What You Believe About Yourself Is A Lie

2011 October 15

“I’m here to talk about ___,” I say with a big smile.

“And I see you’ve brought alcohol,” one of the men at the booth remarked, noting the glass of wine in my hand.

“Well, you didn’t think I’d just leave it on the counter at my booth, did you? You know who I work with. There’s no way it would be there when I got back!”

A round of hearty chuckles and I’m in.

I spent last week at a trade show/conference/big giant thing. I spent four straight days smiling, answering questions, brokering introductions, laughing at lame jokes, reciting specs and trying to avoid getting food stuck in my teeth. And networking, so much networking.

Somewhere along the way, we learn and internalize truths about ourselves. You got teased for being the tallest girl in fifth grade, so even though you topped out at 5’7” (fifth grade was the beginning and end of your growth spurt), you still think of yourself as a giant and can’t help slouching. Or your brother was a varsity basketball player, so you’ve always considered yourself the non-athletic sibling. You give up on the idea of training for a marathon, because how would a couch potato like you even go about something like that?

Maybe someone teased us or reprimanded us or we once got food poisoning at a Mexican restaurant and are now convinced we hate garlic with every fiber of our being, but somehow we came to define ourselves in certain ways and we rarely stop to question whether these truths are still accurate or were ever really true to begin with.

I’m not terrible at networking. I’m actually quite good at it. I can be charming and engaging and ask pertinent questions and speak knowledgeably about my industry. But it’s more convenient to tell myself that I’m a terrible networker because that lets me off the hook. I’m so terrible at it that I shouldn’t even bother wasting all that energy on trying. I should probably just head back to the hotel and watch episodes of Alan Partridge on my laptop, right?

The wrong-headed things we believe about ourselves provide us with an easy out – I am this. I have always been this. I will always be this. Being that is impossible and out of the question.

Give yourself a little homework assignment today right now. Write down five or ten characteristics or traits that you don’t like about yourself or that have a negative connotation to you. Then list the first time you became aware of each trait. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised at how far back some of the explanations go and how trivial the supporting evidence seems when compared to the influence you’ve let it have in defining your self-image ever since.

Are you really going to keep letting one failed HS calculus test have the power to define your relationship with math and prop up your “inability” to balance a checkbook?

It’s time to tell the truth.

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