“My belief is that in life, people will take you very much at your own reckoning…”

First and foremost, I’m going to commit one of those unspoken sins of blogging: apologising for my absence. (I know. Fired.) I’m in the process of organising, well, my new life, and as exciting, nerve-wracking, and crazy everything is, I genuinely miss being in touch with all of you. Like a lot. After this weekend when I am fully settled into a new place, normality can start to resume, and I cannot wait to catch up with each and every one of you!

Now, in the spirit of returning to our regularly scheduled programming, there’s something that’s cropped up and made itself known in various avenues of life as of late: the idea of discrepancy. Psychology and the study of human behaviour is something that’s always fascinated me, and as a result I’ve done a lot of reading on the human mind and spirit. I’m lucky enough to have studied it at work, too, and the opportunity to have learned counselling theories and techniques to help others has been nothing short of a blessing. It was in this learning process that it first dawned on me what a powerful catalyst discrepancy can be for positive change: if there’s a giant, gaping chasm between where you are and where you want to be (or indeed who you are, and who you want to be), then what could be a more motivating reason for change?

Generally, I think it’s way too easy an option, when things in life aren’t what you’d hoped, to resign yourself to fretting and complaining without actually doing anything about it. It’s an easy option because all it requires is a vocalization of discontent and no actual risk or action to change anything. Making an action plan, as does any change of the status quo, requires courage, because ultimately, we are in the present situation because we can survive comfortably in it. Maybe not ideally, but it’s not killing us, and so subsequently it outweighs the potential risk in shaking things up. But is that any way to live? We only get one life, and it’s ticking away with every passing moment. Why not recognise that discrepancy and instead of using it to fuel a passive negativity, use it to propel yourself toward the future you actually want?

I mentioned earlier that the idea of discrepancy had become somewhat of a regular visitor these days. It first arrived in the form of a quote I received in an e-mail from someone very dear to me: “And, above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life, people will take you very much at your own reckoning.  Now, what have I been saying for the last year? That the very reason I thrust myself in at the deep end into all the things I was afraid of was yes, primarily because I wanted to take control of my life and not be controlled by fear; but very much in addition to that, because I wanted to be seen as someone who was capable, courageous, fun and intelligent – someone who could have some sort of an impact in this world. Said impact may be small, but I’ve always maintained that if one person somewhere saw what I was doing and felt they could, too, then all the butterflies, nausea, shaky limbs and potential for humiliation would be worth it. And the desire for that outweighs fear every time.

That being said, here’s the part where I admit my own hypocrisy: to this day, I haven’t been able to cross off the one goal I’d hoped to more than anything. I wanted to stop listening to the inner voices that for so long have occupied my head; setting up residence and plastering the walls of my mind with their can’ts, won’ts, and not good enoughs. I think I’ve made a little progress, but my natural reaction to so many parts of myself is still one of negativity. I see myself in the mirror and instinctively begin a mental list of all the things I wish were different. My weight, height, skin, hair, facial structure… the list goes on, and in writing it down I recognise that I’m talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I tell others to focus their energy on things they can control, and not waste time musing about things they can’t. At the end of the day, we can’t change the past, but by choosing to pave the way for a better future from this moment forward, we’re using our mental energy proactively instead of wastefully. Practising acceptance of rather than resigning to life can go a long way in developing a healthy attitude to carry you through it. Yet I’m not living it out myself.

“If we divine a discrepancy between a man’s words and his character, the whole impression of him becomes broken and painful; he revolts the imagination by his lack of unity, and even the good in him is hardly accepted.”
– Charles Horton Cooley

But as hard as I try to put it into practice in external things, when it comes to dealing with my own self-image, I’m still doing just the opposite. I’ll sit across from somebody at dinner and allow worry to run rampant through my head, worry that the whole time they’ll internally be taking note of all the things that I worry about myself. That I’m too quiet, or not quick-witted enough. That I’m horribly disproportionate, or unattractive. That I thrust open the doors of my heart far too widely and far too quickly, that I’m emotionally too intense, and therefore abnormal or intimidating. That this plaguing self-doubt is scrawled all over my face, a traitor to the person I want so desperately to be. Another friend has been calling me on it lately. Pointing out the discrepancy between my negative self esteem and the positive influence I want to be. When someone calls you on something that is in such stark contrast with everything you’re trying to be, a natural reaction is one of opposition. Nobody likes having their flaws pointed out, and furthermore, nobody likes being called a hypocrite. So I ask myself what’s a more worthwhile use of my time – whining and making a lame endeavour to tell my friend why he’s wrong, or actually doing something about it?

