I’ve been listening to three audiobooks for my own self-improvement. Currently, my picks are You Creative Career by Anna Sabino (this is actually a reread for me), The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman, and How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D. There’s so much about self-improvement that have nothing to do with yourself as an individual. There’s more advice about how other people are, how they can help or hurt you, and how to connect with the people you do want in your life. I’m an anxiety-ridden artist who is improving on being my natural confident self rather than faking it. I have my days where I’m still faking it for other people. It gives me this strange sense of imposter syndrome and I feel less grounded in who I am. One trait about myself that I know is unshakable is my ambition. My individualism shines when I’m driven and courageous enough to deal with unpredictable challenges or make mistakes and learn from them. When this part of me shines, I start to see a pattern with some of the people in my life. They don’t shine with me and my anxiety responds to that by saying “darken down a bit or you’ll hurt their feelings.” I’m done doing that sh*t and here’s why.
While meditating today, I accepted another complexity of human nature that can be a beautiful, but paralyzing thing: self-esteem. Self-esteem is more about how we see ourselves and how we think others see us than it is about confidence. Self-esteem, to me, is self-consciousness and self-awareness. It’s the blurry area of our self-image that doesn’t clear up unless we do something with the intent clear things up. What I started doing is imagining myself in the social situations mentioned in my audiobooks and take a moment to ask myself, “Is this the kind of interaction or relationship I’m willing or wanting to have with another person?” When Your Creative Career and The Business of Being a Writer discuss building and connecting with an audience, connecting with the right people in the field, and presenting my work proudly and thoughtfully, it’s often a resounding “Hell yeah I want that.” When How To Be Yourself bring up familiar anxiety-based feelings and anxiety-triggering interactions, it’s often a, “I don’t want that and I’m not completely sure how to change that yet, but I want to keep trying.” It’s like a little roleplay I do in a visualization kind of way, but there’s something I haven’t been paying attention to while I do this. My ambition makes me shine. What I should be asking myself is, “Can I shine and stop giving a f**k about everything my anxiety is worried about?” I truly believe I can, but that depends on my social circle and addressing old socializing habits I picked up to “darken” myself.
I really love the friends I have in my life and no matter their flaws or shortcomings, I love them unconditionally. Unconditional love doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t set boundaries though; if anything, it shows that you still love that person just as much as you love yourself. I can’t tell you how fired up I get when my friends tell me they’re not capable of reaching whatever goals they try to set for themselves. The first thing I do is say, “Actually you can do that. Even though you have weaknesses here, your forgetting how your strengths can help you work though that.” Sometimes my friends hear me and sometimes my friends don’t hear me because their anxiety, depression, or whatever pain they’re working through is screaming louder. I had a hard time accepting when their pain was louder than me, but I’m accepting it now and also accepting that shining while your friends are still working on their issues is okay. In no way am I saying give up on them and go on your merry way shining all you want. I’m just saying that the ambitious type has a fire in them that needs to burn even though other people in your life haven’t sparked their own fire. There’s no need to guilt trip yourself and there’s no need to do the opposite like trying to force your friends to be more like you. Let them be and let yourself be. Self-sabotage doesn’t make friendships stronger, but authentic compassion and self-respect does extraordinary well for all types of relationships, according to psychology.