Have you ever said YES to something that you felt ‘meh’ about? A job? A date, perhaps? Have you ever been asked to donate your time or money to a cause you felt beige about, but said yes because someone put you on the spot?
Last year I said ‘yes’ to a piece of work that didn’t light me up. I knew in my heart of hearts that I should say no. But I found myself saying, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’
Why, you ask?
If I’m honest, I was spurred by the fear of missing out – something big could grow out of this (you know, out of this job I did’t really want).
And something big did grow out of it: a headache, a grumpy mood and the self-loathing, face-palming feeling you might recognise as ‘what in the name of God possessed me to say yes to this? I knew this would happen!’
The F.O.M.O (fear of missing out), when further analysed, actually turned out to be a fear that if I said ‘no,’ maybe they wouldn’t ask again. Maybe I’d be passed over, forgotten. Maybe when the really juicy stuff came around, I wouldn’t be in pole position.
Then I’d be destitute and living under a bridge, right?
How much upset and temporary insanity we could avoid if we took the time to understand our intentions, and how they create our reality. It’s the difference between feeling like life is happening to us, and that we’re actively creating it.
The soft underbelly of every choice, every action in our lives, is the desire to feel something – acceptance, perhaps, or that we’re good enough. Or maybe that we’re loved, valued, needed.
Recognising this has been a light bulb moment.
Some of the biggest
mistakes learnings of my life have been the result of intentions that were not aligned with my best self. The face palm moments always turn out to be fear-driven. Ever notice that?
I spent much of my teens, twenties and thirties seeking approval through overachievement, hoping that by excelling, I’d feel good enough. It was all in the name of gold stars, so it didn’t feel destructive – until it did.
I thought I was excelling. Now I’m sure I was actually competing – often with people far more experienced. Guess how that worked out for me? (Spoiler alert).
Nothing ever felt like enough, not summa cum laude, not a PhD, not even a fancy title at a German investment bank. There was a fleeting feeling of ‘YES,’ but moments after the fist pump, I was moving onto the next perfection-seeking thing. It was exhausting, frankly.
What was my intention? I confess I never really thought about it. I was unconsciously reacting to a constant niggling feeling (must do better, must do better). When would it be enough? When would I be enough?
I didn’t yet realise that was giving away my power, waiting for others to affirm my worthiness.
When they did, there was an ecstatic moment of good-enough-ness, an inner fireworks display. When they didn’t, I’d feel worthless, under-valued, uncertain, dark.
That is what I don’t want you to know about me, that I’ve been a worthiness hustler.
Sydney J. Harris says, ‘Ninety per cent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.’
My compelling drive has contributed to lost friendships, opportunities, relationships and most recently, my health.
I have created this problem.
I am entirely responsible.
I have built my reality choice by choice, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time.
In recent years, I have no longer wanted to be a stranger to myself. I want to know the power of my true response-ability.
As I’m making decisions, I ask myself, what is my intention? What’s my motivation for saying ‘yes’ to this, or for doing this piece of work?
These simple questions have alerted me to times when I’m reverting to hustling. Then it’s easier to course correct.
So what IS my intention? It depends on the situation. But the underlying theme is about being more of myself – more true, honest and content with who I really am. That is my north star.
‘The whole point of being alive is to become the person you were intended to be, to grow out of, and into yourself again and again.’ So says Oprah in her new book, What I Know For Sure. (Psst, it’s really worth reading).
My intention is to be the best self I have access to in any given moment. It is, as Oprah says, to become the person I was intended to be.
Living out of intent allows me to show up more fully and from a place of love.
So why do I share my hustling story? What is my intention? The person I aspire to be owns her truth – and not just the successful aspects.
But actually this post is not about me, not really. It is about the challenges we all face in aspiring to live on purpose.
I’m guessing that we all have things we don’t want people to know about our hustling. Brene Brown says the two most powerful words when we’re in struggle are “me too.”
Here’s how to tell if your intentions are driven by fear or love (courtesy of Martha Beck):
-Always feels bad
-Insists on certainty
-Always feels good
I love Martha Beck’s phrase about fear motivating grasping. Anyone who’s hustled for worthiness will recognise that familiar icky feeling.
What turned everything around for me what something Steve Chandler said: instead of worrying about being worthy, concentrate on being useful. Serve others. You’ll find that your worthiness issues magically disappear. He’s right. Plus, it always feels good.
Living from a place that feels good (often different than pleasure), is a pretty good indicator that your worthiness is self-generated. ‘Worthiness,’ as Brene Brown says, ‘doesn’t have prerequisites.’ It just IS; it’s yours for the taking. No hustling required.
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