I refuse to be a fraud. I so desperately want to be a person of substance and integrity but I’m never going to be able to make an impact in the world if I can’t apply the same attitude across the board, starting with myself.  I look back at the aforementioned quote. People will take you very much at your own reckoning. If I’m trying to put positivity out there into the world yet cannot apply it internally, then how is it ever going to be 100% genuine? If I say the words, but internally tell myself I’m not good enough, how can they come from a place of integrity? The discrepancy is alarming. And I have to do something about it. I’ve talked about changing my self-image before, but I’ve never actively done anything about it. And that’s hard to admit. I’ve filled my time with endeavours to conquer one-time goals instead of working on changing an entire mindset. Because it’s difficult. But if I want to uphold and spread the idea of being an active participant in the course of one’s life, I have to start from within. Any ideas on where exactly to begin, however, would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

In the spirit of substantial quotes, I end with one from my favourite movie:

 Let’s try this again.

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21 comments

  1. If you could see yourself through my eyes, you would never doubt yourself again. I think this is true of most people that know you personally. People say similar things to me. I don’t believe them. But we have no choice but to grow. Today we begin new life.

  2. Loved this, Em. As I love everything that you put in writing.
    One thing struck me, though: you even point out supposedly “flaws” that are not flaws at all, that you should be proud of and show openly.
    I don’t think one can ever be emotionally too intense. The fact that you can actually articulate the discrepancy and see through your own self is a tribute to the great insight that you have into your behavior and others.

  3. What’s my secret? I just don’t set the bar very high.

    Kidding! However, I really did just blog about this recently.

    The short, comment version is this: Confidence comes from within, so seeking outside validation is just going to get you a lot of praise that you won’t be able to accept or believe. Until you flip that switch inside and consciously choose to consider yourself a valid, whole, worthwhile individual, no amount of friends, hawt pictures, or poetry is going to matter.

    And you’re right; advice about how to be a better person from someone who so obviously lack self-esteem is like financial advice from someone in the middle of a bankruptcy. They might be telling the truth, but it makes no difference because they have no credibility to practice what they preach. How can it be the right answer if it didn’t work for them?

    Luckily, we can all look past that for you, but it sounds like you don’t want us to. It really sounds like you want to stop being insecure. To do that takes confidence, and to have confidence you must be able to declare, internally, that there are certain things that just don’t matter. And until you do, maybe we should give you some tough love. Noogies, or something. That’s what I always think of when I hear “tough love.” I don’t know why.

    At any rate, no one can teach you how to believe in yourself, no matter how much they might inspire you, because believing in yourself requires you to do ALL the work. It’s not a logical choice, but it is a choice you have to make.

  4. One of the concepts that was drilled into my class over the past two years was self assessment. We were taught all sorts of tools to help in this process. What we ended up learning is that non-bias self-assessment is extremely difficult. It’s so difficult to look at yourself critically (but not too critically), and be able to take something away from that and act upon it. I’m still working on this skill and feel that I will forever need to.
    In high school I flat out thought I was unattractive. I slowly started realizing that I wasn’t unattractive; it was just me being overly critical of myself (like I always was). Slowly I began looking at myself in a new light. I stopped seeing my hair as huge and gross, and I started seeing it as voluminous and beautiful. My nose was no longer big and ugly, it was what gave me character. The bags under my eyes don’t mean that I’m getting older, they mean that I have worked hard for everything I have in my life (a fact that I am very proud of). You have to be able to stop only seeing the negative in yourself and look at every attribute as something that defines who you are. You should never have to completely change your personality for other people. True friends will accept you for who you are. They will love your quirks, and accept your follies. Stay away from people that you feel fake around. You shouldn’t have to give up who you are just to fit in.
    This is not something that changed over night. It took years and years to accept myself. Still, some days I looking in the mirror and feel ugly, other days I feel beautiful. On those bad days I don’t dwell, I just get out there. On the good days I relish the feeling.
    You are a tough gal and I know you can do whatever you put your mind to. The motto I live by is: “If you don’t like something, change it.” You don’t have to be unhappy, you can change anything you don’t like about your life. Some things of course may be more difficult or challenging than others, but YOU CAN DO IT!

