“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”
— Danielle LaPorte, author, speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger
Have you encountered a four-year-old lately? At this age, many children are very much themselves. They are clear about their likes, dislikes, and wants. They are wonderfully opinionated and sassy. They are in a fabulous place in their lives: full of self-assurance and blissfully unaware of the impending self-doubt that will drive them to start trying to become someone they think they should be.
It’s beyond our control – almost everything in the world tells us from an early age that we need to place our trust in authorities outside ourselves: parents, elders, teachers, doctors, the government. We learn early on to turn a deaf ear to the grounded voice of our souls and our knowing gut and start to listen solely to society’s messages coming through the mouthpiece of the people in our lives.
When I was 24 years old, I had just graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in international studies with a minor in French. Throughout my college career, several professors had taken me aside and applauded my skill in writing – one even got me a job as a writing tutor in a campus learning center. Right around my graduation, I hesitantly shared with my father that I thought I would like to become a writer as a profession. His immediate response was, “Do you know how hard it is to get published?”
Now, let me be clear about one thing: my father was no slouch. In 1957 at the age of 20, he completed his flight training and got his pilot’s license – no small feat for a young African-American man growing up essentially without parents in inner city Detroit before the Civil Rights Movement. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college with his degree in aeronautical engineering. As a hobby, he built and flew experimental aircraft. My father was brilliant, driven, and accomplished. Yet, despite all of the barriers that he broke in his own life, my father still believed and proliferated the lies that run rampant throughout society: that artists starve, that creativity is what you do in your free time and not as a job, and that very few writers ever get published.
Even though deep inside myself I knew that my ability to write was genuine and deserved to be respected, cultivated, and expressed, I was unsure of my abilities, nervous about my future, and wracked with self-doubt. I took my father’s advice to heart, and spent three dismal years after college that felt like an eternity doing soul- and creativity-stifling office temp work, until I taught myself HTML and boldly entered the tech world.
When the economy crashed in 2008, I was let go from my well-paying project management job at a local software company. Despite just having bought a house two months previous, I knew that the layoff was largely fortuitous. Instead of continuing to do work that I despised but thought I “should” do, it was my chance to finally pursue my dream of becoming a writer and a speaker. I dug down to unearth the deeply buried self-trust that had lain dormant within me for more than 15 years. Five months later, I had a conversation at a tech conference party that led to my first book publishing deal practically falling into my lap. Fast forward to the present, and you are reading the product of my second serendipitous book contract.
Self-doubt equals an absence of self-trust. When we don’t trust ourselves, we second-guess our own thoughts, opinions, likes, wants, and desires. When we lack self-trust, the life we’re living is not authentic to our own soul, but is based on the goals, values, and dreams of people outside of ourselves.
Getting back to the level of trust in ourselves that we had when we were younger is a critical component not only of allowing our creativity to flow, but of making magic happen in our lives. We’ve put our trust in the rules of the world – often prescribed by uninformed and fearful people – and many of us have lost our way. Let’s relax back into our own skins and learn to trust in ourselves, our abilities, and our truth again, and in doing so, return to center and come home to our creativity.
Creative Dose: The Parallel Trust Universe
Purpose: To return to trusting yourself and your capabilities
Being focused on what we’re afraid we don’t know and what we fear we can’t do – in other words, not trusting ourselves – blocks us from accessing what we actually do know and can do.
The next time you are anxious about not having a good enough idea, or that your work won’t be good enough, or that you don’t have enough expertise, stop.
Take a deep breath, and recognize where you have been focusing: on lack. Realize that by being anxious about the potential of lack, you are preventing yourself from accessing what already does exist there and is available for you in terms of ideas, skills, expertise, and performance.
Take another deep breath, and imagine this alternative reality:
- What would I feel like if I trusted that I had the answer or capability?
- What mode of thinking would I be in right now?
- How would I physically feel in this mode of thinking; how would it feel different from how I am feeling now?
- In place of being anxious, what are the actual thoughts that I’d be thinking now?
Take another deep breath, and make a conscious decision to adjust to a place of trusting yourself and to operate from that mindframe.
This post is an excerpt from book Banish Your Inner Critic. Reprinted with permission.