This might get weird. I’m just gonna put that out here, right up front. I’ve been in an especially reflective mood lately, and I’m pulling this post from that painfully honest well. Because something’s been on my mind. A series of questions, actually…
When did I start second guessing my every move?
Why have I become so self-critical?
When did I turn into a walking apology?
Maybe I’m alone in this. I dunno. But somehow I’ve let toxic self-sabotage become my go-to move. And I need to shake it off. These days, over and over, I find myself thinking…
You’re too emotional.
You’re too easily played.
You’re too naive.
You’re not smart enough.
You’re not tough enough.
You’re not good enough at this game.
And on and on and on. Yes, it’s good to reflect and push yourself. And a healthy dose of self-doubt is an extremely useful thing. Without at least a little of it, it’s almost impossible to grow. But too much? Too much, and there’s no room for growth at all. Instead, there’s only room for the echo of self-destructive thought.
I think it hit me tonight, when I was driving home from an especially long day at work. Tonight, on a long stretch of highway, I had the music cranked up as I was listening to Pharrell’s Happy. And you know what? I was singing along and acting completely goofy and un-ironic and just being… unapologetically happy. I was just being myself, feeling good like no one was watching, no apology necessary. And yanno what? It was great.
All that toxic self-talk had completely disappeared.
And on that cloud of joy-for-no-reason, I came home and reread a recent interview with Pharrell in Red Bulletin. And over and over, he talks about emotion and the power of human feeling and how hard he works to listen and stay open to it as he creates new things. Without apology, he acknowledged this empathy and emotion, and his inability to push it aside. He owns it not as a weakness, but as a strength. A strength that fuels everything he does:
“…Always shooting for that and using feeling as a compass. We are so dismissive of our feelings. Yet…our feelings can lead us to do really crazy things or really amazing things…”
“…Steve Jobs. He so genuinely bought that product to the world; it is called a computer. But we are human, and that is what a computer will never be able to do is feel. That is what makes us the superior species of this planet…”
“…When I realized that thinking is not my path and feeling is for me, I started to realize that people are so dismissive about other people’s feelings…Ferraris, jewelry, all of those things mean nothing…You can’t take that when you go. You take your feelings with you and your experiences that gave you those feelings. That is the wealth, man. An experience. The coolest thing that you talk about is your trip where you went and you had a good time. The first thing you talk about it in terms of description, “Man, it was awesome.”
I’m no creative genius like Pharrell, but I think he might be on to something. Maybe our weaknesses are also our strengths. Sure, I should still try to hone my critical thinking skills, but maybe, I don’t need to dismiss the core of who I am. Maybe I need to embrace it. Maybe I need to flip that thought loop until it sounds more like…
I’m empathic enough to care deeply about others.
I’m optimistic enough to stay open to possibility.
I’m forgiving enough to look past flaws and shortcomings.
I’m headstrong enough to take chances.
I’m resilient enough to ante up, again and again.
I’ve got enough heart to know which games really matter.
So if I’m not alone, and you’re feeling self-critical, this is my long-winded way of passing it along to you: whatever your weakness is, no matter what your critical thought loop says, the flaws in you are probably also your biggest strengths. Be you, and no one else. Be you and work it, baby.
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…