People tell me I’m confident. While it’s graciously accepted, sometimes inside I’m thinking, “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” People tell me things like I walk into a room and own it or I’m confident in my skin and my internal response is, “Uh I guess if you say so.” I might come off as confident and self-assured but inside I have a balled-up knot of insecurities rolling around my head. It’s an exhaustive list of what’s wrong with me and my inner critic is all too eager to recite said list and tack on a few more for extra credit. My inner critic’s a real piece of work, highly critical of my behavior, and holding me to a harsh standard of impossible perfectionism.
Despite this barrage of negative self-talk, I try not to let that voice take over and stop me from taking action. I’ll do the things that I would rather not do, and the things my inner critic tries to talk me out of, because I decided years ago I’d rather be scared doing something than regret not trying. Call that confidence if you want, but I don’t because I don’t always feel particularly confident. I’m fine with that. I know my inner critic is a jerk and will talk me out of praise, but that doesn’t mean my inner critic has the upper hand.
Sometimes we can’t see our own magic and that’s OK. Maybe we’re not meant to, to lead us on a journey to discover it outside of our comfort zone. As we work on ourselves, our magic continues to grow and expand, until one day we don’t just see we’re magic, we know we’re magic.
The reason we can’t see our own magic isn’t our fault.
The mind has a default state it goes to when it’s not intentionally focused. In this default mode network, certain regions of the brain become active. These are areas involved with projecting things that aren’t true or are either in the past or future, thinking about other people, and finding fault while thinking about the self. Though the default mode network operates in the background, it can also be activated when asked to judge others or ourselves.
Given how Western society is constructed, our brains are constantly in default mode, scanning our social environment and ourselves to find any reasons why we could potentially be excluded from a social group, and hounding us to correct them so that we’re acceptable. While this mechanism was necessary for survival when we were hunter-gatherers and needed strength in numbers against saber-toothed tigers, this default mode network coupled with modern day society creates fertile soil for suffering.
I call this suffering Crazy-Making Town. A long time ago the default mode network, neural masses, and the influence of other people – family of origin, culture, society, capitalism, consumerism, etc. – laid down the tracks in our head to Crazy-Making Town. To get to Crazy-Making Town, our inner critic pushes us into our personal train of limiting beliefs (the Fear of Not Being Good Enough is my go-to), which after all this time has been upgraded to a bullet train, to arrive at the destination that much faster.
Along the way to Crazy-Making Town, the train stops at Shameville to pick up our frenemies Comparison and Criticism, who insist on yammering in a constant loop until we’ve picked up their words as our own and heaped even more comparisons and criticisms on ourselves. Once the train of limiting beliefs arrives at Crazy-Making Town, we make our way home to Self-Judgement Street where, under the smog of negativity covering the town, we spiral into self-doubt and fear.
This is normal. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Everyone is wired like this, everyone has this place in their head where they’re self-critical, and lots of people have trouble seeing their magic sometimes – even Beyoncé.
Speaking after her visual album was released, she detailed her fears, how other people didn’t believe in the project and she envisioned the worst things happening when she released it. Believe it or not, Beyoncé is human too, with doubts and insecurities and her own train of limiting beliefs to Crazy-Making Town. If Beyoncé has these fears and insecurities, isn’t it normal for us to have them too? And just like Beyoncé, we can be resilient and keep taking action despite our fears. Maybe we won’t have a wind machine and a camera crew, but yes, we can keep taking action and grind ‘til we own it too!
We’ve forgotten we aren’t passengers on the train, we’re the railroad company. We’re creators of our lives, we’re not meant to be passive bystanders. Our train of limiting beliefs goes to Crazy-Making Town because it’s a well-worn route we’ve traveled all of our lives. Just because that’s where we’ve been doesn’t mean we have to stay there.
We can build our own tracks to wherever we want to go to.
Start building tracks that lead to somewhere else, somewhere better.
Taking action is the pivot that takes us from feeling stuck to empowered. Taking action changes our state and, over time, changes our feelings.
Our feelings can be deceiving. We are not our thoughts and feelings, we are an awareness that has thoughts and feelings.
We don’t have to feel confident to be confident. We don’t have to feel brave to be brave.
What defines us is what we do.
Taking action builds character. Taking action despite our insecurities and doubts is empowering. It reveals the best part of each of us that are longing to show up and show out.
That being said, change is hard. We’re contending with physiology, the neural pathways, and neural masses that are the brain’s default response. There are external forces like social media and consumerism that benefit from keeping us small as we chase dopamine hits from external validation or numbing with the combination of drugs/alcohol/food/sex/Netflix/shopping because it’s so much easier to do the work on the outside and get a quick fix to feel good rather than do the work on the inside for lasting happiness. We’re going up against our internalized self-talk and limiting beliefs and other bullshit we’ve talked ourselves into believing for so long, it’s hard to believe anything else.
To take action can feel damn near impossible facing that kind of big-picture enormity. Instead, focus on one thing at a time.
Focus on the next best step and once that’s done, the next best step after that. Every step in the process is as important as the destination because it is by going through the process that character is built, there are no shortcuts. Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient as we take action.
You are a master builder, you are a co-creator of your life, you are the Universe embodied.
Move forward with full faith in yourself and trust the process. You will go through times that you don’t feel like you’re making progress, you will not feel motivated all the time, you will have doubts and fears along the way, you’ll have setbacks and failures because it’s life and nobody’s perfect. You will have people (including your inner critic with a voice that sounds so much like your own) give you all the reasons in the world why you can’t do something.
Keep taking that next best step and the next one after that. Over time you’ll find yourself on the other side of this, whatever “this” is for you. I don’t know what will happen for you on the other side, but I can tell you that through the journey, you will grow and expand and once you get to the other side of this, you might even have enough perspective to see your own magic.
And if you don’t, that’s OK. You don’t have to know you’re magic, to be magic. We all are.