A young woman I worked with last week told me three thoughts that kept playing in her head like a tape:
I’m not special.
I’m not good at anything.
It would be better if I were just dead.
Listening to those voices took her down a familiar path to depression and self-destructive behavior. She admitted the suicidal thoughts were mostly directed at attracting the attention of a guy she’d been dating who now ignored her. Maybe if she didn’t exist, he’d finally notice. And that would somehow mean she’d gotten him back – so she could feel like she was worth something again.
I proposed another path.
I asked if she could formulate counter-voices to answer those tapes.
She said it was hard.
The best she could come up with was:
I’m a nice person.
I’m a good friend.
It didn’t seem like much. But it was a start.
In fact, those two observations represent some sort of universal human bedrock. The beginning of everything else.
You can’t achieve anything in life – anything meaningful – unless you like yourself. That means believing in yourself, and considering yourself someone worth being.
It begins with sitting down with yourself – just as you would with anyone else – and deciding you’re someone worth having as a friend.
A person worth having as a friend is someone who tells you the truth, and holds a connection with you. Someone who is real.
This young woman told me she is a nice person, and a good friend. And she likes people who are nice people, and good friends. We all do. That’s the basic bedrock – when everything else, all the clutter, is cleared away – it’s why you like another person.
Where do you go from there? Anywhere.
This young woman’s favorite performer happens to be Lady Gaga.
If you look at Lady Gaga’s biography, one prominent fact jumps out at you: it didn’t have to happen.
There was never any guarantee that Stefani Germanotta was going to become a humongous pop sensation. Actually, it seemed next-to-impossible. Somehow or other she found the strength to ignore all the nay-sayers – and the odds – to drop out of college, and work night and day at her song-writing and performing. She also followed her heart to create an outrageous persona, locate the wildest conceivable costumes and pull off something new.
Obviously, we can’t all become Lady Gaga. She’s a talented musician, dancer and performer, and most of us are not.
But you can take a page from her playbook – and believe in yourself.
My young patient reminds me a bit of her hero. She is delightfully unconventional, with pink hair and tattoos and a stunning eye for outre fashion.
If she can learn to take another path, away from self-attack and towards self-acceptance, there’s no knowing where she’ll end up and what she’ll accomplish – the possibilities are endless.
You can’t create talents and aptitudes – you’re born with those.
But you can learn to believe in yourself, and nurture and support the talents and aptitudes you have.
Like every single person on this Earth, you are an original work of art.
Your life can be a work of art, too.
It starts with giving yourself a chance.
So go ahead – stop beating yourself up.
If it worked for Stefani Germanotta, it might work for you.
Get in touch with your inner Gaga.