Meet Good@Life, Well+Good's advice column. Think of it as a safe space to get intel about navigating the tricky situations life has a sneaky way of presenting at every single twist and turn. This week, our columnist offers advice for when feeling unworthy of your friendships is compromising your social life, relationships, and sense of self.
I feel like I've been able to get over impostor syndrome at work. I understand that I am not a fraud with my professional pursuits and am actually qualified for and good at what I do. But with friends (and even friends of friends), those qualifications are bit more nebulous. Feeling worthy, socially, isn't just a matter of nice or mean—factors much more vague matter, like being interesting enough and cool enough and funny enough. Put simply, I've been feeling unworthy, like I haven't earned a seat at the table—at happy hour, book club, brunch, or anywhere else, really. How can I get out of my own head and keep my social anxiety from hijacking my personality?
Bear with me while I share a story: Back in the '90s, there was this North Carolina-based punk band called Avail, and a guy named Beau Beau was one of the members. Technically though, Beau Beau was the tour manager and didn't play an instrument; his most-visible job for the band was to be a hype man. He'd get up on stage, jump, kick, wildly flail his tattooed arms and legs. But why? Simply because he loved the music and he wanted the crowd to be a part of a moment. Ultimately, Avail became one of those bands that most people would never know anything about, but for a certain group, it was hugely influential—and that's partially thanks to Beau Beau being part of the equation.
Right now, you think you're the band, that despite your best efforts to get out there and try your best, you're destined to an unremarkable future of being mostly unknown. But really, you need to be your own Beau Beau.
"Be your own hype person, even if you're surrounded by people who are successful or creative or otherwise endlessly fascinating. And the first, most important person you need to impress is yourself."
This certainly doesn't mean you need to stage-dive from the table at the next dinner party you attend (although starting a cocktail-hour mosh pit would certainly make an impression). Instead, I challenge you to be your own hype person, even if—especially if!—you're surrounded by people who are successful or creative or otherwise endlessly fascinating. And the first, most important person you need to impress is yourself.
Some people are preternaturally confident, but most of us have to work at it. We're taught that it's rude to brag, that we shouldn't talk ourselves up too much, and that we should feel grateful just to be included in a group. Along with the often-learned instinct to play ourselves small, we also cling to certain stories seminal stories we feel identify us. Maybe one of your core stories is one of inadequacy: These people are all so accomplished and cool and talented. If I show them who I am, they're going to realize I'm a loser.
As you mentioned, this is stream of thought was born in your head—and that's where it continues to live and grow. And that's good, because it's possible to shift and tweak the way we think. So, I challenge you to take a step back from your story, whether it's one of inadequacy or something else, and ask yourself some questions about that core belief:
- Where did it originate? (family members, classmates, coworkers…)
- Why does it persist? In other words, why does feeling unworthy ring so true to you?
- How is that "story" enabling you to avoid confronting a fear? For instance, does it shield you from the possibility of being judged by others?
- Can you identify 5 to 10 of your personal qualities or accomplishments that prove this belief wrong?
- What might you be able to do if you released or changed this core belief?
- How might it feel to believe that you are enough—just as you are?
Approach finding these answers with compassion and kindness for yourself, and don't judge the part of you that's feeling unworthy. Instead, observe your feelings and thoughts; give them space to be out in the open; journal about them so you can revisit them later.
Then, call on your rational mind to review what's actually true. Spoiler: What's sure to be true is that you possess unique talents, gifts, and all-around good stuff going on. And while you might feel like you have to measure up to the people around you, nobody is asking you to compete with your peers. Nobody expects you to be someone you're not. You, imperfections and all, are enough. So the next time you feel that old, limiting belief tugging at your insecurities, call on your inner Beau Beau to remind yourself of your greatness and gas yourself up.
Have a question for the Good@Life column? Email us at email@example.com.
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