I spent a lot of years feeling like not a very important person. Never mind being a VIP, I hardly felt like an IP. Often not even just a P.
More like a piece of chewed up gum that someone is now frustrated at because they have to stop and find a stick to scrape me off their shoe.
This, clearly, is not a very fun way to feel. And it definitely doesn’t lead to a life filled with success and purpose and fulfilled potential.
Quite the opposite. It led me to make decisions based on an extremely low feeling of worth — and when you feel that low, you tend to accept whatever is thrown at you, whatever crumbs you are tossed, however much disdain is reigned down on you -- because why would you ask for any better when you don’t believe you’re worth it?
In fact, at times, you even seek out harm and poor treatment because that is what you feel you deserve. And people tend to treat you the way you ask them to. Life seems to give you what you ask for.
I'm not saying this is all reality. I’m not saying I’ve been mistreated in every circumstance. I am not interested in thinking of myself as a victim any longer.
Because what ‘really’ happened in my life doesn’t actually matter so much at this point. The events matter far less than the way I have felt about them.
And I limited my own worth in life by the way I feel about myself. Undeserving. And I rejected any event or logical argument to the contrary, because it conflicted with the deep belief that I was not deserving of anything more than just subsisting, existing. (And barely that on the worst days.)
And if perception becomes our reality, well, then I created a reality where people overlooked me, forgot me, looked down on me.
Maybe it was my imagination, but it even seemed like my order got forgotten in cafes more than seems statistically probable.
Was it an energy I put out? The vibe I gave off whenever I interacted with people? Forget me because I'm not worth remembering. Leave me out because I'm not a priority.
Or did I perceive it as this through the lens of my own feelings? And then reinforce it by acting as if it was so, by not speaking up when I was overlooked. (Or have I just picked cafes with really poor service?)
never being picked
When I was a child I remember distinctly feeling a soul crushing pain at never getting picked. And I was jealous of people who were more outgoing than me, who seemed to have more presence than me, and would always get noticed.
Once I was at an event for kids, some sort of a science entertainment show. I only vaguely remember the details of the actual show. But what I DO remember clearly, even though I must have been barely 5 years old, is the way they picked other kids to come up the front for things. The way they gave out lollies for answering questions to other kids. But not to me.
Even though I put my hand up too, I felt invisible.
And, sure, I can look back with an adult's perspective and tell myself all I want, “That wasn't because you weren't worth picking. It was because there were hundreds of kids there, and only a tiny fraction got picked for anything."
But that child saw it as personal because she felt it as personal. And she stayed inside me since then, looking around and noticing everything that appears to confirm this belief - you are not very important - whether it's objectively logical or not.
So it doesn't really matter whether it's an energy, or a perception, or some combination of both. It doesn’t really matter what other people did or didn’t do to me — because it is what I do to myself that is the only thing I have control over anyway.
I will go the rest of my life feeling unworthy and unchosen if I don't first learn to choose myself.
I will go the rest of my life feeling unworthy and unchosen if I don't first learn to choose myself.
Is it just a matter of being assertive?
I tried to become more assertive, resolved to speak up, demand attention or respect. I tried to do what everyone else seemed to be able to do.
But it doesn't work like that.
One, because I don't work like that.
And two, because I was confusing assertiveness with aggression anyway, thinking you couldn’t be both nice and assertive.
And three, because what I was missing was the most important part - the inner, foundational belief that I actually deserved to be heard and to be seen.
It was like me waving my arms, “Look at me!" and as soon as anyone did, throwing my arms over my face, “Don't look at me!" And so they didn't. Or if they did, I had turned away in shame so I didn’t even know.
My whole life I'd been waiting for someone else to pick me, to say, “Here's the life you are meant to be living," and give me the permission to live it.
But all that did was leave me open to dangerous influence, in who I felt I should be when it comes to friendships, to sex, to belief systems and social ’norms.' It made me suppress the best parts of myself. It made me choose things I didn’t like or weren’t right for me, in everything from food to clothes to career to relationships.
All because I was always seeking someone else to tell me what was ok. To tell me if I was ok, normal and worthy. And if I wasn't, then I would say, with my words, with my actions, tell me how to become worthy, tell me who to be so that I will be accepted!
But I'm done with that.
I'm finally at the point where the belief that I am deserving of life has grown strong enough that it overrides the faulty beliefs of my child-self. And it has picked up a momentum that isn't easily stopped.
This change grew concurrently with two things:
- My awareness and belief that other people, all other people, no matter who they are or what they do, are all equally deserving of abundant levels of life and respect and freedom.
- Practicing what I preach, and choosing to treat myself like I am worthy too. (Even when I don’t fully feel it.)
This growing self-worth doesn’t happen by believing I am anything special. It doesn't require convincing myself that I am anything better than anyone else, anything amazing or out of the norm. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long, because I thought the only way to feel better about myself was to raise my self-esteem by believing I was special.
But in a way it’s the opposite. It’s actually by realising I am just the same as everyone else.
But that, in fact, everyone is special. I am no better. But neither am I worse.
(Ironic that such a low belief of myself was really a twisted form of conceit, as damaging as pure narcissism.)
And so little by little I began to reinforce this new paradigm for my life - reinforcing the belief that every single one of us is infinitely important to Life. No more, no less.
Uniquely suited to the life we were born to live — our own life, not someone else’s.
I believed this before but not in a conscious way — and once I did become conscious of it, I realised how our world is not set up for us to believe this.
Rather, it is set up to treat certain people like they are more important and others like they are less. To tell us that there is always someone else we should be. That there is a limited range of standards that we should all be measured by to determine our success, failure & value in life.
