The source of my deepest inner work has been sharing my writing with the world. Publicly sharing my work shines a light onto all of my insecurities. It highlights where I feel inadequate and scared. It also shows me my own strength. My bravery, honesty, and empathy.
Whether you write, make pottery, decorate homes — sharing your hard work with others is vulnerable. It can feel like you’re baring your soul; standing naked in front of the world. It’s scary. It’s liberating. It’s brave.
Reading the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, forever shifted the way I thought about putting my work into the world. The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best, really stuck with me.
“Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best– no more and no less than your best. If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself. It will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.”The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.
When you do your best; when you do what you love; when you have good intentions — it doesn’t matter what anyone says or thinks. Doing your best strengthens your relationship with yourself. You like you. When you live life in a way you’re proud of, you can never truly fail.
It Doesn’t Matter if People Like It or Not
When I started my blog last year, I relied heavily on external validation. I didn’t mean to, but I put my heart into my writing. I just wanted people to like it. Getting a compliment or encouragement was like receiving oxygen.
I don’t judge myself for it. I think wanting validation is normal when you’re doing something for the first time. You’ve never done this thing before, you’re unsure of yourself; so, of course getting a thumbs up makes you feel like you’re gliding on air.
However, I became a bit of a prisoner to social media. I checked obsessively. I knew it was the best vehicle to promote my blog and I put a lot of effort into my posts, so yeah, I wanted people to read them. But I didn’t always get a lot of “likes” or clicks to my website, which deflated me.
’12 likes? Only five people looked at my post? C’mon! I thought this one was really good,’ I’d think to myself.
In retrospect, I realize that you’ve gotta start somewhere. It’s unrealistic to start a blog and think within the first month you’re going to have hundreds of people going to your website every day and 10,000 Instagram followers!
So, I had to reframe things for myself. I love writing. I love helping people. I didn’t want my reasons for doing to be dictated by if people liked my work or not. I realized three things that really kicked my addiction to external validation to the curb:
- The fact that I’m consistently writing on the side of my full-time job is a feat and I’m proud of myself for it. I’m pleased with myself for sticking with it and doing something for the pure joy of it.
- I genuinely want to make a difference in people’s lives. I want to inspire, uplift, and encourage people. I used to get down on myself that I wasn’t reaching more people until I started reciting this mantra to myself, “I trust I’ll reach the people I’m meant to reach.” That’s enough for me.
- If I feel proud of the work I’m putting into the world, that’s what matters. If I know what I’m writing is true, meaningful, and a creative act from my heart, I’m satisfied.
These realizations have set me free. I could have three “likes” or 3,000 “likes.” It doesn’t change the fact that I’m proud of what I’ve created.
“Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action.”The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.
Truly Living Means Taking Action
Are you doing something new and feeling uncomfortable as hell? Please give yourself a pat on the back. Have a glass of wine. Treat yourself. I’m proud of you.
Trying something new is so intimidating. Most people avoid new challenges because they’re scared; they don’t know if they’ll be any good so they just stay in their comfort zone.
Let’s be real. It’s much easier to sit on the couch and watch hours of Netflix than it is to act on that idea you’ve always had, or to volunteer like you’ve been saying you want to, or to make that phone call you’re scared to make.
We’re all afraid. It never feels awesome to do something new and unknown. But, the biggest difference between people who live a life they’re proud of and those who say they want to, but don’t, is the willingness to take action.
Seriously, the people who actually do things aren’t just way braver, they’re just willing to be uncomfortable. They’re willing to feel stupid. They’re willing to fail. They’re willing to do things imperfectly.
We Don’t Need To Be Perfect Before We Act
I think the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we need to be perfect before we act.
We say things like, “I can’t apply for that new role at work until I get a little better at these skills. I can’t start my business until my website looks perfect. I can’t write a book until I have at least 100,000 followers.“
Says who? If you wait to be perfect, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life. As Cathy Heller, author of the book Don’t Keep Your Day Job, always says: take messy action!
It pains me that we’re so often stuck in the same old life with the same old complaints, but we don’t do anything about it. Life is ticking along, day by day, without you taking action. There isn’t going to be a fairy godmother who sprinkles dust on you one morning and says, “Now you’re perfect. Now you’re ready.”
So, when you’ve gathered the gusto to try something new and you’re feeling totally exposed and weird and sucky, validate yourself. Remind yourself that you’re awesome and badass for even trying.
“Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward.”The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.
Living a life you’re proud of means getting in the ring, giving it your best, every single day, no matter what.