From my last blog post, “What to Expect During a Quarter-Life Crisis”, I gained humility and started to redefine what success is to me. I am fortunate enough to have friends and mentors who care to talk through with me what it is I’m looking for in life. One of those conversations revolved deeply around deconstructing and rebuilding what my self-worth is. With humility comes an opportunity to identify self-worth, to build it into the idea that I matter.
For far too long, I’ve been in a constant state of “blah”. Where I was once hungry to be more, I’ve become complacent and lazy. So it’s time to change that. In my pursuit to rebuild self-worth, I’m working on being less critical of myself, to be a little bolder, and to fear failure less.
Being Less Self-Critical
Believe it or not, I’m super self-critical. There’s a lot of doubt and hesitation swimming in my head at all times, and there’s always this nagging part of my brain that tells me I’m not good enough. Rationally, I know I’m at least a decent person with good motivations and intentions. But emotionally, it feels like I’m just a mess on legs, which are leading me nowhere in life. It’s a work in progress. Understanding that I’m overly critical of myself is the first step (acknowledging there is a problem in the first place is usually the first step).
Be a Little Bolder
Being bolder is about hesitating less and doing more of the unexpected. It’s about “expanding your sphere” (as my mentor put it) and being okay with stepping outside your proverbial comfort zone. But it’s not just about going skydiving when you’re afraid of heights. By being bolder, you’re committing to becoming more than yourself. It’s an entire lifestyle change that I am pushing myself towards, step by step. It’s a hard change for me to make, though, because I’m a risk-averse person by nature. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me to be bolder! I just need to push myself and commit.
Fear Failure Less (i.e., Be Okay with Failing More)
This goes hand-in-hand with being bolder, and it’s likely one of the most important pieces of rebuilding my self-worth. Because I’m risk-averse, I sometimes don’t know what to do with myself when handling failure. The massive change I need to make in myself is understanding that failures are a natural part of life, but they aren’t what define us. Rather, it’s how we handle these failures. I can list off a slew of people—inventors, musicians, creators in general—who have failed many times but have also found major success, but I think you get the idea. My favorite Japanese proverb about failure is, “Nana korobi, ya oki”, meaning, “Fall seven times, get up eight”.
Tying It Back to Self-Worth
So why is it so important that we keep these three things in mind when rebuilding self-worth? It’s about changing the way we view ourselves, in how we believe we fit into the universe. I’m still working on it, but I’m confident I’ll figure it out eventually.
“Your self-worth has nothing to do with your craft or calling, and everything to do with how you treat yourself.” —Kris Carr, author
Depending on who’s judging, I’m either super old (as per my brothers aged 7 and 8) or “still young”. It’s like I’m living in some strange purgatory-like life. Even professionally, I’ve been too ingrained in the “real world” to be considered a recent college graduate, and yet I’m nowhere near experienced enough to be considered mid-level. It’s a weird in-between that feels reminiscent of my mid-teen years—not young enough to be a kid, not old enough to make my own choices legally (or hold a job).
Couple that feeling of impotence with the quarter life crisis I’m currently facing, and you know it’s all gold with me. /sarcasm
The past few months have forced me to reflect on what it is I want in life and what success means to me. I 100% know it’s not about having a lot of money, though it can certainly help with anyone’s situation. Happiness? Sure, but by what means? What am I willing to do, and what am I willing to sacrifice, to get there?
It sounds almost laughable that I’m having a quarter-life crisis right now, but I entered college having no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Unfortunately for me, the crisis was bound to happen.
I remember attending a TEDxRutgers and sitting through one of the talks about finding out life’s recipe, about identifying what makes you, well, you. And the recipe is vastly different for each person. Like, for some people, friends and family take precedence over career, but for others, the opposite may be true.
Out of all the talks that day, that one stuck with me the most, because I don’t think I have that recipe down quite right yet. It’ll definitely take me time to work out all the kinks and to add all the seasonings to make this life perfectly mine, but I think I’m finally ready to get moving on that process.
As long as I’m continually seeking out success, to always try to perfect the recipe of life, I think I’ll be okay.
In the past few months, in all the darkness and self-loathing I’ve stumbled and tripped through, I’ve regained something that I realize I lost sometime ago—my humility. I’m not arrogant, but there was definitely a lack of awe, a lack of uncertainty that made life’s little celebrations seem dull. I insisted I was ready to tackle on more, when in reality, I needed some time to slow my roll and bring myself back within the speed limit.
And it took me a particularly shitty year and seemingly infinite obstacles to realize that I haven’t been stopping to enjoy what I have, that I’ve been taking everything I’ve achieved up to this point for granted. A small part of me feels like I was being too greedy too early.
I don’t know everything, but I also don’t know nothing (I mean that in the non-double negative way).
Sometimes knocking yourself down a peg or two is helpful with reflecting. At least for me, it’s what allows me to accept the mistakes I make, learn from them, and move on.
Humility is about seeing yourself as one part of the vast puzzle of life. It’s about understanding that the world is not perfect and that you are not perfect. It’s about being good to one another in spite of the imperfections we may see in one another.
“There’s 7 billion, 46 million people on the planet, and most of us have the audacity to think we matter.” —Watsky, “Glowing Screens, Part 2”
However, optimism can only bring us so far. Being really optimistic isn’t sufficient to getting that amazing job, and it certainly isn’t sufficient to make you rich and famous. But what if you pair optimism with a drive to chase an ideal life? Or, if you’re more of a realistic optimist, simply a good life?
That brings us to two types of optimism—passive and active. Consider two cases:
Case A – Passive Optimism
Mary gets a really low score on her first exam of the semester, and the exam is worth 25% of her final grade. She knows she didn’t study as much as she could have, but she’s optimistic that she’ll still be able to pass the class with a ‘B’ average.
Case B – Active Optimism
Mary gets a really low score on her first exam of the semester, and the exam is worth 25% of her final grade. She knows she didn’t study as much as she could have, but she’s optimistic that she’ll still be able to pass the class with a ‘B’ average. In order to achieve that, she reads the assigned text before class, pays attention in class, asks her professor questions when she’s confused or needs clarification, studies her lecture notes afterwards, and does her homework. By the time the second and third exams come around, she achieves that ‘B’ average as well as a mastering of the material.
Do you notice the difference between the two cases? Case A and B are almost the same, except for the extension of effort in Case B. The action, the effort exerted in Case B, is the biggest difference between them.
There’s an aspect of productivity that I think sometimes gets overlooked when people tell others to “look on the bright side”. Having happy thoughts is not enough. It’s also about being able to will yourself to be better and to make the most out of your situation.
Out of all the sayings about optimism, I think my favorite is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yes, it’s a cliche, but it talks about taking action: when life sucks, go make something out of it. Why wallow and wait until the lemons rot? Go ahead and make that lemon tart you’ve always wanted to make!
As always, it’s easier said than done. It requires a lot of self-awareness, self-reflection, and willpower to apply active optimism to everyday living, to ensure that I’m always looking and moving forward to something better. It’s not an easy pursuit, mainly because it requires so much more effort than just hoping “things work out”. But active optimism, the idea that things will get better because you will them to be better, pays off.
“Just do it. Some people dream of success, while you’re gonna wake up and work hard at it.” –Shia LeBeouf | Via Giphy