Once I realised this consciously, I began to withdraw from the habits and behaviours and labels and systems that made me complicit in this, in putting people in a hierarchy of value.
And by doing that, I started to see what I had been doing to myself also.
I began reinforcing this shift by treating others like this equality of value was a fundamental truth. And by treating myself like that truth applied to me also. Like I too have a reason to be here, a message and voice that is mine to share, ideas and dreams that are worthy of realising.
Just like I would tell anyone else, I finally began telling — and listening to — myself.
And this involves continuing to give myself permission to choose the things I really want out of life.
Some painful things, like leaving my marriage, came as a result of choosing myself. And even more subtle things I found can show up as an actual physical struggle in my body against doing things that I have been conditioned to believe are selfish or conceited.
But this is nothing to do with selfishness or selflessness. Those are not helpful terms or concepts to label people with - they only end up condemning people who are seeking to find boundaries, and extolling people who have no boundaries.
(Not always, but so many people, including myself, are vulnerable to these perceptions, and so I'm choosing not to talk in those terms.)
I'm choosing to believe that it's not an either/or. That I can choose myself and what I want, and also be of most benefit to the world around me.
In fact I believe that in trying to deny what I really want — in trying not to be selfish, conceited, bossy, materialistic — I made it worse. I did not succeed in avoiding those negative things, but simply in damming up the flow in my life to the point where nothing at all was happening. Not what I wanted, and not what anyone else wanted either.
Not being ourselves doesn't do anyone any good. Repressing yourself to make everyone else around you comfortable makes no one comfortable in the long run.
So now I choose to trust myself, that my desires and dreams and ideas and traits are God-given, and that the world will benefit most from me fully living out those things.
Some may think this is just an attempt to justify extravagance and spoiling myself. Trust me, I wrestled with those same thoughts about myself.
I've told myself for a long time, be selfless not selfish. More blessed to give than to receive, right?
Except the reserves ran dry. What I had to give was just sludge at the bottom of the barrel because I had spent so long trying to pour myself out.
But I was empty for a long time; a long, long time before I realised what people called selfish in me was just a desperate retreat into myself to conserve a tiny portion of what was left so that I could survive. To find some small way of putting reserves back in.
And you know what works best? Not a tank that gets filled up and emptied repeatedly — but a supply that is endlessly flowing and refreshing itself as it goes. An endless spring, not a limited water tank at all.
And this became my experiment in living that way. Letting things flow through my life instead of stopping them through fear and self doubt.
In all areas — my passions, talents, ideas, money. I resolved to stop second guessing and judging my self by the old script in my mind that told me what I should be doing to be 'good.'
I am going to follow where the flow takes me.
Could I be wrong about this? Sure. But I’ve got to try something completely new -- I tried every permutation of the old, just to end up so mentally and physically sick that I actually wondered if I was going to die.
(Some think the path I’m taking now is crazy, but to me the crazy thing would be to keep doing that. ^^^)
And you know what, treating myself like a Very Important Person doesn't imply that anyone else is less important.
That is an all too pervasive a scarcity model of thinking, as if there's only a finite amount of value to go around, so if I value myself I must take it off someone else.
Rather, this is a 'rising tide lifts all boats' situation.
Pursuing my dreams doesn’t deprive anyone else of theirs -- if anything, it opens up a wider way for others. Shows other people what is possible. Gives hope and inspiration, and even concrete resources, for others to get up and start living their lives.
Do you see why selfish & selfless are useless terms here? It’s not one or the other, it’s both and neither.
So as part of the process of ditching the old labels, I am ever learning what it looks like to live without those burdens around my neck.
If I now think of myself as a very important person, what would a very important person do?
- I would take my dreams, my voice, and my business seriously.
- I would act as if my presence is just as valid as the next person’s.
- I would invest in myself.
- I would seek out connections that work for me. (Rather than hiding away fear I'm not worth the time and money, not worthy of being in the same room as the 'more important' people, let alone have conversations with them. But also choosing who I want to connect with, rather than accepting any sort of connection with anybody at all, even if it's not what I want.)
- I would not just buy the cheapest of everything, only to feel constantly disappointed because it's not what I truly wanted.
- I would live and act with faith that life is infinitely abundant and wants to provide. (So I don’t have to hoard, or worry, or act from fear of there not being enough to go around - enough ideas, enough money, enough love.)
- I would feel grateful and confident in having money and influence. (Rather than feeling guilty and fraudulent, and so throw it away or get rid of it as fast as possible.)
- I would not deflect attention from myself - or, alternatively, draw negative attention to reinforce the negative view of myself.
- I would expect and receive acceptance and respect and love, and I would do the same for others.
- I would believe I have something of value to offer the world. And I would expect and receive money and things of value from others in return. I would stop selling myself short in all areas.
- I would trust my intuition and my decision making above others' fears. (Not to ignore advice, but to stop automatically putting every else's voice and opinion above my own.)
- I would embrace the call inside me that says, “Be yourself and you will change the world,” because I believe it is true. Just like it is true for all of us.
- And I would let that call lead me, trusting that I will end up in the perfect places and the perfect situations; I will know what is best for me each step of the way.
- I would take opportunities as they arise, not shrink from them, feeling unworthy.
- I would live from the truth that when one person is diminished, we are all diminished. When one is raised up, all are raised up.
- (And I would include myself in that - I would stop making myself small, out of fear of making others uncomfortable.)
- And I would not worry what anyone else thought of me. No matter what.
What would you do, if you believed you were a VIP?