Who Are You Not To Do This?
I recently heard Seth Godin being interviewed and he shared a story about an experience he had swimming in the ocean in which he almost drowned. He said that although he was a strong swimmer, that morning, he found himself struggling with a serious undertow.
Seth went on to explain that he questioned if this might be the last thing he would ever do (even though he knew there were many things he still hoped to do).
So, Seth took a deep breath and swam like hell to try to save himself!
He said, in that exact moment, it didn’t matter if he was with 10 people… because saving his life was on him. In that moment, he wasn’t suffering from imposter syndrome, saying things like, “I bet Rich Roll could swim faster than me”. He was just focused on giving it HIS personal best -to save his life.
Although recognizing that there is a big difference between swimming to save your life and sending an email with a potential blunder, we often equate even small mistakes or losses with a life and death magnitude and it can often get in our way in moving forward.
Hearing this story was profound for me. There have been many instances where sizing myself up to someone else or someone else’s knowledge on a subject has frozen me to the point of not taking the next step (fear of imposter syndrome or the voice that says, “Who are you to write that article, blogpost or that book?” “Why would anyone listen to you?”).
I have done a lot of personal work on worthiness and showing up for myself, and, yet, I still find myself frequently questioning, “Who are you to do this?” when I go to take that first step.
Godin’s point is that in the end (and, for him it was potentially literally the end!) it doesn’t really matter how you size up to anyone else. The only thing that really matters is that you are bringing your best.
The real goal is showing up and bringing YOUR best to whatever the situation presents!
This definitely struck a chord with me. My divorce settlement has included several years of alimony. This is, in part, to allow me to regroup and to re engage in the workplace, as I am transitioning to supporting myself again. Although I have been happily engaged in daily work (that in many ways connects to my values), I have this undertow that is pulling me down with the knowledge that I am not stepping into action and pursuing a calling that would allow me to both support AND tap into the next, higher version of myself. In the last few years, I have taken a few steps in this direction…each time becoming frozen by the internal voices questioning my added value.
How many times are any of us close to stepping into the potential of our greatness -and yet, are paralyzed by this riptide of questioning ourselves and believing that somebody else could probably do it better?
Listening to the interview, I realized I am Seth out in that ocean feeling that tug of the undertow! The time has come to stop wasting my energy and questioning if someone else might have a better race time, or a more graceful stroke and to just —-start —-swimming.
Maybe it won’t pan out exactly as I’ve hoped. But, instead of merely giving in to the undertow, I am going to swim like hell and give it my personal best to get to the shore! I am going to remind myself, when I hear that familiar, snarky voice- “Who are YOU to do this?”-that I am the only person who CAN do this…the only person who can contribute what I alone can uniquely contribute.
So, instead of asking “Who are you to do this?” I’m going to ask:
“Who are you NOT to do this?”
Elizabeth Young is a two-time modern elder from Hanover, NH. Journaling, writing and poetry are a few of the ways she drops into that sacred place of essence. She is feeling the undertow and has made the decision to do whatever it takes to swim to the shore!