Sometimes, you feel the need to prove yourself.
At various points in life, I’ve felt underestimated. I’ve felt people look at me and think that I’m not enough, that I’ll fail, that I’m stupid, that I’m a problem child, that I look too young. I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that I don’t meet people’s expectations, and that they were hoping for someone else. People haven’t always taken me seriously, and while I do joke a lot, I like to think I can shift gears when the occasion calls for it.
This feeling of being inadequate, of not being enough, is something that has been a driving force in my life for years. It’s a compelling force that pushes me harder than anything else ever has. When I feel underestimated, I do my best work, dig deeper, and find motivation in abundance, all because someone said or implied that there was something in this world that I couldn’t do.
Motivation is important. To wake up and get out of bed every day is no easy trick, especially when it would be so much easier to give up. We all need a reason to keep going. We need a reason to do something, or it’s not going to get done. I used to love when people told me that something was impossible, or rather, that it wasn’t possible for me. With that comment firmly lodged in my mind, I knew I wouldn’t rest until the task was complete. This source of motivation worked well, and the feeling of accomplishment left me satisfied, but that satisfaction never lasted as long as it should.
Maybe there’s a reason for that.
The great secret of life is that people don’t care about you nearly as much as you think. There’s a chance that whatever they said was an offhanded comment, and that after they said what they said, that person went about their day, not giving the comment a second thought. In our deranged minds we think that people are plotting against us, scheming and trying to finds ways to thwart our efforts, when the reality is quite the contrary. In this world of ours, very rarely are there actual nemesis that we can overcome, or that we have to overcome. All too often, this great enemy is inside of our skulls. We’ve created this enemy for no reason in particular, other than because our minds have distorted the reality we live in, or maybe because we need something to give us a boost.
When you realize that people don’t think too much about you and your endeavors, you could look at this revelation as sad and frustrating, or you could look at it in a positive light. When people don’t pay attention to you, the freedom you gain is simply amazing. Instead of trying to prove someone wrong, to show them that yes, you can do this one particular thing, you’ll find that your mind is much clearer, and you’ll learn more about yourself because you’re not basing your identity or motivation on what other people think of you. This leaves you free to do whatever you want, free to pursue your own dreams and goals. The more you taste this freedom, the more of it you’ll want, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived another way.
I’ve tried to prove so many things to others and myself, and I thought that I needed this source of motivation to keep myself going. For so many years, I wanted to prove that I could do this life alone without any help from other people. It’s a crazy and misguided notion, and I know that now, but it got me thinking. As a result of all this reflection, one question kept coming back to me:
Just who am I trying to prove these things to?
When you let go of the people you’ve based your identity on, you discover yourself in the process. You can begin to make changes so that you more closely resemble the person you want to be. You can discard flawed ideologies, the way you sort through things from your childhood. Some of the ideas you’ve held on to still serve a purpose, but so many more of them aren’t worth keeping. They’re not for this stage of life, and you can toss them at your leisure.
Look to other sources of motivation. Don’t get in shape because someone told you that you couldn’t do it. After you’ve achieved the desired goal, the motivation you had will be gone, and you’ll need a new reason to keep hitting the gym. When you do things in this life, do them because they bring you joy, not out of spite or something similar. Find a solid source of motivation, and you’ll never need to look to anything else. Don’t do it for someone else, do it for you.
We get too caught up in what other people think, looking for constant validation when we should know that we are absolutely good enough. It’s so easy to be negative, to critique, and I urge you to turn away from that. Find something that drives you that comes from within. It might take a little bit longer to find. It might require a lot of self-reflection, but you’ll never regret the time you’ve taken to learn about yourself and who you are. You just might come away with a greater appreciation for the person you are, and you’ll focus less on what you’re lacking.
Hopefully, you get to a place where you no longer care about what others think, and you’ll realize that positive feedback from others is more of a bonus, not a necessity. When that feedback is no longer vital to your being, you can be truly happy. I’m not there yet, but it’s an idea to aspire to, something that I’ll continue to pursue. It can be so difficult to let go of things, especially when they’ve become embedded in our minds, but you have to believe that it can be done, and that the end result will be worth the hard work you’ve put in. Thanks for reading.