  5. Really well written and brave of you to post this Em. I always like your posts when you seem to have “signs from The Universe” and you have no choice but to listen, even when it’s a bitter pill to swallow, it’s making the choice to do it that makes you such a strong person. Lots of respect for you for putting this out there, and know that nobody else sees those things as flaws – we just see you as an incredible, beautiful, strong and inspiring lady who’s made a BIG Impact in the world. Looking forward to having you back girl, good luck this week!

  6. First of all – I think anyone who sits across from you is probably thinking “she’s so beautiful and open. I wish I could be more like Emily…I wonder if she is focused on how I look fat today, that pimple on my cheek, my hair is frizzy isn’t it? She’s never going to like me because I am not open and heartfelt like she is…”

  7. Incredibly insightful and well written!

    I find that making the change internally is the hardest one of all. I still have trouble believing my husband thinks I’m beautiful but it’s mainly because I feel pretty crappy about myself.

    I always try to remember that people are focusing more on things they are worried about in themselves than anything that I think is “wrong” with me.

    Best of luck on the journey!

  8. I see the journey you are on, and I know you have a list of goals. I also know you are intelligent, creative, and talented. Do you have an overriding vision for your life? Do you know what your highest possibility is? Are you able to say you live from vsion rather than from circumstances? Are you able to enroll others in your vision? All of that is what sets us on a clear path.

  9. I love the last quote 🙂 What movie is that from?

    Also, “never think that you’re not good enough yourself,” are words that strike me to the core. I must start living by this mantra!!!!

  10. Start with one thing and with the one thing that stands out the most. The one that you think of the quickest. And then one day at a time. It’s REALLY hard, no doubt. But really worth it in the end.

  11. I dont know if the negative voices ever go away but it makes me think of a quote on courage – I cant remember it word for word but here goes “being brave doesn’t mean you are not afraid but that you do something even if you are afraid”. I think the same applies here. You are doing positive things despite the negative thoughts and its sounds like you are really making an effort to make your life great. That is not hyprocricy!

  12. Emily,

    one little quote, ‘You can please some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but never all the people all of the time.’

    Actually I adapted the quote, it used to say ‘fool’ instead of ‘please’ but i chage it depending how i feel.

    Anyway, my point is that you should not ask superhuman things of yourself. Only you can affect the change you want to make, and only you will either be happy or unhappy with the result, Ultimately only you will know what is right for you.

    Maybe you try to point out all these unrealistic flaws of yourself so other people can’t steal your confidence by doing so. but in pointing them out you’re taking your own confidence away…

    My point being, be happy in yourself. Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking what you don’t like, stare in the mirror and say, scream or shout what you love about you. If you feel wierd doing that, ask people what they love about you, learn to see yourself for the amazing person you are both inside and out.

    Everyone here loves you, including me…
    Shareen

  13. it is always so much easier to give advice than to take it. especially when it’s your own advice you’re trying to swallow. trust me, i’m on the same page. you can do it love, you have a strong support system and a backbone to follow through with it 😉

  14. Oh, Em. You have so much strength even for admitting that you feel like there’s a discrepancy. I literally had the same thoughts running through my head all week long, trying to be someone else’s agent of change but feeling stuck in the self-conscious, beat-my-own-self-up stage. I’m still there. I still want to be better for others. I’m still navigating. I’m sure you are too. I can tell, just by following you over the course of the last year, just how much you have grown and how much you want to be who you say you want to be. Now that you’re getting back on track and starting over, it’s your time. And you know we’re all pulling for you, of course.

  15. I was just having a wonderful conversation with a friend last week. I told him how I reached a point in my life where I just got sick and tired of feeling bad about myself. I’m a good person who tries hard but makes a lot Of mistakes. I must be human.
    So much of what we feel bad about comes from the values that the world holds. Why should we be worrying about whether we look good enough when there are so very many important issues to deal with. I know you deal with them every day.
    At the end of it all, when you are gone and so many who were gifted with the opportunity to love you look back… Do you think they will be reviewing your looks, or even your flaws? No. People who love you don’t do that. They celebrate what you shared with them and the world.
    You don’t have to set ridiculous standArds for yourself and achieve them to be worthy. You are worthy just when your breathing.
    Perfect people have nothing to learn, and people with nothing to learn have nothinglot live for. It’s a good thing there are no perfect people.

