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We can easily see it in other people. We can recognize their talents, encourage them to take action, to go for their dreams. Most of us have no problem at all identifying what’s amazing about the people we care about. We’ll even see it in strangers, admire them, look up to them, sometimes even hero-worship them.
But the second someone mentions how good WE are at something, we tend to get uncomfortable. In our society, it just isn’t polite to brag about one’s own talents. It’s seen as conceited and arrogant to mutter the phrase “I’m really good at that.” We’ve been trained from childhood to be humble, and won’t allow ourselves to even think such statements. We don’t even dare admit it to ourselves.
Denying our own talents, our own greatness, stems from an antiquated belief, that we are unworthy beings, never really good enough no matter what we do, always striving to attain approval from some deity who holds us in great contempt for one reason or another. We’ve been taught that to be humble is virtuous.
But there’s a big difference between recognizing your greatness and being arrogant.
Arrogance is when you believe that you are better than anyone else. “I am the greatest. I am better than you.”
Recognizing your greatness means believing that, “We are all great. And so am I.”
There is greatness in each of us. When we recognize it in others, it’s easy for us to see how every one of us has an enormous amount of potential; how every one of us can make a difference in the world. But you can’t honestly believe that there is greatness in everyone, except you. Everyone means EVERYONE. Including you.
What are your talents? What makes you special? What are you really good at? Take a moment right now and make a list. It doesn’t matter if the items on your list don’t seem like a “big deal”, or if you can’t see yourself making millions of dollars with your gifts. Don’t limit your list in any way. Are you a great listener? Do you have a knack for making others feel better? Can you make people laugh? Maybe you’re an amazing artist, photographer, musician, or cook. Perhaps you’re good at writing, speaking, telling stories. Or maybe you make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
The first time you do this, your list is probably going to be quite short. And you’ll have the urge to immediately downplay your gifts. “Ok, yes I make awesome chocolate chip cookies, but it’s not like its brain surgery. Anyone can do it.” Resist that urge. Pick one item from your list, make it something small, recognize that you actually are pretty damn awesome at that, and allow yourself to feel good about it. Allow yourself to feel proud. Then say it out loud. “I make awesome chocolate chip cookies.” See how that feels. It will probably feel a bit strange. You may not ever have allowed yourself to be so blatantly proud of yourself before.
Practice feeling good about this little thing for a few days. It’s easier to start with little things, because you’ll be less inclined to feel like you’re being arrogant. Also, stay away from words like “the best”. “I make the best cookies in the world,” will cause a lot more resistance in you than “I make awesome cookies.”
Also, realize that even if others could do what you do, they don’t. Yes, other people could make awesome chocolate chip cookies, but you’re the one who actually does it. You’re the one who spreads joy and happiness through that medium. And if you think the words “joy and happiness” are taking it a bit too far, you’ve obviously never had a truly awesome cookie. And just because something comes easily to you, does not mean that it’s insignificant. An awesome cookie at just the right moment can make a person’s whole day. Hell, at just the right moment, an awesome cookie could save a life!!
Now, pick another item from your list and practice feeling good about that one. Over time, you can move on to bigger and bigger items. Once you’ve worked your way through the first list, make another, and keep practicing. You don’t have to do this out loud. I’m not asking you to declare to the world how great you are (unless you want to). The real issue isn’t that we’re not willing or able to tell everyone we know how amazing we are. It’s that we’re not even willing to admit it to ourselves.
Notice how you react when someone gives you a compliment. Do you immediately negate what they’ve said? If someone tells you that you look great that day, do you respond with a smile and a genuine “thank you”, or do start to put yourself down? “Ack. My hair’s such a mess today…” Never mind that you just completely dismissed the other person’s comment, you’ve also just demonstrated a belief about yourself.
None of us wants to be arrogant. We’ve all met the braggers, who tell us how great they are, how they’re the best this or that, and how you should essentially be grateful for the chance to breathe the same air as them. It’s off putting, to say the least. The problem with these kinds of people is that they’re not just saying “I’m good at this”, they’re saying “I’m better than you at this thing; so good in fact, that I’m really just better than you in general.” And because we innately know this to be false – we are ALL great in our own way – it bothers us.
But recognizing your greatness, admitting to yourself that you’re good at something, that you do have talent, that your contribution counts, that you are great, TOO, is not arrogant. Replying to a compliment with a genuine “Thanks!” and allowing it to make you feel good, is not conceited. What you’re doing is honoring yourself. You’re moving closer to who you really are. Because, who you really are, knows your greatness. That YOU never doubts your talents, your gifts, or your contribution. Don’t be afraid to recognize your individual, unique gifts, to admit to yourself (and eventually others) that who you are and what you do, count.
You are so much more important than you realize. Each of us is. And it’s time that we remembered it.