“You are not good enough.”
“You are not doing enough.”
“I have to be a better mother… a better son… better at my job… do more for my friends.”
Pick a stance on any political debate or spiritual belief and you may be left automatically feeling wrong or like a failure to others with different stances or beliefs.
These experiences have become the real “new norm”. Advances in technology over the past decades have increased the ability for media, the news, influencers, friends and family, strangers, and everyone in between to have direct access to us in an almost constant state within our environment. Before you know it, the soundtrack of our life plays on repeat, max volume to the point of drowning out anything else, to include the very much needed positive messages that may be there as well. For some, those affirming messages and examples may be there, but too blurred by our insistent soundtrack of deprecation. For others, positive messages may not even be present in our environment even without that soundtrack on full blast.
Sure, we can surrender to listening to the same soundtrack over and over again. It is the only one playing, after all. Like much to the chagrin of the bellhop who is stuck listening to the same elevator music each shift, we can accept our lot by convincing ourselves that for our own personal or professional success, we just have to deal with it. To be honest, it is easier to surrender—it causes less waves to assimilate, and it is less work to paddle with the current. And for those reasons, we meander through our lives to the theme music we have been provided by our doubters. We essentially surrender control of our lives – i.e. our limits, our capabilities, our gains, our successes, our potential, our happiness – to others that have no more business telling us how to live our lives than an actual DJ telling us what music we must listen to.
It is time to change the soundtrack of our lives and start marching to the sound of our own drums!
Sure, others will not like it when we stop listening to the soundtrack they picked for us. We are going to create waves in those relationships that have gained by keeping us down; it will take more work to paddle against the current.
But I bet if you are reading this, you are up for the challenge. What is the challenge, you ask? How do you start marching to your own drum?
Start an affirmation jar. Every time you do something well, big or small, write it on a piece of paper and throw it into the jar. Every time someone gives you a compliment, whether you agree with them or not, what it feels comfortable or not, write it on a piece of paper and throw it into the jar. Ask those positive people in your life, your friends, loved ones, children, to help by filling out pieces of paper with compliments, positive words to describe you, and things you have done that made them feel better when they were down, helped them when they were down and out, or simply made them smile. And every time that old soundtracks starts to play, reach into that jar and read as many of those pieces of paper as needed to turn it off.
“I am woman, hear me roar.”
“I have value.”
“I am a good parent.”
Write it on sticky notes and place in highly trafficked areas – i.e. refrigerator, dressers, car, desks. Use a dry erase marker and write it all over your bathroom mirror so you see it every morning as you get up and every evening as you get ready for bed.
Tattooing “Do not let the sun set on tomorrow before it rises on today” on my forearm has been a helpful daily reminder that has reshaped my own personal soundtrack. In one past stressful workplace, writing “you were given this life because you are strong enough to live it” on a window and saved as my computer and work cellphone wallpapers were the only things that pushed me through as many days as it did before I finally left.
Be creative! When affirming messages are difficult to hear over the soundtracks created for us by others, or when those affirming messages are not in our environment to begin with, we have a choice: surrender and just accept the soundtrack we are given or get out those ‘90s mixtape skills, cassettes, and sharpies and start dubbing our own!
I look forward to seeing you out there, jamming to the sound of your own soundtrack, and marching to the beat of your own drum.