is being able to accept everything we have inside without exception. Seeing it and accepting it is the first step in taking responsibility for it. From that grounded footing, we can leap into the next step of changing what we want to change, not because someone tells us it’s not good enough, but because it will help us fulfill our greatest dreams.
I’ve been going through that, even now, with speaking. I’ve been quiet and shy my whole life. I never understood small talk, and I could never think of what to say. Or when I did say something, it came out so low that I would have to repeat it, sometimes more than once, before someone heard it. This was not very encouraging. Other times people were so shocked that I said something that someone would say something like, “Wait a second, everyone, be quiet, Michela’s talking!” Needless to say, shy and self-conscious little me was very embarrassed. I just wanted to say something simply like everyone else.
One advantage, however, was that people really paid attention and gave weight to what I said because I wouldn’t dare say anything until I had thought it out thoroughly and made sure it was useful. I also did my best not to say anything that would cause criticism or derision to be directed at me.
But I liked people and didn’t necessarily always want to be a shrinking violet, so I studied them and what they did and what to say. I learned that there wasn’t always a direct connection between the content of the conversation and the purpose it served in a person’s life. Two people may be talking about the weather, but they are actually making a connection between them. My thinking (at least in terms of speech) was so simple and literal that it took me a while to figure that out. I was a good listener (naturally), so I focused on the other person and tried to match what they were interested in and how they spoke without completely copying them. (I was raised to think you need to do your own thing and distinguish yourself, so it went against the grain to match someone completely. I had to “be my own person,” and that kind of thing.)
Eventually I learned that taking conversational risks and doing experiments was ok. The world wouldn’t end. If I put myself out there, I would find out what the consequences were much more quickly, and that became ok. I think some book or other enlightened me to this, and like most of us, age and life experience made each individual interaction less significant or dramatic.
So despite my shyness, and despite the fact that I still struggle with how to respond to people or initiate a conversation, I went for a masters degree in health communication and work in marketing, write this blog, and make videos . . . go figure. I do this because I feel it is my calling . . . I really feel called to do it. My personal experience has taught me that what you most need to do in life isn’t necessarily what you’re most good at. But there can be a lot of lessons and growth through the endeavor.
It all comes down once again to trusting yourself. On the outside, you may look like a shy wallflower who can only give one-word responses when spoken to, but on the inside you may have messages you need to deliver to the world. Rather than beating ourselves up, let’s just bridge the gap. We’re already great, wonderful, fabulous, and amazing creatures. All we need are some helpful tips and lots of practice.