As I reflect on the past year, I’ve realized how powerful a year it was for women, including myself. It was a year when those silent found their voice; a year when those self-conscious found their confidence; a year when those powerless found their strength; a year when our stories, struggles and successes united and lifted us. And for me, it was the year I realized who I am, who I’m not, my worth and what I want for my future.
So, what is different? Why has it taken me 35-years to start becoming comfortable with myself, my values, my strengths and dreams. How did this transformation come about? It isn’t from a lack of love or support or praise or encouragement. Digging deep into my subconscious, I heard the quiet buzz of an electrical current of high self-criticality, self-doubt and other symptoms of the psychological phenomenon known as the “Imposter Syndrome.” I had been waiting for validation from others — validation that I was a valuable asset, that I was capable of more, that I was worthy of being leader, that I wasgood enough.
I recently finished reading (well, technically listening to) Michelle Obama’s Becoming.Regardless of your political affiliation, she is an intelligent, successful, relate-able and kind woman from whom we can learn. The fact that her integrity and humility remained intact despite the most critical and watchful eyes of the public, speaks volumes to the leadership lessons she can impart. I heard many inspiring quotes I can easily correlate to how I’m becoming me, and in sharing these realizations I hope they provoke positive change and ignite confidence in one another.
Before you’re able to accept or commit to any changes, you have to first do some soul searching … find out what makes you tick, what makes you feel happy or successful, what are you passionate about, what is your why — your reason for existence. And when that’s known, search for what is holding you back. Self-discovery enables your subconscious to better serve and assist you in becoming you.
“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
Discovering your why and the barriers in your way to achievement are not enough. You have to believe in yourself, your abilities and strengths. You are worthy. Worthy of architecting your destiny. Worthy of positively influencing change. Worthy of being a force of empowerment. Do not ask for permission, own it and inspire others with your worthiness.
“In all those moments, a chorus of doubts rang out inside my head: Do I really belong here? Am I good enough? But after a while, I realized that I had every reason to be in those environments. I just had to trust my instincts and be myself — and then the rest would take care of itself.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
3. Self Branding
No hot pokers needed. This is all about walking the talk, sharing your successes, your failures and lessons learned. Put your authentic self out there — let others see what you have to offer. Your story is yours, but I guarantee pieces of it will resonate with others and enforce that we are not alone in the world — we can learn from and lift each other.
“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
4. Self Investment
Goals are never achieved without investment — time, resources, education, support, etc. are needed to ensure we cross the finish line. The same is true with becoming you. The world is evolving and with it, you are too. Read — a lot, ask questions — a lot, find a mentor, become a mentor, take interesting and varying educational courses. Expand your mind and diversify your thinking. And along the way, rest, relax and re-energize so that you have the momentum to keep going.
“I knew from my own life experience that when someone shows genuine interest in your learning and development, even if only for ten minutes in a busy day, it matters. It matters especially for women, for minorities, for anyone society is quick to overlook.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
5. Self Surroundings
This is two fold — surround your mind with optimism, surround your body with supportive people. Yes, you have to pair your optimism with realism, but keep your glass half full as often as possible. Find the silver linings, the greater meaning in unfortunate circumstances. Create a tight bubble of people that positively add to your life and support you through the smiles and sob sessions. This frame-of-mind and support system will get you through the best and toughest of times.
“ I continue, too, to keep myself connected to a force that’s larger and more potent than any one election, or leader, or news story — and that’s optimism. For me, this is a form of faith, an antidote to fear.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
No one is going to look out for you, better than you. You know when you’re providing your best. You know when you’re ready for more, need more coaching and feedback, want to advance your career or change your career. You know when you need more work-life balance, to take a vacation, more top-level support. Not everyone has the capability of reading your mind, you’re going to have to speak up and let your needs and wants known — and typically the best results are rendered when done respectfully.
“I wasn’t going to let one person’s opinion dislodge everything I thought I knew about myself. Instead, I switched my method without changing my goal.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
And finally, as you’re gaining traction, accumulating wins and collecting successes, don’t forget to extend a hand to others in need of support and guidance in their quest to better themselves. You might just find that you learn as much from them as they do from you.
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming
I have yet to complete becoming me. These “self”-ish strategies, along with other motivational and confidence creating principles, have to be practiced every day and in every moment, with every decision, action and reaction, over and over again — with each outcome continuing to shape a better me. It will forever be a work-in-progress. But with the clarity of knowing me better, I have a sense of purpose and a pulse on my happiness.
So, a little motivation from me to you: Stop standing in your own way. Your future is yours to create. Will it take hard work, determination, perseverance and maybe a little luck? Absolutely. Are you capable and worthy? Are you good enough? Yes, you are!