I’ve lost track of the numbers of people I’ve met who have no real sense of what their individual talents and passions are.
~ Sir Ken Robinson
Earlier this month, I lamented my inability to write a bio. Being between projects makes it difficult, but so does being the mom of young children. With all our focus on the needs of other people in the household we may find that we don’t know ourselves very well anymore. The time away from work also messes with our identity a little, especially if we begin to reassess our goals, dreams and values in light of our new roles as parents. The longer we are away from the workplace, the more we begin to notice that our society tends to define people by what we do and what we are good at. And if you spend the majority of your time conversing with preschoolers and wiping noses and bums, it’s easy to lose your grip on what your other talents may be.
But perhaps the problem runs deeper. Perhaps it wasn’t just born out of motherhood? I have a sneaking suspicion that even before I had children, I was easily counted in the numbers of people who have no real sense of what their individual talents are.
This got me wondering why so many of us don’t know what makes us awesome. Why is it so hard for us to answer these questions: What makes me awesome? What makes me feel awesome? What are my awesome skills?
One of the reasons is that some of us might not know ourselves very well to begin with. As young people, we can take for granted who we are. In our teen years, we may be trying on personas but it comes closer to experimentation that to genuine self-knowledge. Twenty-somethings can get caught up accomplishing things: checking off relationships, marriage, house-buying, career-building, and having children on that inner to-do list. We might never really take a moment to think deeper about who we are or why we are awesome long enough to actually believe we are awesome.
It’s not such a surprise then that this issue still dogs us post-motherhood. Perhaps we’re just more aware that it IS an issue once we have children? Perhaps it’s the first time we’re old enough to think about it seriously?
Furthermore, how many of us really make a point of nourishing our relationship with ourselves? Of being our own best friend? If we treated our friends the way we treat ourselves – only hanging out once every six months – it wouldn’t be long before our friends would stop talking to us too. Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about the ways in which meditation and mindfulness activate the same parts of our brains as do attached interpersonal relationships and he goes on to say that these practices are very like becoming our own best friend.
Perhaps spending time getting to know ourselves is the first step to discovering our innate awesomeness?
But even then, we may still struggle with self-appraisal, with figuring out what makes us unique.
In his new book The Element, Sir Ken Robinson explains that successful people find themselves in their element. The element is the intersection between what you are good at (your talents) and what you love (your passion). Some of us are good at things that we don’t really enjoy but true success is found when we discover our element. Furthermore, the element also requires that you have the right attitude (a willingness to go for it) and the opportunity. This part seemed really key to me. Your element could very well be surfing but if you live in the desert, you may never find that out. You need both the opportunity and willingness to try surfing if you are ever to discover that it’s your awesome thing.
So, by now, maybe you believe that you are awesome at something but you haven’t yet figured out what that thing is. Want to discover what makes you awesome?
It seems to me that if you do, you need to:
This last one – change your attitude – needs a bit of explaining. We probably already know what our talents are but we undervalue them or take them for granted because they are our own. It’s always easier to be in awe of people who can do things we can’t. It’s much harder to be reverent of our own abilities. This may be because we don’t consider ourselves expert enough to be awesome. After all, we’ve all heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert and we fail to acknowledge the awesomeness in the mere 4,500 hours we may have put in to become pretty great.
We also come from a culture where for a variety of reasons it isn’t easy to toot our own horn. This month the Natural Parenting Carnival topic was on ways we may have inspired others with our parenting and it was amazing to see how difficult it is for most of us to publicly proclaim that we’re pretty good at parenting. In fact, one of the carnival posts Say Something Good actually addressed the reasons why we might find it hard to say we’re awesome out loud.
So where do we start? Maybe we start with a mindfulness practice. Maybe we start by reading this blog 1000 Awesome Things which recognizes the awesome in all kinds of every day things. Maybe we start by taking pleasure in the moment, in all of the little things that make us feel awesome…and when we are more aware of the awesomeness that is all around us all the time, we’ll be ready and tuned in to notice the awesomeness that is in us and always has been.
How about you? Are you awesome? Tell us what your skills are – like nunchucks.