Stop. This isn’t the ‘Why Me’ you’re thinking of.
This question may conjure up images of a whiney teenager, bemoaning their life circumstances or first world problems. Or it may be a reflection of that Facebook friend you have (you know the one) who airs out their ‘why my life sucks’ laundry online.
Not that ‘Why Me.’
The ‘Why Me’ question that has come up as of late is more about why we are, for lack of a better word, ‘called,’ or ‘inspired’ to do what we do, especially when we are paralyzed by that moment of doubt that makes us feel we can’t actually do it at all. It may also come up when an opportunity knocks at our doorstep beyond what we feel we are ‘qualified’ for, beyond our ‘expertise,’ or our comfort zone:
‘Why me? Why this? Why now? What on earth do I know or have to share?’
Can anyone see us and value us as being more than just our credentials, our current job title, or the fit-onto-one-page-please summary of our experience?
And for the ‘young’uns’ reading this, that question of ‘how many people see my youth as lack of experience; maybe not in education, but in life?’ I recall an ‘older’ friend of mine once lamenting the fact that so many young people were becoming ‘life coaches’ — ‘What person in their 50s and 60s wants to learn about how to live life from a 20 or 30-something year old who has barely lived yet?!’ That was his argument. There are, however, some exceptional men and women who attain incredible and admirable goals by the time they hit 25. Whether it’s starting a successful business or winning Olympic medals, heck, who wouldn’t be up to learning something (at any age!) about how to actively pursue your dreams and attain them? None of us is perfect, no matter how old or how young we are, and we all have something to learn from each other.
I realized today that this, ‘Why Me’ — this questioning of our value, worth, expertise, skill, talent or gift — is a manifestation of what is often referred to as our Inner Critic. We all have him, or her, or it. (My most current critic’s image is reminiscent of a snooty French waiter in a cartoon. I’ll call him Maurice.) When I give Maurice the chance, he turns up his nose at my ideas, or the irons I have in the fire, and whisper-spits into my ear:
There are millions of yoga teachers in this world. Everybody’s doing it. Who cares how long you’ve been making shapes on a mat, or that you took the trainings you took. (Hmm, now that I think of it, you might need more…) There are people who know way more than you, and will always know more than you, no matter how much you study, or read, or practice. Doesn’t teaching make you nervous? That’s a yicky feeling… maybe it’s best to leave it up to the others who approach it with confidence, ease and a brain full of sanskrit and anatomy.
But he doesn’t stop here. I have neglected my blog as of late, even though thoughts and stories have been plentiful…
Writing? Come on. Instead of taking creative writing classes in school to show people you have HARD SKILLS as a writer, you took a class about the Rolling Stones! And Art for Children! And Dance! Sure, they were options you needed to graduate, but you’re not a “writer.” Just liking to write whatever comes to you doesn’t make you so. Furthermore, does anyone really care what you think? Or what you’ve experienced? Everyone’s a blogger. Stick to your journal. No one needs to read that.
Luckily, I’ve begun to see my history with Maurice more clearly. I think he had his hayday during most of my teens and 20s (bless those times). As I continue to grow, I have made a commitment to not let him speak as often, or promptly cut him off JUST BEFORE he gets the chance to talk me out of doing that thing that I am excitedly fearful of, or see big potential in.
When we leave space for our critics (living or imaginary) to get more airtime, they can say things to us that, if we said them to our loved ones, would sting hard. Wouldn’t we, instead, remind them of why they are perfect for the job/opportunity/challenge/dream? And not just because of the credentials they may have earned in that particular field, but because of the inherent gifts they were born with, and the fact that who they are holds more value than we could put a dollar amount on.
Whenever I get asked to prove my “worth” or competence through my credentials, I am so reluctant to define who I am solely through what I’ve done. My university degree is a BFA in Drama — one that I am proud of and worked incredibly hard to get, not just by writing papers and reading textbooks, but through hard mental, physical, emotional, creative work. The ‘Drama Kids’ in my life are some of the most creative, hard-working, thoughtful, kind, passionate, incredible people I know. In fact, they are just as talented, hard-working, thoughtful, kind and amazing as the ‘NON-Drama Kids’ who followed more ‘straightforward’ paths. These paths certainly aren’t without their own challenges — whether you’re a musician, a doctor, an engineer, or a circus performer, everyone meets obstacles in their learning and growth. Everyone meets indecision of where to go and what to do with their lives. Everyone doubts whether they have what it takes to do what they do, and to do it well. I have had this conversation about ‘being qualified’ with people who have much more than the ‘minimum requirement’ of education one would expect to make an ‘expert.’
For all of our stressing out, I don’t know a single person who is ‘unqualified’ for doing what they do. In fact, because of that pairing of all the things they have studied with their natural gifts and talents, some are grossly overqualified.
In a perfect world, we do what we do — whether that’s for work, or for play, or both — because it lights us up. Who wants to be a miserable lump full-time? We’re not asking to be special, or famous — unless that’s what you really want. The Royal We (or maybe just the We I’ve had this conversation with) is asking to be recognized for what we have to offer to the world beyond all the learning we did in school, or the trainings we took, and all the letters that could follow our names. We want to be seen for the passion in our hearts, the sparkle in our eyes, and the conviction in our words because we believe that we have a positive mark to make on our planet. We love when someone gets behind us fully because they believe in what we’ve got to share, and who we are. What makes us qualified to face the opportunities and challenges that are placed before us is the fact that we invest everything we have, and take big risks, to make those things a reality; that we build the bridges to get there, and that upon our arrival, though we may we hear the muffled sounds of our critics in the background, we do something not everyone can muster the courage to do…
We follow our hearts anyway.
This isn’t to say that we should be cocky about what we DO know. Part of growing is acknowledging what we need to learn. If anything, my recent movement towards teaching has been more humbling (and uplifting and rewarding) than I could have imagined. But sometimes, we don’t get time to be ready. We get a few tips from the well-meaning coach before they throw us off the deep-end.
Spluttering and coughing, we find our bearings, get comfortable in the water, and learn to swim.
Is this the end of asking ‘Why Me?’ Probably not. All of us, young or young at heart, may continue to ask this question every day of our lives, with each new opportunity that arises, with each new dream that floats into our seeming realm of possibility. But more than that, we would be wise to recognize when to let the question “Why do this?” fade, and feel the depth of the quiet answer rising from our hearts:
“Because it’s what brings me to life.”