In Spite of or Because of

478f32e6d6c4cd316909434e73fb3eb9Once upon a time, a boss of mine told me this “If you want to get anywhere in this organization, you cannot be yourself. You need to be who _______ wants you to be. At that moment, I wrote the following words of advice to myself and pinned it near my computer:

“I will accomplish great things because of who I am, not in spite of who I am”

Who gives that advice? Jerk.

I bought a book this summer called How To Be the Badass You Know You Are. Because despite every accomplishment I have ever made, I still feel “less than”. I still fell “unworthy”. Someone asked me to sum up my Social Work Philosophy in a sentence and I said this: “I believe that all people have inherent worth, just because they are human beings” And than I added a clarifying thought in my head: “expect me”. And the thing is, I believe, there are a lot of us out there who would say the same thing.

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I can be very hard to believe in yourself. I can be very hard to be yourself. I can be very hard to stand on your ideals and principles because you could be judged for them. Or fired for them. Or, in some cultures, stoned for them.   And we need friends, and jobs and, well, to stay alive.

Every day is a challenge of a million tasks… morning routine, work, housework, parenting, relationships (and all those categories can be broken down into a million more) and on top of it all we have to be in check with ourselves. Are we happy? Anxious? Depressed? Are we being the best we can be? Are we living up to our own values or compromising them for others?

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And in all of that chaos, I think it is easy to lose who we are. So we become what others need us to be. And find meaning in that. Which really is great, but what about those times when we need to find meaning in ourselves. I was asked to complete an exercise a few weeks ago: “write down spontaneous feelings of worth”. I went to Target and bought a cute little notebook I could have with me all at times, and tucked it away in my purse. In one week’s time, I wrote down 1 time I felt worthy. Worth without someone else telling me. 1x.

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So it’s no wonder, that when I was told I could not be myself if I wanted to “make it”, it stuck. I have moments in which I am so proud of myself. In which I can list my accomplishments and my heart feels like it could burst. I have moments in which I know I am exactly who I need to be. But what I am learning, is that I still need to pay the bills. I still need to put my values and beliefs aside as to not get “in trouble”.

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It is sad to me that I have to have a sticky note with those words on it, because it is really hard to remember. And I really want all of you to remember this: sometimes you have to compromise and be the bigger person. Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. Sometimes the battle is not worth fighting. But “in spite of” is not an option. If you have to become who you want to be in spite of who you are, then have you really been true to yourself? You will accomplish great things because of who you are. (Unless you are a jerk. Then you will accomplish really crummy things and make the rest of us work even harder).

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