In my office hangs a sign that reads, “Wanna make the world a better place? Treat every person you meet like they’re the coolest person ever.” It’s the common denominator – everyone wants to be cool. Too many of us are stuck in the false belief that we’re not enough.
When we see ourselves as less than others, we play small. We’re afraid to stand out because we anticipate failure and humiliation. Some of us are envious, others bitter. We want so much more but we avoid taking risks and our passions remain hidden or unexplored.
We fear what others think of us (they don’t). We project – assuming they see us as we see ourselves. Somehow those defining moments in junior high never go away. You never forget being the kid picked last for dodge ball. I can vividly recall that feeling – exposed, humiliated, and hating myself for it.
There have been relatively few kids who were more bullied or nerdy than me. I was a geek long before it was cool to be one. I came of age ashamed. Insurmountable – the social hierarchy of always being the new kid in school. I was endlessly embarrassed by my coke bottle glasses and hand me down clothes. I wasn’t athletic or very handsome which meant that I never got to be popular. I’d have traded 20 I.Q. points to be popular.
I became cool at 32. I’ll tell you the secret of how it happened though depending on where you’re at in your journey, you may find it impossible to believe. The secret is (drum roll please)…
I just decided I was.
And that changed everything.
How did I come to my decision? I worked through my insecurities and inhibitions with the help of an excellent therapist. For the first time I stopped focusing on my inadequacies and started taking stock of what I had to offer the world. This shift allowed me to value things about myself that had been completely overshadowed by the sense that I was broken.
When I said I wasn’t enough, my therapist asked me, “For who?” I traced that feeling back and found that it had just always been there. It wasn’t my assessment – it was what was taught to me and reinforced by mean and otherwise selfish people.
Deciding I was cool allowed me to seek out people who give support and encouragement and move away from people who reinforced my tendency to be my own worst enemy. What I found with my new perspective were a lot of misfits – people like me who didn’t seem to fit in anywhere but were nonetheless exceptionally cool people. These people became my family.
I found niches –work and play that gave me a sense of belonging. I found people who loved things that I do. I found out I wasn’t “trapped” by my circumstances, limitations, or lack of aptitude. I found out it was ok that I couldn’t function in a home improvement store because I’m damned good in the kitchen. I found my tribe. I found a career. I found outlets to let go of what I didn’t want and sources that provided what I did. From that point in my life, I have allowed my passions to outweigh my fears.
I’m cool because in a world full of people pretending, I’m real.