In Downtown Los Angeles Boris woke up with that gnawing feeling in his stomach. He hadn’t slept well. In fact he had tossed and turned all night, wondering if his latest assignment on thermo-nuclear dynamics would be good enough to get that ‘A’ grade he needed to give him a shot at going to Harvard.
“Mum!” he shouted from behind the cosiness of his protective fleecy bedspread, “Can you read through something for me?” He knew that it made no sense because his Mum actually knew nothing about the topic, but at least she’d know if it was good enough – she always did.
Meanwhile, the same day, but of course in a different time zone, Sally was about to go to a networking breakfast in Perth, Australia and give her ‘elevator pitch’ – that spiel you give to Richard Branson when you’re stuck in a lift with him and hoping not to break wind as you proffer the dream business proposal that he has been awaiting throughout his entire unrequited life.
Her stomach was already growling at the thought of it. “All those eyes will be looking at me. What if they find out that I’m not as good as I appear?” She looked in the bathroom mirror, wiped an imaginary speck away from her mascara and called out to her husband, who was still curled up in bed waiting for the snooze button on his alarm clock to go off. “John, she said, in a voice that somehow wasn’t her own, “Can I run through my pitch again and you tell me if it’s ok?”
Have you ever woken up one morning and thought about why you sometimes feel the need to check with other people about why you want to do a certain thing and whether that’s the right thing to do?
If you have done that, you’ll know that it often makes no sense. The person you’re asking may not know anything about the subject – they may not even care about the outcome, and yet we still do it. Why?
It’s because we’re looking for that reassurance, that safety blanket on a dark and stormy night; that validation of ourselves that can only come from an external and somehow trusted source.
Boris could hand in his assignment and tell himself in his mother’s voice now that it was good enough. More than that though, she could reassure him that HE was good enough.
Sally could stand up at the breakfast meeting, and protect herself from the invasive gazes of 14 sets of eyes with the shield of encouragement provided by a half-awakened John who had been more focused on his morning ablution ritual than on the trite mumblings of his ‘girl-powered’ wife.
Strangely enough, when Boris’s lecturer marked his assignment, he didn’t even notice the paragraph that the acne-ridden youth had agonised over. Sure, he made a few critical remarks about other sections, some of which irked our hero beyond belief, but overall the armchair critic adjudged him worthy of a pass with merit, with no marks deducted for pimples at all. Boris had disturbed his own sleep patterns for nothing really.
Sally had made an incredible impact at breakfast, though not in the way she had expected. A veritable array of industrial experts had in turn delivered their stumbling and shaky verbal business advertisements, which had been wasted on Sally because she was so busy rehearsing her own speech in her own head that she had hardly taken in a word of the other ‘spoutings’.
As she arose from her chair, magnificent and polished, with every morsel of mascara intact and aligned, her hand caught her coffee saucer, causing the cup to leap into the air like a Houston rocket and splatter the nervously unconsumed remnants of brown fluid all over her DKNY blouse. With every attempt at self-mopping and every “Oh, you poor thing” from the audience, Sally’s perfectly prepared script had oozed its way out of the rosy-redness of her blushing head. When the mopping stopped and the speech began, she had forgotten every word, so she did what she had no other option but to do – she winged it.
As Sally finished delivering her totally unrehearsed substitute blurb, the strangest of things happened…
Sally received a thunderous ovation, not to mention a couple of cheers and some stereo-typical Aussie “Good on ya’s!”
Later that day, had you asked any of the audience what Sally actually said, they would have confessed with a slightly pained expression that they couldn’t exactly remember, but that she had spilt her coffee (poor girl), but recovered brilliantly and given a hugely uplifting and authentic pitch. John had of course claimed the credit for all that helpful rehearsing he had helped her with in the bathroom that morning whilst reiterating that he had never doubted in her ability for a single moment.
So, what did Boris and Sally have in common? And what do they have in common with you and me?
We all spend way too much of our lives wondering if we’ll be good enough. When the two school team captains are picking their teams, one at a time, from the nervously trembling pack of children, we’re all hoping that we’ll be considered good enough, that we won’t be the last kid to be picked and clearly the one with the least talent and who may as well jump off that bridge now, forever typecast as the ‘rejected failure from class 3F’.
Sometimes we worry ourselves sick. We get nervous about details that nobody even notices or cares about. We worry that ‘they’ might discover that it’s all a sham, that we’re actually not good enough and that we’ve just been winging it all this time.
Guess what though – when you surrender to the impossibility of pleasing everyone else and just BE the best YOU that you can, you actually allow your inner creative being to shine. The only thing stopping you is you, clichéd though that certainly is. Nobody has all the answers; nobody is ‘perfect’ – yet you are a perfect creation. You can learn whatever you don’t know and need to know. You can choose yourself from the pack. You can give it your best shot and however it comes out, that’s ok.
It’s ok to get advice, sure; it’s ok to practice, absolutely. It’s also ok to just do your best, subject to my obvious disclaimer that if you’re a heart surgeon or an airline pilot or a German C.E.O. (just kidding), please do check and please do get it absolutely right (you know what I mean!) To summarise my (obviously perfect’) ramblings in terms that a modern audience of readers can relate to, consider this: “If there was a zombie apocalypse tomorrow, would what I’m stressing about really be that big of a deal?”
Now get out there and pick yourself.
If you need any help figuring out the ideal YOU, feel free to give me a call on 0419 860 382.