Accurate not arrogant: admitting your strengths

 

What are you really good at?

Does that question make you squirm? Or is it just me?

Perhaps it’s a product of my humble Canadian upbringing (heaven forbid a Canuck be proud of an accomplishment) but the idea of talking about the things I’m good at seems about as fun as a bikini wax.

But isn't there a difference between confidence and arrogance? Between honesty and grandstanding? Isn’t it our right as people of this planet to embrace the things we are good at – isn’t that, in fact, our societal obligation?

Why can I only admit that there are some things at which I do not completely suck? I say things like “decent” to describe my writing, my yoga, my workshops. I cringe when asked to promote the two books I've written. But ask me where my weaknesses lie and I’ll launch into a calculated and comprehensive attack detailing my sub-par spelling skills, fashion sense, and map-reading abilities.

Not everyone is this way. Other people can stand with pride and say “Hey, I’m good at this” and not be struck by lightning or fall so madly in love with themselves that they are rendered useless to the outside world. Other people can accurately name their strengths and then identify their weaknesses in an equally factual manner.  I know that these Other People are not just mythical creatures but they truly do walk around among us. I am married to one of these baffling mortals, which makes it all the more frustrating that I’ve not picked up on this particular habit.

If this is indeed a habit, it can be adjusted. So, here’s my plan: I’m going to write down at least ten things that I am good at. From big things to little things. From the serious to the silly. From my ability to self-motivate and hit even the tightest of deadlines to my talents as a Stuffed Animal Surgeon. I'm a devoted friend and I can cook without a recipe. I love to give away books and I can carry a six-foot-tall Christmas tree all by myself. I’m going to put that list somewhere I see it a lot and I’m going to look at it until the sight of that list doesn't make my skin turn inside out.

Because here's the real issue: if we don't proudly stand up and own our talents - we get overlooked. If you're locked in "move along, nothing to see here" mode, you are absolutely going to miss out on some awesome opportunities. And those opportunities are not just great for you; they are chances for you to empower and inspire others. That's your moment to contribute some of your unique goodness to the world.

So, don't be selfish and keep all your awesomeness to yourself.

Stand up.

Be seen.

Take up space in the world.

It's your birthright to be here.

I want to hear it: what are you really good at? (Seriously, leave a comment and tell me.)

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What do you say?

"You have great hair." I was putting down my yoga mat at the studio. I turned to the woman who had spoken to me, she was sitting on the floor, stretching. I had never met her before.

"Pardon me?" I asked.

"You have great hair."

My hair had been up in a ponytail all morning because I had been writing - fighting, really - a troublesome section of my new book and so now that my hair was out long, it had that weird kink in the middle where I had secured the elastic too tight. As I was writing, I had thought maybe the words would come more easily if I could feel some air on the back of my neck. It hadn't really worked.

My last haircut was seven months ago. I've recently started using this special shampoo in an attempt to combat my eternally oily scalp and it leaves the ends of my hair feeling dry. But I hadn't even washed my hair in two days.

I considered telling her all that. I wanted to explain why she was wrong and list all the ways in which my hair was not at all "great." I thought I'd tell her how I always wanted to have straight, blonde, angel-hair thin strands that hung passively to my shoulders, not the wild curls that make their own decisions about where they are going. I was about to tell her that my dark hair is increasingly streaked with grey and, while I don't take issue with the color, I do not understand why those hairs are a different texture and they stand straight up in the air - as if they are waving in the landing of middle age, directly upon my head.

But then I looked at her, staring up at me, offering me a smile and this kindness.

What do you say?  We ask little kids when they are given a gift.

Thank you. They recite.

When did we forget what to say? When did we get so full of self-doubt and self-hatred and whatever else this is that masquerades as humility? It's not humility when we reject someone else's gift of kindness. It's not modesty when we shut down someone's attempt at connection because we are unable to get over ourselves and our insecurities. It's just rude.

Maybe it was something about being in a yoga studio that reminded me to be grateful. Yoga has a funny way of doing that. So instead of taking her compliment and bashing it into the ground with all these bullshit issues about beauty and femininity, I said:

"Thank you. You made my day."

As I was walking out of class, I said to the woman in front of me:

"I love your leggings."

She shook her head, "Oh, no, they're cheap. I just got them from that consignment place downtown."

"I really don't care - you look super cute."

She grinned at me and laughed.

"Well, thank you."

Maybe someday, we'll all remember what to say.

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Never enough: growing up airbrushed

bags I recently found this headshot from when I was 16 years old.

The blue pen marks indicate the parts of me that should be airbrushed.

That's the world I grew up in.

Even at 16, I had to be fixed, airbrushed and prettied up. I was never quite good enough as I was.

Now, when I look back at that time, I see a girl who had glowing skin and the ability to exist solely on Doritos while still having a thigh gap.

At 35, that thigh gap is long gone, but you know what I do have now?

  • gray hair (because I'm lucky to get older and wiser and experience life)
  • crow's feet (because I'm lucky to be able to laugh a lot)
  • a little puffy roll where my abs should be (because I was lucky to go to Italy last month and eat gelato every day)

I'm done listening to a world that tells me that I should dye my hair and wear concealer and lose three pounds because that's the weight that Jennifer Aniston prefers to be.

The Blue Pen People have made us all insecure about those things, but for some reason we've accepted that. And now, ridiculously, we've picked up that blue pen and are scribbling all over ourselves and others, highlighting whatever physical attributes we deem to be "wrong."

There is so much negativity already in the world, why are we contributing by hating ourselves?

So, women (and men) of the world -- what would happen if we came together and collectively decided that we just don't care about the thigh gap? Or laugh lines? Or inadequate lashes?

What if we stopped judging other women, and ourselves, by silly criteria that have nothing to do with health or happiness? What if we just ended it? What if we decided to focus that energy on important, productive things that actually mattered? Let's stop cursing the darkness under our eyes, and let's light a candle.

It's easy to think that we have all the time in the world and that sometime tomorrow or next year we will learn to be kind and love our hips.

But life is precious -- and we just don't have time for this blue pen bullshit.

Enough is enough.

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