I recently received a phone call from my daughter, Sydney, who is in her freshman year of college. The last few conversations I had with her she was feeling stressed and overwhelmed - like many new college students do as they transform from child to adult. The tone of her voice was so different on this recent call. I heard excitement and enthusiasm, and I of course was super curious about the sudden transformation! She excitedly told me that she won 2nd place in a writing contest she had entered, that her article was going to be published in a magazine, and that she was invited to go to a special ceremony. And then she said something that turned into an important lesson for me, and hopefully for her and many others. She said to me - "Mom! I finally 'did' something. I'm even going to be recognized at a ceremony. I get to read part of my paper at the ceremony. I finally 'did' something!!"
I suddenly realized that in this moment she was basing her worth on an outside accomplishment. I had an immediate recall of her entire childhood, and especially the last 6 years when our family moved across the country. Of our four children, she struggled the most. I remember her coming home from school crying as she navigated her way through making new friends, getting used to a new culture, trying to create a space where she fit in without going with the crowd. What I saw over the last 6 years was a shy, insecure girl blossom into a confident, authentic, empathetic, spiritual young woman who is wise beyond her years. I saw Sydney learn how to be friends with anyone, without judgement. I saw her learn how to stand up for what she believes. I saw her learn how to have boundaries in her friendships and have the confidence to do what felt right right to her. I saw her heart develop into one that could forgive and pray for others' healing and happiness. I watched her take her education seriously over the years. She is self-motivated. I never had to remind her to do her homework or study for a test. It was just naturally important to her. She put time and effort into studying for and taking the ACT three times to get her best score.
She developed the gifts of following her heart, having a connection with God, self-discipline, motivation and taking action towards what she wants. The outside outcome was a full scholarship to college, friends that love her, close relationships with her siblings, and parents that trust her and adore her.
What she developed on the inside is far more powerful and manifests in her compassion towards others, her sense of humor, her authenticity, her ability to love others, her determination to keep going, her ability to see the good in life, courage to take action, her ability to communicate her thoughts and feelings as well as listen to and respect other's thoughts and feelings.
So, when she told me with excitement that she finally "did" something, it didn't compute. In my eyes, she has accomplished an incredible amount in just her first 18 years of life! I have no doubt that as she learns to recognize and believe in who she already is, she will understand what she's capable of because of what she has already developed on the inside. I know she will live her life "doing" great things in her relationships, in whatever work she chooses, as a mother, and as a woman others will look up to because of what is INSIDE of her. Her accomplishments will be a bonus of what she continues to nurture on the inside.
It is an important lesson for all of us to learn - what matters most is what we "do" on the inside. There isn't anyone or any "accomplishment" that has the power to define us or our worth. Those things are fleeting experiences. Overcoming the fears, the doubts, the comparison and competing with others is the most important accomplishment you'll ever achieve. When we are learning how to love more, forgive easier, allow others their space to learn and grow, spend our mental efforts on seeing the good in ourselves, and seeing what we are capable of...THEN we will naturally accomplish great things in our lives and our life experience will be joyful.
We all have the power to create whatever we want our lives to feel like and be like. It begins with what is going on inside.
The Power of Starting with You
February 22, 2017
What Bali taught me about being in the flow of life