Why is it easier to believe in Santa Claus than to believe in yourself?
I saw this graphic on Instagram the other day, a distant teammate shared it. It struck a chord with me, it said: “If you could believe in Santa Claus for like 8 years then you can believe in yourself for five minutes.” Pretty much everyone I know grew up believing in Santa Claus, but those same dreamers who believed with stars in their eyes about a man flying around and delivering gifts through the chimney, don't believe in themselves for a damn second! As some of you know, I am currently involved in a self-development challenge called the Unstoppable Influence Challenge. The past couple of days we have been talking about the ego and how it impacts our lives, especially as it impacts our success or the things we try for / to accomplish.
The ego in this context has nothing to do with a sense or arrogance or self-importance. We are talking here about the nagging little bitchy voice in one's head that tells us what we can't do, shouldn't do, or won't do. Merriam Webster describes it as such:
"...one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality — compare id, superego"
My ego usually says things like, "Why are you writing this blog? Nobody gives a shit what you have to say."
Or, "Why the Hell will anyone want to read your book?"
My ego consistently tells me I'm "just not that good" at whatever the thing may be that I want to try/ do / excel at.
My ego tries, in a really poor way, to protect me from harm, like rejection. Rejection feels like shit.
So, believe me when I tell you that I understand what it's like to be afraid to try / do new things. Especially when it comes to things that are outside of the norm of what most people are doing.
I understand how easily one can get stuck in a rut and keep just surviving the job you hate or the relationship you've outgrown or the career you feel obligated to be in.
I have told you before that I grew up a blue-collar kid, and quite frankly I had a lot of pride in that. So it was a huge transition when I started college at the University, and not just a two-year community college.
Was I a traitor? A sell-out?
In a lot of ways I was the odd man out in college.
I was entering this world of some kind of intellectual elite but in my heart I thought of myself as this gritty, hard-working, blue-collar kid. I was of two worlds, and my friends hardly let me forget it. Especially the punk-rock kids I'd been hanging with for about a decade at that point.
I finished school and then went on to grad school, and set out to change the world. I've told you this before, as well. I was the idealist, the dreamer, I was going to change the world if it killed me.
Eventually and without even realizing it at first, I fit in to this intellectual/academic world a whole lot better.
But it wasn't easy. I gave up a lot. For years.
I gave up time with my family. Relationships with friends. I lived in poverty for years. I could barely scrape up enough money to eat on so many days I don't dare try to count. I lost years worth of sleep. I suffered stress-related ailments constantly. I racked up so much student loan debt that if I had the money in cash I could pay off our mortgage, and then some.
And... I thought I did my due diligence. I worked unpaid internships as well as paid jobs throughout college and grad school, as well as diving into as much volunteer work as I could find, so that I would know that I really did want to work in the nonprofit sector.
My family supported me throughout all of it. My dreams were their dreams, my mom especially. She never questioned a single crazy idea or proposed international study experience, she helped provide a laptop when my computer crashed and burned, would scrape and help me find food money, etc. even though she wasn't in great financial shape herself. She actually started college herself in 2004 or 2005, right after I'd started at EMU, so for a while there we were both poor college students, together.
So, flash forward to 2016. After a decade of working myself into exhaustion to get myself through college and graduate school, after giving 110% of myself to three jobs and a few internships and volunteer programs for a period of 8 years... after moving across the country for employment opportunities (in a moving truck my mother paid for,) after fighting to just plain fucking survive for so long... imagine what ran through my head when I realized just how miserable I was in the nonprofit sector.
I was still making less than $40,000 a year. I was working unpaid overtime, 10-20 hours a week consistently, at every job I'd ever had. I was working weekends and missing out on family parties and milestones. I had ZERO quality time with my partner, who had asked me to move in with him so that I would be less miserable, not to watch me be more miserable.
But I didn't believe that I could do a damn thing about any of it.
Who was I to turn my back on the career that I had sacrificed so much for? That my family had sacrificed so much for...
Who was I to walk away from the career I'd put so much into building, and sacrifice the student loan debt forgiveness that I was promised if I could just put in 6 or 7 more years? (Oh, holy shit, did 6 or 7 years sound like an eternity on the bad days.)
It didn't matter that I was crying at work because I hated it so much. I should suck it up.
It didn't matter that I worked with a bunch of catty back-stabbing bitches, I should get over it (more on that later.)
It didn't matter that I didn't make enough money, wasn't that what I signed up for since I signed up for working to help others?!
This was all my fucking Ego talking, and it was bullshit.
I didn't owe it to anyone to be miserable.
I certainly didn't owe it to my family -- my mom doesn't want me to be miserable.
I was afraid, though! I was afraid of reinventing myself, of daring to dream.
Look, I was straight up oppressed by my student loan debt. In my head, with my ego talking, I just kept thinking, "How on Earth can you consider reinventing yourself when you're already in so much debt from this first set of dreams?!"
All I was really doing, though, was wasting my life and time because of fear.
So, like I said, I know what it's like and I understand how one can get stuck in a rut and just surviving day-to-day.
But I also snapped out of it and realized that I deserved more.
Don't you? Don't you deserve not to be crying at your desk because you hate your job? (Or hiding in the bathroom to cry...)
Don't you deserve to believe in yourself, for even just a few minutes, with at least as much fervor as you believed in "St. Nick?" (Or the Easter Bunny... or the Tooth Fairy, whatever.)
So tell me, what would your dreams be if you allowed yourself to say them out loud? What would you want to do with your life if you could shut your ego up for a minute?
My biggest dream has always been to publish a book. I never even required it to be a best-selling book. Hell, a moderately selling book would be freaking awesome. But just to actually write and publish a book. That's the original dream. So, that's what I'm working on right now. Because fuck my ego.
I can do this because of the opportunity that presented itself to me in some really crazy ways to work from home and build a "living" from the couch.
Not all opportunities are created equal, and what's right for me may not be what's right for everybody, but if you're interested in learning more about the opportunity I found, let me know. I'd love to talk with you.