Are you ready? This will take some work, but you are up to the challenge of halting the one-upmanship game within yourself.
Here’s a little context. I wrote a book and finally had it self-published in 2012. It took me eight years to put the damn thing to bed. Sometimes, I thought I was finishing it just to prove to myself I could. A lot of the joy had gone out of the process. It’s a dark story, about a serial killer’s wife and the lies she tells herself. And I was in a different place then. But I digress. In the process of writing this book and alternately being filled with the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, I learned the movie, Mr. Brooks had hit the theaters. Now, I was a bit theatrical back in the early 2000’s and so I dumped the printed manuscript into the fireplace. Then I torched it.
(Of course, I had a backup).
I talked to my English professor about it, my hands wringing, tears glossing my eyes. “Someone else beat me to it,” I told him, convinced that all my hard work and a novel born in his class out of a field trip assignment was destined to decay on the ash heap.
I will never forget what he told me.
“No one else can write your story.”
I froze where I stood, the faint glimmers of hope percolating inside. He pointed out that yes, certainly, others might have a similar plot, but no one has your voice or your style or viewpoint. Those fractals of a larger, stunning whole are all YOU.
No one else has your ANYTHING. No one else has your exact hunger for the things you dream about; no one else has the exact vision for their passion, has your exact mission, loves in the same ways, FEELS in the same way.
I do get swept up in it. I’m human and as fallible as the person standing beside me.
I watch victories. See people I no longer work with succeeding and I wonder why those opportunities weren’t mine. I ponder why I had to learn lessons that burned bridges and it all makes no sense sometimes.
But then I remember NO ONE ELSE is ME. Just the way NO ONE ELSE is YOU.
Our longing or coveting is the equivalent of window shopping someone’s soul. You have no idea what lies behind that barrier. You cannot see the mad machinations, the frustrations, the crippling self-doubt. You do not taste the tears when they stumble. You don’t twinge from their hurt or have their memories. They don’t fit into a tidy little box on cookie cutter lane and neither do you.
Comparing ourselves to other people will never be apples to apples because there are too many variables. There are too much flavor and nuance in a person. A person is not a situation. Not a replica, not a flat matte black paint sample. When we dive into the surface of who we are we are overcome with the splendor that each touch unfurls from a fathomless source.
That is you.
Your book is not and never will be the same as someone else’s. It is not meant to be. It is meant to be yours.
Your business and passion and heart are your signature emblazoned on your soul.
No one else can even approach the delicate and deep meaning. You hardly understand it yourself.
We are so hard on ourselves to be perfect, to be mini replicas of what we deem even acceptability to be. And we will never achieve identical goals. Our journeys will be different, will shock and enlighten us and devastate us all the same in completely different ways.
This is a slippery slope of I will never be good enough because my story isn’t as good as his/hers. “Good enough” is subjective, has a definition that can change instantly. It’s not the right question to ask ourselves. Am I good enough? Of course, you are. Because it is YOU.
Maybe the question should shift to, do I want to share this part of myself?
That is a query you can certainly answer and in whose response you will see the difference. Why or why not do you want to share/not share? This is a complete and understandable answer and it forces you to GET HONEST with yourself. If you don’t want to, do you feel like you could have done more on the project? If you want to, then there is no reason to overanalyze. We don’t always need to take a pause before leaping into our gut feelings and the actions we want to take. If you want to stand on a rooftop and shout it out, you don’t need an invitation and you don’t need a reason either. You don’t have to defend why you think what you created is great. Just tell people. “I want you to read it.” “I want you to take part in this because it means something to me.”
Then realize, with a big inward breath that where you get your validation comes FROM YOU. So not only do you push out what you must share, but you also determine that you WILL feel good about it.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Do you love it? Do you get something out of sharing your memories and lessons? Out of pulling people into the grip of your passion and mission?
Are you living authentically?
So, share your story. Run your business. Be kind when you think about where you have come from and where you are going.
Remember that you, and you alone possess the intimacies of your talents, your heart, soul, and mind.
We talk about a persona in marketing. What does our ideal customer look like? Let’s build them from the ground up. What do they eat for breakfast? What kind of housing do they live in? How do they get around? What sites are they subscribed to? Depending on your business and objectives, each persona is different. Each has different emotional motivations that propel them throughout their day to make purchasing choices. Some people care very deeply about the brands they represent and not because they are ga-ga over a particular logo but because it matters what their neighbor thinks about them.
Every persona fits a different business and has different compelling reasons for why they do what they do, but as each brand differs, so too can no two personas be carbon copies.
And that’s merely marketing.
We are living breathing people. It is not fair to anyone (especially you…to compare your journey and your achievements with others.) In fact, it is one of the cruelest actions you can take against yourself. When we recognize collectively that being different is okay and it even lends advantages to society, then we will spend more time helping each other instead of being jealous. Maybe we will even begin to realize the spectrum of diversity and celebrate it.
I read this today, it’s mostly fitting and I wish we could properly attribute the person who said it, but the quote is unknown: “The hardest battle is between what you know in your head and what you feel in your heart.”
Both areas of knowledge are valuable, but only one will get you where you need to go…and besides that…sometimes we condition our heads to lie to us, based on our pasts and the failings in ourselves we choose to see.
So, I would like to change this saying and invite all of us to work on it:
“The hardest battle is between what you believe your conditioned self-perceptions tell you and what your heart tries valiantly to embed into your self-conscious.”
It is far more soothing to listen to our heart scream than to cave into the deafening blather of our biased brains.
Be kind to yourself. Whatever your journey. Never stop believing you can.
And always…answer your heart’s scream.
Article originally posted in The Good Men Project