Take a moment to imagine your most perfect self. Maybe you look different or have a bigger house, but beyond the surface dreams and desires lies the simple desire to be adequate. However these feelings may manifest, we all want to feel like we no longer need to prove ourselves. That we belong. That we’re enough, just as we are.
In our efforts to be “enough,” we often find ourselves stuck in a damaging cycle of perform, please, and perfect, shaming ourselves for our shortcomings and hiding them from others. We bury our softer, more vulnerable parts to project an image of hard strength and unbreakable will. We put off doing things we want to do because we don’t feel talented enough to start that blog or capable enough to do those kitchen renovations. And we always say yes, no matter how much we can’t or simply don’t want to do something.
We search for perfection in others and pine for it, comparing ourselves to them and feeling lesser when we don’t measure up, no matter how unreasonable our expectations are. For example, imagine you are in line at a café and the person in front of you is tall, good-looking, well-dressed, and carries themselves with the strength and confidence you so desperately wish you had. You start to feel inadequate because you believe, deep down, that you can never be like this person and you find yourself trapped in an echo chamber of shame. However, who’s to say that this person isn’t just as doubtful of themselves? It’s far more likely that they’re trapped in the same shame-fueled cycle of perform, please, and perfect that you are. This image of perfection is just that: An image.
According to Dr. Brené Brown, this way of living is self-sabotage. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown explains that courage, compassion, and connections with others are the keys to a wholehearted life, or one of authenticity and belonging. The ability to feel like we belong is our own responsibility, not that of others. We need not feel like we must prove ourselves to be part of the world because there are no prerequisites to being good enough. Right now, exactly as we are, we are good enough.
It is imperative to understand our own self-worth to live happily. Social media has left us feeling constantly on display to the world, but people aren’t museum exhibits. We can’t be expected to look and behave the same perfect way all the time because we are ever-changing. Nobody is immune to imperfections. We need help. We make mistakes. We outright fail.
By cultivating our courage to be who we are uncensored, compassion to others and to ourselves, and connections with people through both good times and bad, we can begin to recognize our self-worth and live with meaning and satisfaction. We can be us, exactly as we are, and go through life with confidence and joy.