Stop trying to prove yourself

I felt like a child standing on the diving board above the swimming pool. In reality I was at work, sitting in a marketing meeting discussing the rollout of a new project. I had stopped listening to the presenter because of a distracting inner voice that was practically screaming for attention.

“Mom! Dad! Look at me! Look! Are you watching? Do you want to see me dive in?” it shouted. “Are you sure you’re watching?” it reiterated as if waiting for confirmation from my invisible parents.

The situations, while seemingly different, both stem from the same basic need. A part of me was crying out for attention, wanting to prove myself to my peers. I felt unable to concentrate in the meeting, wanting others to know of my great experience on the subject we were discussing. Certainly I had more knowledge of the project than anyone else. Why couldn’t they see it?

I couldn’t see it myself.

In this particular instance, my experience wasn’t needed. In fact, decisions had already been made and we were simply being informed of the outcomes. Yes, I could spot the flaws in the plan. Yes, I could see where improvements could be made. Yet it was only when I stopped and reflected on the meeting that I saw what was really bothering me: I wanted to be acknowledged.

The need for acknowledgement is a powerful force in our lives, driving us to achieve and “do” more and more. In fact, as I looked around the room, I could see the effects of this powerful force in vivid detail. There was an abundance of people with advanced education at the table. Some had come from other successful businesses; some had been with the company for years. Many looked tired and run down, the byproduct of working long hours and overtime on the new project. Everywhere I looked was a hardworking employee, trying desperately to be acknowledged and rewarded. Each of them was trying to prove themselves.

This approach to business and to life has been with us for some time but seems to be increasing in our world. The economy has tightened the job market, causing many people to be watchful of their employment. Others who are out of work are desperately trying to find jobs while many retirees are returning to work to make ends meet.

The economy isn’t the only culprit in this game. Our culture, especially in the United States, is causing people to seek more and more. Athletes are supposed to be faster, leaner and make more money than their earlier counterparts. Musicians are supposed to sell multi-platinum albums. And even the average citizen is swept up in the daily pursuit to have the fastest computer, best smartphone and newest car.

We seek these things—status, possessions, fame, and money—in order to prove our own worth. We feel that that we don’t measure up to anyone else unless we are maintaining or surpassing the lifestyle of our peers. We can no longer see through the possessions, through the fame and through the struggle to keep up. If we did, we might just get a glimpse of how wonderful we really are.

What does it mean to “be”?

One of my favorite summertime activities is to go stargazing at my mountain cabin.  Far away from the light pollution of the city, the night sky comes alive. Billions of stars and planets shine and twinkle for my wondrous eyes as I try to come to terms with the vastness of the universe I’m witnessing. As I look up, I’m always struck at the perfect “rightness” of the world and my place in it.

The ego is like light pollution, keeping us from seeing the wonder of our own spirit. As our primary protector, the ego wants us to grow and succeed but it wants to do so on its terms. When threatened, the ego hardens and becomes wary of others. It pushes us to go further and relax less in order to reach our goals. The ego aligns closely with the intellect, convinced that the path to happiness lies in hard work, suffering and empty achievements.

Learning how to “be” is like turning down a dial on the ego. As the ego becomes softer and we become more attuned to the present moment, we can start to experience the magnificence of the inner self.  “Being” is synonymous with “accepting,” that sublime state of existence where we realize how perfect we really are. “Being” is understanding that we already “are” everything we want to be. All we need to do is learn how to see it clearly.

Softening the ego

Uncovering your own miraculous self is a little like exercise. You have to work at it at first, flexing muscles that have atrophied and building your endurance. It can be done and the rewards are stunning.

First, you must understand your own rightness and your own perfection. Your existence in this universe gives you that by birthright. As we age, we take on the pollution of others. We’re told we’re not good enough; we compare ourselves to those who have more; and we cover up the inner self with doubt, fear and jealousy.

In this instance, you may have to rely on faith to kick-start your understanding. Also, spending time in nature may help remind you of your own glory. As you see and experience the beauty of the natural world, you begin to get a sense of your own connectedness and therefore your own uniqueness.

Next, you must stop trying to prove yourself in every situation. Yes, there are times when it’s important to let the ego take control, like during a job interview when you’re putting your best foot forward. Overall, however, you’re fighting a losing battle by trying to constantly prove yourself.

When you’re comfortable with your own being, you radiate a vibration that tells the world, “I am enough!” It’s a powerful, magnetic vibration. It needs no proof of its existence. Your own true self will pull to it the people and experiences you need to grow and it will happen with less effort than you ever thought possible.

You need to understand yourself in order to uncover your own uniqueness. What makes you excited? What angers you? What makes you feel alive? When you stop trying to please others or be something you’re not, you start living authentically. When you stop trying to keep up with others, you’re living authentically. That authenticity carves out a specific groove made just for you. Happiness and fulfillment are yours when you dance through life in your own groove. Following your impulses helps you discover what makes you, you.

Lastly, it’s important to remind yourself of your uniqueness and value every single day. The pollution of the ego can creep up on you and cover up your shining light. Taking a few quiet moments of solitude each day and purposely remembering your glory keeps the ego more flexible. And, the reflection will help the subconscious remind you throughout the day how truly wonderful you are.

Just underneath the surface of your ego is an authentic self that has as much beauty, as much power and as much awe as the night sky. You are a natural extension of the universe. Prove yourself to no one…you don’t need to. Stop pushing, start accepting and see how the real you comes out to play. The universe is watching.