It turns out my skill issue isn’t one of competency; it’s one of imagination. I am actually good at doing things. I am merely bad at asserting that I can do more things.
Part of this is a personal branding failure. When you are young and a girl and have a so-so resume and medium IQ, you get points for being helpful and wide-eyed and eager to learn, or chill and low-maintenance and fun. You get fewer points for declaring that you are decidedly, frighteningly competent, or sprinkling grandiose into your self-introduction, or -- gasp -- maintaining that you are smart and worthy to a public audience. It follows that I am well-practiced in traits of the former sphere (non-assuming; bashful; “easy to work with”), and less acquainted with those of the latter (intellectually self-confident; brave in conquest; outwardly covetous).
Residing in the first category is how I learned that I am good at things. I want to be of service, and people want to be served, and that is a sturdy foundation for many relationships. But in addition to being good at getting things done, I would like to be good at choosing the things that are to be done. I am increasingly put off by the idea of letting doubt-fueled or “gosh, I’m lucky to even be here” passivity steer me toward a default state, or accepting objectives assigned by whichever elevated slant of the corporate machine I have decided to tolerate for the time being. I am more interested in boldly identifying what I actually want -- really truly want, want bad enough that it grates to admit -- then proclaiming it, then allowing honesty to force an honest pursuit.
If you ask anyone who knew me one year ago, they’ll confirm that I’ve accomplished pretty much everything I said I wanted to this time last year. On one hand, this is ripe pickings for an ostentatious brag wherein I talk about my self-love journey and how exercise and affirmation and psyoping myself into finding my breathing fascinating solved all my problems. It’s easy! Read some books, run a little, make friends, fail visibly, realize it won’t kill you, keep going. On the other hand, I’m also aware that nothing I’ve accomplished is particularly impressive because of my tendency to set fairly lackluster and safe goals. As such, I’ll try to present a balanced view of a few things I first began noodling on in 2022 and executed this calendar year:
I could talk a bigger game about any of these things (and secretly, I am very proud of each), but I also feel embarrassed to tout them too strongly because of how baby and unimpressive they must be to many others. I know that insecurity is not attractive, but neither is pride, and maybe humility is the correct failure mode?
In any case, the takeaway here is that I said I wanted a bunch of things, and then a bunch of them happened. I think this means that I am good at manifestation. Maybe it is because I do not ask for improbable things. But the charitable narrative is that I am actually uniquely gifted at getting what I want, and that it would serve me to start being specific and ambitious about what those things are.
Through a combination of choosing wisely and compartmentalizing adeptly to accommodate or blur out my shortcomings, I have done well by my own standards. The problem is that my standards have historically been kind of low, so I don’t feel wholly justified in celebrating anything I’ve done as a definitive win. I look around and I feel small, and not always in the “holy fuck the infallible Universe is expansive beyond comprehension” way, but often in an ashamed, upset, “I wish I was bigger. I should be bigger. There is no excuse for why I am not already big” way.
I get the sense that there should be more -- that there could have been more -- and that I should start demanding it of myself. Instead of throwing in the towel, I should quest to sop up the possibilities that still exist, wield my effort like a hunk of crusty bread swiped against the soup-slicked porcelain bowl of potential. There’s this wormy thought that’s been inching around in my brain for the past few weeks, one that is equal parts exciting and devastating: I’ve never actually been constrained by my talent, only by my unwillingness to admit that I have any. I call myself stupid and middling as a salve to protect me against the need to try, or to confess that I want things and have a fair shot at them too. Easier to cross out the option, snuff out the desire, look toward a less intimidating peak. Marianne Williamson, in all her insanity, really hit the nail on the head when she said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Most of success can be accredited to luck, I think, but some part of it has to be self-belief. You cannot win the game if you don’t even sign up to participate in it.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve frequently found myself exclaiming, “I never thought something like this could happen to me!”, usually awash with a blend of enormous gratitude and small sadness at my compressive self-doubt and denial of the fantastical. As it turns out, good and crazy and hectic things are indeed happening all the time, and very much to me, and thus it seems prudent to begin brainstorming more and more beautiful things.
Hope is a formidable tool. Mine facilitates an impressive success rate and excellent turnaround time. I’m choosing to make more room for it, and in doing so, I am learning how to dream again.