Have you ever gotten down on yourself thinking that nothing you do or say really matters?
Somehow, women especially, are good at finding evidence for how small and insignificant we are.
This is especially true when we compare ourselves to others. Our minds latch on to the story we’re telling ourselves about how much better so and so is, and the downward spiral begins.
Last week I went to see US Soccer champion and author, Abby Wambach, speak. She has two Olympic gold medals, 4 World Cup Titles and holds the record for highest number of international goals scored in women’s soccer.
Abby is passionate about her message that her success, that our success, happens because of assists from others. That we don’t accomplish anything all on our own, and that each of us plays an important role in the success of others.
In her talk and in her book, Wolfpack, she tells the story of how, after each goal she scored, she would turn and point to the woman who had just passed her the ball. Acknowledging that, without the pass from another player none of her goals would have been possible.
Here’s a clip from her talk:
If we take Abby’s message to heart, there is no way that we can continue to believe the story that we don’t matter or that we’re not good enough. Not only that, but we can also let go of the story that we have to do it all on our own – that we have to be and do everything. Well, that’s a huge relief!
One of the reasons that I’ve dedicated my career to empowering women in whitewater and SUP (and in general), is because I’ve grappled a lot with the experience of feeling disempowered and not good enough.
Abby’s talk was an awesome reminder of how far I’ve come in this work, and an affirmation of the strategies that I also use to empower myself and others.
Along the way I’ve learned and used practical strategies to help myself peel out of the negative mental eddy of comparing myself to others and thinking that I don’t matter.
Here are the top 3 strategies I use to remember that I DO matter:
The lack of acknowledgement of my work, my efforts, or the unique qualities that I bring to the table, is what often sets off the story that I don’t matter.
When I notice that I’m feeling unacknowledged, I immediately challenge myself to acknowledge someone else. I’m a firm believer in giving that which I want to receive.
To do this requires letting go of my scarcity mentality, the untrue belief that acknowledging the strengths and successes of another somehow diminishes my own worth.
I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s scary, especially when another’s strength represents my weakness.
Letting go of the unattainable desire to be all things to all people is helpful in cultivating the courage needed to fully celebrate others. And especially to do it without the need for getting anything in return.
I don’t just acknowledge someone for what they do, but for who they are. Only acknowledging ourselves or others for accomplishments can exacerbate the ‘not good enough’ story in our minds. Then we feel like we always need to be doing something extraordinary to be worthy.
The truth is we’re worthy all the time regardless of our accomplishments, our jobs, titles, amount of money we make etc…
The reason this helps me feel empowered is that I see how my acknowledgement I experience how my words have a positive effect on the other person. When I celebrate others I empower myself.
The other side of the coin to giving acknowledgement is receiving acknowledgement – fully. In my experience women are terrible at receiving appreciation. I’ve worked on this for years and sometimes it still feels uncomfortable.
We’ve been taught that to acknowledge our talents/gifts is to be egotistical and full of ourselves. Instead, we should keep ourselves small and be humble. This has done a lot of damage to women’s confidence.
There’s nothing wrong with standing proud in who you are and what you’ve accomplished. There’s certainly nothing wrong with saying ‘thank you’ in response to someone giving you a compliment or acknowledgement.
In fact, it’s a gift (unless they’re being inauthentic – and that’s not for you to take on).
Giving an acknowledgement is the same as giving a gift. It would suck if you gave a good friend, a mentor, a co-worker or a client a gift and they threw it off to the side or threw it away. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you don’t fully take in a compliment, acknowledgement or appreciation.
Let it wash over you and stand proud in the knowing that you made a difference, that you’re good at what you do, that you bring joy to someone or that you’ve just accomplished something exceptional.
The act of breathing includes taking in air and then giving it away. We can’t survive with just one or the other, and so it is with giving AND receiving.
In our busy, overpopulated world it can be easy to delude ourselves into thinking that our presence won’t be missed or won’t have an impact.
The truth is that each of us in one of a kind. No one else can contribute to the world, to a gathering, to a class, to your work, exactly what you contribute. You are irreplaceable.
Telling yourself that you won’t be missed or that it doesn’t matter if you don’t show up is shirking the responsibility you have to yourself and others to share your gifts with the world.
To be very blunt, saying that your presence won’t matter or that you don’t matter is cowardly. Showing up and knowing that you, and your impact matter is courageous.
It takes effort, time and commitment to show up. It requires vulnerability, and vulnerability leads to acts of courage.
Abby’s talk was part of a fundraiser for the Community Foundation of WNC. I walked into a room full of professional and professionally dressed career women in my Chacos and my ‘fancier’ Prana clothes (casual yoga clothing). I was seated at a table with the board members from another well known Asheville charity.
For a moment I felt like I didn’t belong and that what I do in life, compared with some of these women, doesn’t matter. It’s an old story that can get activated in these types of situations.
Once we got to chatting one of the women shared about her health struggles and we talked about healthy diet and lifestyle choices. She also mentioned that her husband really wants to try paddleboarding. Another woman asked about paddleboarding, and another talked about the kayak pool sessions at the local university.
I contributed to them and they contributed to me. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t shown up and had the courage to sit with the initial discomfort.
So I say to you – show up! Show up regardless of whatever excuses fear conjures up for why you won’t matter.
You Do Matter and You Do Make a Difference! Own it, live it, share it!