By Leanne Lindsey. Photography by Deun Ivory.
I have a confession to make. I've been hiding out for years. Scared. Petrified to be my authentic self. Unable to show up and share my awesomeness with the world.
I know I have skills. I know I am a contribution to many people in my life. I know I can inspire, support and add value to others. I know this because I demonstrate it daily, in all areas of my life. I advise friends and family. I write blog posts about personal growth, wellbeing and other topics. I'm qualified and have experience in multiple sectors. People pay me for my skills. But I also know that I'm only tapping into a tiny percentage of my true potential.
Like most, I spend much of my time online and I follow a lot of people who are doing what I want to do, are where I want to be and who are living a life I envision for myself on a daily basis. And I don't envy them because they inspire me. It fills me with so much joy and excitement to see other women who look like me and have similar backgrounds, living life on their terms.
But then, I get frustrated. I ask myself: Why aren't you doing the same? What's stopping you? And, I get annoyed with myself because I can't actually come up with a valid answer. Excuses, yes. But a valid reason, no. Then I get angry.
For many years, I couldn't articulate these feelings. I just had a constant feeling of frustration. However, after years of self-discovery, I've begun to gain some clarity. But the deeper I look, the more my feelings seem to be a contradiction:
- I feel inadequate, yet I know I have the ability to achieve what I want and more.
- I don't feel good enough, yet I look at what other people are putting out into the world and I know I can improve upon it.
- I don't think I have enough knowledge, yet I know just as much, if not more about my topics of interest and my area of expertise than many people in my immediate personal and professional network.
- I don't think I am the "type" because my hair is natural, I don't wear make-up, I am constantly mistaken for a teenager (I'm 36) and casual wear is my dress code.
But on the other hand, I see examples of people who are the same "type" as me, showing up as their authentic selves and living what appears to be a life that fulfills them.
Despite working on this for years, looking at the contradictions and knowing I am capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to, I still find myself hiding out and playing small. However, recently it dawned on me just how many messages of inadequacy I deal with on a daily basis.
Is it any wonder that as a no make-up wearing black woman with natural hair I have been questioning my worth for practically my entire life?
The most dangerous part is that I have never been fully aware of it at a subconscious level. Of course, I'm conscious of the micro-aggressions and blatant racism and sexism that occur daily in society. What I wasn't fully present to is the damage it has been doing to my self-worth.
One of my favorite quotes is from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and I read it almost daily.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Now I finally know why it resonates with me so deeply, it's just taken me awhile to fully receive the message. Despite a voice deep within me that has been screaming "Stop trying to fit in. Don't conform. Stay away from the crowd," for as long as I can remember, I've tried not to stand out or take up too much space.
- To not be too ghetto but at the same time, not too white.
- To work twice as hard, but at the same time maintain work-life balance.
- To fit in, but also stand out and be different, as that’s the only way to progress.
- To stand up for myself, don't take any crap, but at the same time whatever you do, don't be the angry black woman.
- To be confident, but not arrogant.
- To be successful, but keep it real.
The list is endless.
I have had close friends remain silent during personal achievements. As a child, I've had family members openly criticize me and get me into trouble. I've been told by many men and women, "you think you're too nice." I've had managers tell me I'm "too confident" and one even added "for a black girl.” And I know these experiences are not unique to me.
But I'm sharing all of this to highlight the huge damaging impact it has on our self-worth. We've become used to it and because it's not always as overt and obvious as it may have been in years gone by, or because it's coming from friends and family, we shrug it off or overlook it.
We've never been taught how to develop and nurture our self-worth, yet we are bombarded on a daily basis with messages and images that attack our self-worth. So, it's no wonder why self-worth is so fragile for many of us.
Until recently, I always thought that I had a high level of self-worth. I'm confident and relatively outspoken, I'm what society would consider fairly "successful" and I don't have huge body confidence issues. But, now I see how much I lack self-worth and the impact it has had on my life. I'm now seeing the areas of my life where I limit myself and how much my self-doubt and fears influence my choices. And the irony is, that the voice of self-doubt is so quiet, barely even audible, but the power and control it has over me is colossal.
What I've also come to realize is that no matter how confident, intelligent or talented women are, many of us lack a solid foundation of self-worth without even being aware of it. It holds us back in so many ways, and too often we're blind to it. We don't make time for ourselves. We put other people's needs before our own. We constantly compare ourselves to other women and criticize our own appearance and abilities.
We must treat ourselves as if we matter just as much as everyone else does to regain our self-worth.
If we desire to fully realize our true potential, we must develop a strong foundation of self-worth. And to do that, we must fully understand that prioritizing ourselves is not selfish, but is in fact essential if we are to thrive, and not simply survive and endure this life.
Coming into true self-worth is making peace with my most authentic self, is honoring my authenticity, is rebelling against the status quo.
Leanne Lindsey was born and raised in London but currently lives between London and Tenerife. She spent her early twenties being all things to everyone, her late twenties learning the importance of self-care and her early thirties shedding the guilt of prioritizing her own needs. As a certified life coach, she now supports women on a similar journey by promoting self-care, self-love and wellness. Leanne's go-to self-love practices include journaling, getting lost in a good book and baking. Connect with Leanne in The Self-Love & Wellness Lounge, at www.leannelindsey.co.uk.