By Michelle Fox, Member Blog Contributor
When I was in second grade, I beat a boy to become the fastest person in my class. His name was Mike Schmidt. Mike and I would often compete during recess for fun. Sometimes he would win and sometimes I would. It was usually playful. When he would win he would shrug as if to say, “Of course I won, I’m a boy.” When I won our friends would tease that he just got beat by a girl. It was always fun, until it wasn’t.
Toward the end of the school year we had a Field Day. There were three-legged races, egg tosses and frisbee throws to compete in. None of these mattered as I woke up that morning focused on one thing: the 100-yard race.
On your marks…get set…go! Mike beat me off of the line. I could see him out of the corner of my left eye. I immediately turned my focus to the finish line. Our friends were cheering us both on. My adrenaline was racing. I pulled up to him and then proceeded to pass him at the half way mark.
Ten yards…five yards…finish line… I WON! I beat the fastest boy in our class. I felt an immediate sense of pride. He sulked and I sensed that I won something more than an athletic feat. I won a feeling of dominance. This sensation was intoxicating.
Not only did that win come with bragging rights at school, but it came with pride and adoration from my parents. As high achievers themselves, Mom and Dad expected me to be a high achiever as well. Their expectations came to fruition.
In my educational experience, I went on to win positions in Student Council, the National Honor Society, and the Spelling Bee Championship. Later I achieved Captain of the Varsity Cheerleading squad and the Colorado State record for the 100-meter dash in Track and Field.
For all of those achievements I was rewarded with praise, accolades and a propensity for assumed leadership. The message that I received was that my value came from my accomplishments.
That had a relatively positive impact as a child when my wins came easily. However, there are no longer blue ribbons and gold stars to encourage me to reach for more. I noticed that as my outward achievements waned over the years, my self-esteem plummeted as well. So now, where do I look for my accolades?
In my second act, I am being pushed to look at my wins in a different way. At the age of 47, it is now abundantly clear that there is a certain emptiness in outside validation. I have been rewarded in certain ways, but it has always been fleeting.
In my twenties I remember listening to Oprah proclaim that after she turned 40 she cared so much less about what others thought of her. “The best thing about growing older, you begin growing into more of yourself and more of who you are and were meant to be and stop living your life out of “ego” for other people.”
I held tight to those words as I so badly craved that kind of confidence. It appeared Oprah had a certain freedom that I wanted.
Fast forward to when I turned 40 and I got it! I learned to celebrate more intrinsic wins vs. outward accomplishments. I walked the dog at 5am. Check! I crossed off 4 of the 5 items on my to-do list for the day. Nicely done! I created a new delicious dish for dinner. Crushing it!
This journey of self-acceptance vs. outside validation is a work in progress. However, here are a few nuggets that have helped my self-confidence grow by leaps and bounds over time.
Yoga is the one constant that I can return to which balances out my body, my mind and my spirit. When I attend a class, I always have the option to play full-out or to retreat with no judgment. Yoga is a safe space where I get to practice appreciation for my body and for my life. I am the only one who has control over which part of me I want to explore in any moment.
Creativity, intuition, and community are all used to describe the divine feminine. I identify as female in a female body, so when I am moving through life in my female energy, I feel most alive and most myself. The divine masculine (assertiveness, linear planning, independence) is an equally beneficial energy in my experience, but I have to stay mindful of balancing this energy or I will feel depleted if I do not give the majority of my attention to the qualities of the divine feminine. Creating a dream board in the company of other women? Yes please!
Forgiveness. In my transition from achievement to acceptance, I have chosen to forgive the self-judgements that I carried about being less-than. I now know that I am exactly who and where I need to be. Winning a physical trophy pales in comparison to knowing that my value is derived from the love that I give and receive.
So now it is your turn to look in the mirror. Can you remember the first time in your life where you felt like a badass? Would you consider bringing more of that part of you into this new year?
I encourage you to look at new ways to celebrate YOU.
Did you get the kids to school on time this morning? Did you rock your proposal? Did you make someone smile on the elevator? It all counts! I would love to hear from you in the Comments.
One of the wonderful parts about being in this community is that we can celebrate each other. Please know that I am celebrating you – for all of the ways you are showing up in the world and me – for doing the same.
All of my love,
Michelle Fox is a mom to one and bonus mom to two, wife, friend, yogi, spiritual healer and occasional chef. She is also passionate about helping women build wealth through social media. You can find Michelle on socials @michellefoxlove or at www.michellefox.com.