“I’ve read your post, and it resonates more than you know. And it made me feel better. What you put out there matters, thank you for sharing, you’re doing something really good.” I still can’t even believe that I received comments like this after launching Figuring Forward last week. I’d like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to message me and let me know that my sharing my story helped you in some way. Your reactions moved me to (happy) tears. Because there are two reasons I started FF; to help myself by writing it, and to help others by reading it. It turns out, though, that finding your voice and changing your internal narrative is not as easy as it may sound.
Full disclosure: it’s been a struggle to find words this week. Because even though the feedback on my first posts was more positive and more powerful than I could ever have dreamed of, other people and my inner voice have been telling me very different things. It’s funny, isn’t it? People can wax lyrical about your positive qualities, but if you don’t truly believe in yourself that those qualities exist, all the external validation in the world won’t make you feel any better about yourself. “You’re not good enough. You’re not important. No one will care. You can’t post that. That looks rubbish. It’s already been said and done, by people much cleverer than you. Don’t even bother.” Does that voice sound familiar? I know that I’m far from alone in hearing its siren call. So, I wanted to share some other, positive voices which have helped me recently.
Finding Your Voice
This recent discussion between Dhru Purohit and the poet and rapper IN-Q helped me hugely to write the first chapter in Figuring Forward. It was a timely reminder that you shouldn’t wait to start until you’re ready. All there is is the present moment – there will never be a perfect one. And if you’re wondering how to start finding your voice, the question you should consider is: “How can you find something if you don’t start searching for it?” That journey is a lifelong one; finding your voice is a never-ending process, because that voice is always changing. It’s also an internal process; although we’re all conditioned to seek external validation, you have to quiet the noise around you to be able to listen to your own, true voice.
That desire for external validation often holds us back from starting that journey to finding our own voices. We fear that it’s all been said and done before; that’s a very real fear of mine when it comes to Figuring Forward. But here’s the message I took from this podcast. Everyone is going through something, and yes, our collective human experiences are very, comfortingly similar. But we are all unique. Nobody can say it or do it like you can, because nobody has gone through exactly what you have. And you never know who needs to hear what you’re saying, when and where you’re saying it. That was true of me when I listened to this conversation, and it seems to have been true for some readers of my first post. When we speak and share our truths, we open up to our collective experiences, and the meaning that we ascribe to them.
Changing Your Mind
The other idea that spoke to me in this podcast was that while it’s normal to be afraid of your pain and problems, you can turn your kryptonite into your superpower by embracing and owning your issues. That’s how we can work to change them, and form new ways of thinking and behaving. As strange as it may sound, I believe that being open and vulnerable about my issues will help me to accept and to own them. Creating those positive changes is what I’m working on in cognitive behavioural therapy. I have to choose to believe differently; that I am worthy, and that I do have something valuable to say. Easier said than done; but if I want to help others to think and act differently, I have to start by doing that myself.
As a companion to CBT, I’m working through this book on how to overcome low self-esteem, which I can highly recommend. Its central premise is that those of us with low self-esteem have a ‘bottom line’ – a negative core belief about ourselves – which holds us stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour. By identifying and questioning your core beliefs, you can learn self-acceptance, and to write a new bottom line. That’s my goal; to learn to accept myself as I am, good and bad, and to recognise my intrinsic worth as a human being. When you start to question your self-critical thoughts and inner voice, you can start to write a new narrative. But CBT is not just based on thoughts. You’ll only achieve results through taking action to change your behaviour. As you build confidence in your new behaviours, it’s that which in turn will change your beliefs and thought patterns.
So, I’ve realised that the only way for me to start figuring forward is to take action. While learning is important, it’s how you put that learning into action that matters most. And what I’ve learned this week is just how many people are going through similar challenges to me, and how sharing our stories can help each other. I’m no expert in any of this; all most of us can do is be an expert in ourselves. But we all pass through similar storms, and if sharing my story helps others, I’m sure that sharing more stories will help more people.
Creating connection and community feels more vital than ever right now. And I want to help to create meaningful change and community around being healthier and happier. I’m going to write more about this in today’s newsletter, and share some ideas and questions around creating a FF community; if you’re not already signed up, you can do so below.
Whether or not you choose to join that conversation, since my first post seemed to resonate with so many people, I’ll leave you with a reminder for anyone who needs to read it. Whatever you’re going through, please know this: you are not alone, you are worthy, you are important, you are enough. Exactly as you are. I hope that you can find yourself saying that in your own voice, too.