Pawning Our Lives
Why do we sell ourselves short?
We are far too easily pleased*: When the status quo becomes acceptable–even desirable–we could be treading water to avoid exploring the open sea. Perhaps we realize that accepting the superficial metrics of success is far easier than seeking that which truly satisfies–purpose, growth, opportunity, impact. Unfortunately, my purpose isn’t for sale on Amazon and my opportunities aren’t emitting GPS signals. Yet, I believe we can find these things if we're determined to look. But, rather than climb the tree of life to take hold of these treasures, how often do we worry about failure and stay grounded?
We don’t know our worth: Sometimes I set my sights on my tree's highest branches, but well-intentioned people advise me to aim for the fruit on a lower limb–or even the fruit on the ground. If I don’t know my worth, if I rely on others to tell me who I am and what I should be, I might take their advice. So how can I figure out my worth in this capitalistic capsule that is America? I believe: value = knowledge + experience + potential. Knowledge and experience are self-explanatory, but the more interesting operand is potential. Being a word nerd, I looked up “potential” and found an interesting definition: "work involved to move a unit from a reference point to a point in question.” Cool! I love how this definition puts the focus on the effort rather than the outcome. My effort defines my worth.
We get distracted or disheartened: Life can choke our dreams. Even when I drown out the naysayers, other things get in the way of realizing my potential. I get bogged down, tired, impatient for results. When the inevitable growing pains happen, stagnating or retreating seem like smart options. Taking a break can help me refocus, but what if my struggle isn’t with a burgeoning commitments, but with fear and doubt? Reaching for a daring goal can feel like jumping blind-folded across a chasm in hopes of reaching terra firma on the other side. While there's no magic bullet to quell this disquiet, I take heart from remembering: 1) I will likely not die from pursuing my dreams (disappointment is rarely fatal), and 2) I’d rather try and fail than never glimpse my potential.
Postscript on potential: If you believe you don’t have potential, THINK AGAIN! Just because someone said it–or you think it–doesn’t make it true. We are a myopic group of folk. We can hardly see our own potential, much less anyone else’s. We can barely scrape together enough courage to manifest our own dreams, much less encourage someone to manifest theirs. That’s why it’s so important to know your own worth. If you believe others’ valuation and they get it wrong, you pay the price for their miscalculation. You must accurately appraise yourself or risk never knowing your true worth. Identify what you enjoy doing (what are you willing to pursue without immediate profit?) and master it. Failure is an expected, but temporary setback. In time, your potential will be impossible for anyone–including you–to deny!
*Quote from The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short. – Abraham Maslow
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