July 09, 2015

Finding clarity in the climb

Find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.” - Maya Angelou

No one can be more human than you.

I have these words etched in black ink along the bone of my left forearm. These eight little words remind me not to compare myself to others. Along this path of self-designed education, I often stand in rooms with others I once thought were giants--people with more experience, denser resumes, and degrees from far more expensive universities. One thing I continue to internalize throughout this year is that I am forging my own path and, by definition, that means I cannot rely on the steps of others to tell me how far I’ve gone.

I recall reading an article back in the spring of 2014 on how to stop feeling like a fraud. It described how even some of the greatest talents in various industries feel that they don’t belong. At this particular point in life, I had been accepted into George Washington University’s Master’s program, I was not accepted into Teach for America, I was preparing my application for Experience Institute, and was working at a company with great people, all while knowing I had set in motion plans to leave. All the uncertainty for what the near future was going to bring translated into feelings of self-doubt. This doubt was multiplied as I looked at the paths taken by the people whose work I admired and began thinking, how do I get from here to there?

Fast forward to today, I cannot say that the number of paths that lie before me have decreased, or that the vision for my future is more precise; I still go through people’s bios and LinkedIn profiles to see how they have made their climb. What has changed is my relationship with doubt and uncertainty and the clarity in which I see myself. My doubts reveal themselves as fear and that fear tells me I’m at the edge of the knowledge I have of myself. If what I’m doing doesn’t scare me as much as it makes me happy, I’m not allowing myself to be whole. This acceptance of fear and uncertainty has given me the freedom to find clarity in my ability to learn and adapt.

Back to the article about feeling like a fraud. It gives great methods for stemming self-doubt like listing your accomplishments, scaling small mountains, and creating a circle of power.

Want to know my favorite method?

Celebrate others. Especially working in a space full of great people working for good, you’ll find the act is reciprocated. Instead of comparing paths, take time to acknowledge and appreciate the greatness of others and watch how this builds a bridge for them to see the greatness in you. What better form of empowerment than praise from someone whose work you appreciate?

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