  16. An interesting set of thoughts Em. Though you are too hard on yourself! If those negative voices in your head were easy to vanquish there would be a lot of unemployed psychiatrists.
    This is a common thing, not unique to you. The thing is that you will never rid yourself of these voices, it is all in how you address them, that is try to ignore the nagging negative voice, it probably comes from a negative adult role model from your early life.
    Instead choose to work on your strengths and less time on your shortcomings; we all have both and because of this shortcomings are nothing to be embarrassed about, embrace them as part of your uniqueness. As a society we spend too much time and energy on trying to improve our weak areas, this is a mistake and waste of resources. Be empowered by building on your strengths.
    Also, walking the walk is not as easy it might sound, give yourself a break there too! There are many that are good at helping or providing advice that are not so good at heeding their own words. Back to the psychiatrists, many if not most go for counseling themselves, many people in the healthcare field are unhealthy weights or smoke, and our politicians, religious leaders, and other role models often fall short or take a wrong turn now and then.
    Remember what Alexander Pope said “To err is human, to forgive divine.” so be human and make some mistakes, have some flaws, that is what makes you you, but also forgive, and the first person to forgive is yourself!

  17. “I wanted to stop listening to the inner voices that for so long have occupied my head; setting up residence and plastering the walls of my mind with their can’ts, won’ts, and not good enoughs.”

    Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
    Listen to the DON’TS
    Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
    The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
    Listen to the NEVER HAVES
    Then listen close to me:
    Anything can happen, child,
    ANYTHING can be
    – Shel Silverstein

  18. Gee, I really agree with the part about questioning how good your work is, and being risky. I do talk a big game, or not. I actually don’t know what I talk about hahahha. I usually don’t think when I do things, which is good and bad at the same time. But the times that I do think, I end up going no where and being lost. Doing nothing. I actually end up reading something I wrote several times before it goes live, thinking that if I wrote it in a totally different way that it could provide the reader with a better poetic explosion.

    I need to stop doing things like that. Hey Em, how are you? I wrote my first ebook! Tell your lovelys!

  19. This post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, by poet Mary Oliver:
    Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

    I come back to it time and time again and use it to test myself. It makes me question my life and my actions and it’s become something I whisper to myself whenever I feel like my life is getting stagnant.

  20. What a great reflection!

    To me, all of these questions that are stirring are leading you somewhere, to do something. You have identified that you are a deeply spiritual person with great, transformative ideas (and I COMPLETELY agree) and the great potential to change lives. Now, it’s time to put those ideals to practice; this is what you are being propelled to do. Keyword: practice. For a deeply spiritual person such as yourself, I think a practice is essential to apply your ideals, practically, to your everyday living. Only then can you be free as your heart truly desires. It is my belief that this is achieved through mindfulness, an asset gained through meditation. How else are you to deal with these negative thoughts—these insidious beliefs that detract from the joy that you are so capable of— if you are too adrift to recognize them when they occur? Mindfulness is the key; transform yourself by investigating these thoughts on a moment-to-moment basis. Don’t fight them anymore. Welcome them, and give them a gift of your forgiveness, then let them pass. Then rest. All that is left is the beautiful you and the infinite potential of the moment to be free and do great things full of compassion.

    Believe me, once you start that path and walk the walk, you will become inspiring *without* the talk. Your actions will resonate. Your aura will grow. People will feel it, and they will be inspired. In my belief, the best way to teach anything in this world is not to preach it, but to live it for yourself and lead by example. And believe me, that although you have along way to go to get where you want to be, you have already done more than you know, and have inspired many people along the way 🙂

    “Much of the suffering you will have in life will arise from comparative thinking. In meditation, you don’t compare yourself with anything. There is no need to compare yourself to others, ideals, past experiences or future imaginations. Residing in (your own) suchness, you will find the path to peace.” –Gil Fronsdal, “A Monastery Within”

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