“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one,” – Albert Einstein
I was reading this super cheesy self-help book called “You Are a Badass” because (a) I’m super cheesy and (b) I heard great things about how the book will change your perspective on what’s possible within your own life.
(Sidenote: To the anonymous commenter from my last post who said I wasn’t qualified to be a self-help expert and was a “pseudo-intellectual,” I have two things to say: 1. I never called myself a self-help expert, I called myself a 20-something who drinks too much wine, and 2. I tracked your IP Address, used Google Maps to track the location coordinates, found your address and looked up the residents via WhitePages. You should start receiving your Scientology booklets in the mail soon. NOTHING ON THE INTERNET IS ANONYMOUS, PEOPLE.)
Now that that’s out of the way…
This actual self-help expert had a lot to say about self-perception and the way the stories we tell ourselves influence our decisions subconsciously.
Is this sounding vague? Great!
Maybe it’s a little ‘fake it until you make it,’ but she posits that a lot of your life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, a few weeks back I was talking with one of my CoHearts (the Southwest-y way to say coworker—yes, it’s a cult) about coding and how my brain just didn’t work that way. As I was sitting there justifying all the reasons why I shouldn’t even try to learn because I sucked at calculus and technology isn’t my thing and I’m more of a “right brain” than a “left brain” and it’s just too complicated and—you know the drill, the list of excuses goes on—I finally realized that I didn’t ACTUALLY have a reason not to learn the basics, and that I’m probably competent enough to learn HTML/CSS.
So I made a Code Academy account and started that day. And you know what? It definitely doesn’t come as naturally to me as writing, but I actually enjoyed it. Suddenly, my “story” that I just didn’t have the type of mind capable of coding dissipated.
Granted, that’s a ridiculous example, but the point is this: There are certain narratives we tell ourselves that are oftentimes limiting. Typically, the things we tell ourselves we’re capable of accomplishing are the ones we actually do. And, if you’re skeptical of this “manifest destiny” bullsh*t like I was, ask yourself: What do you really have to lose?
What stories do you tell yourself? Are they pushing you to be better, or providing excuses so you don’t have to do better?
Because that’s the sticking power for these stories: They allow us to snuggle up with our excuses.
One of the stories I always told myself was that I needed my parents’ help financially and logistically to figure my life out; that I couldn’t find an apartment, pay for it, and furnish it without their monetary support.
And you know, stories like these are really convenient when you can convince your own parents of the narrative, too. Because if all three of you believe they have to help you for you to make ends meet, guess what? The direct deposits won’t stop.
I think my friend Kylie finally woke me up from this illusion when she—seemingly effortlessly—got a high-paying full-time job immediately post-grad, found an apartment in the most expensive area in Dallas, and paid for it completely on her own: furniture and all. She got scrappy and tapped a free locator and a Craiglist account to manifest her dream apartment come true, and she did it all within two months.
Telling myself I needed my parents’ money because I didn’t make enough on my own was my way of justifying not hustling the way she was, but watching her do it excuse-free woke me up from the illusion: Hey, KG, you and Kylie are the same age and work for the same company—if she can, you can.
I just signed my lease and finished buying all my furniture on Amazon or from closeout stores.
And you know what? It felt awesome to look at the savings account I had grown over the last six months (made possible by my 60-year-old pals, Phil and Wendy, who let me live with them rent-free for the summer so I could save) and say, “Hey, you really CAN do this on your own.”
But what if I hadn't witnessed that truly remarkable, fly-in-the-face-of-Millennial-stereotypes example of a young person moving out of her parents' house immediately and figuring it out independently? Invention is borne out of necessity. She needed money and a place to live, so she made it happen.
Maybe you tell yourself this same narrative that you need your parents’ money, too. Or maybe you tell yourself you’re really terrible at relationships. Or maybe you tell yourself you’re too young to get a certain job. Or maybe you tell yourself you're destined to be overweight and hate your body your entire life.
Regardless, the future you’re telling yourself you’ll have is probably the one you’ll end up with, good or bad.
Have you ever eaten the same food as another person who then claimed they didn’t feel well? Did you start thinking about their potential impending food poisoning and suddenly start feeling sick to your stomach, too? Your mind is incredibly powerful.
Why not use that power to convince yourself you’re capable of accomplishing something great instead of using it to justify why you can’t or shouldn’t?
And for the Internet trolls sitting in their mom’s basements posting anonymous asshole comments on my blog at 3 a.m., I feel compelled to cite here that the *actual self-help expert* author of this book qualified that it goes beyond mere brainpower.
While she looped in some crazy sh*t about the universe giving you what you need and feeding off your energy, I don’t think I’m granola enough to hop on board with that. I am, however, fully convinced that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. Fortune favors the bold.
Moreover, I believe others are usually pretty lazy and accept whatever persona you display at face value. If you want to be taken seriously at work, dress really professionally (even if you work in a more casual environment) and people will assume you know what you're doing. That was a little tip I learned from someone last summer who mentioned the interns who dress up more than necessary get considered more seriously for jobs (even if that's just a subconscious, "This young person seems like a professional adult," thing happening).
This is why the "fake it until you make it" thing is so crucial, and probably why the author mentions the "universe" giving back to you what you put out there. Present yourself seriously and people will take you seriously. Act like you know what you're doing and people will assume you do. I don't even know if I'd call that "karma" as much as I'd call it a return on investment.
I'm still trying to figure out what other stories I've been telling myself that dictate the way I behave and the opportunities I pursue, so expect updates. In the meantime, get out there and see what you can get away with.