A good friend shared this quote with me and it got me thinking about how much of my energy and time I have wasted in life doing this very thing. And how glad I am that I don’t really do this anymore.

And it got me thinking that you might still be doing this. And you don’t need to waste your time and sanity this way.

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm Forbes

Right?

Focusing on the things you’re not good at, the qualities you don’t have, and ignoring all the things you’re naturally amazing at because “well, if I can do it, everyone can, right?”.

Because if it’s easy for me, then it must be easy for everyone else.

And if I can’t do it, or I don’t have it, I must be lacking. I must be less than.

It just leaves us feeling disappointed, frustrated, maybe even despondent.

How wrong we are.

Here are some of mine from the past:

I’ve got to be more serious, intellectual. I need to be more likeable, more sociable. I need to be better at small talk.

I’m none of these things, though I’ve spent years trying to be. So much wasted energy and pressure I put on myself about what I was supposed to be doing.

Trying to be like other people.

Take this example: speaking on a panel.

So last week I was on a panel for the launch event of the Grace Hopper Lab and Initiative hosted at The Hague Tech.

One of the other panelists was a strong personality, who likes to be challenging, confronting, spice things up. She said that’s what she was going to do during the panel discussion.

I immediately had the thought “oh I should be challenging too, maybe that’s what makes a good panelist”. My heart rate picked up, my breathing became a bit shallow. I was gearing up for some kind of battle. Probably a battle against my true self.

Past me, that undervalued herself, would have jumped into action and tried to do this. Past me has actually tried to do this kind of thing, and failed spectacularly by being obnoxious, clumsy, and awkward.

Fortunately today me also immediately thought “nah, I’ll be me, you do you”. I started breathing normally again

So I could be warm and still challenge. I could connect, and then tell them the hard truth about why silo walls are still up and what the work to break down barriers to inclusion really is.

Phew! That’s called growth, people. Having that same old thought but not getting trapped by it. And actually having an impact.

You see I’ve come to accept and embrace my qualities.

On meeting me, people aren’t inspired by my intellect even though I’m witty and pretty smart. People mostly feel a bit warm and connected. More at ease.

So trying to push my intelligence and competence was a waste of time.

People were almost definitely subjected to a caricature of weirdness as I tried to contort myself into an image that I thought I should have.

Total cringe.

To all those people in my past, I’m so sorry.

They were missing out on the opportunity to feel at ease, have deep conversations over coffee instead of chitchat, and enjoy the world around them.

To hear intelligent thoughtful insights.

To be challenged and enjoy the experience because we had fun while tackling our biases.

And I want this for you too.

If you’re around my age, life and time have probably led you a fair way along this path to self acceptance and appreciation, and just not giving a fuck about what you’re supposed to be.

Fancy a coffee and enjoy deep conversation, and being ourselves? Send me a message (offer open to people of all ages😀).

And regardless of your age, if you’re not yet at this place, please know it will come. You can speed it along too. Try this:

Make a bullet list of your qualities, just start with “I am…” and then add a word.

And just keep on doing that.

Start thinking and talking about yourself for you who and what you are, not what you’re not.

This is part of my Thought Piece Series, where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to connect? Click here.