I got a message from my best friend the other day which read: “I’ve just been working out. It really makes me sparkle you know!”
My friend’s words quickly triggered an avalanche of thoughts.
First came a memory of something that someone had said to me years ago: “Don’t be afraid to sparkle,” the person said “stop wriggling to try and fit in.” I pondered this advice for a while. When did I last feel free to sparkle? I couldn’t really remember.
Then a recent discussion during a group workshop with Kick-Ass Mentor came to mind. She had posed the question ‘What makes you great?’ to the group: And, do you know what? Anyone would have thought she’d just asked us to solve simultaneous equations whilst standing on our head, singing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ backwards, based on the response that that seemingly simple question got.
Not a single woman in that group could offer a quick-fire response to demonstrate their own greatness. Not a single one of us felt free to sparkle. Not because we weren’t comfortable amongst the group, oh no, we all know that we are completely safe and free to express ourselves honestly there.
But sadly, I conclude, it’s because we don’t think that we have any sparkle.
It was easy to point out things which we thought made the other members of the group great. But when it came to pointing at ourselves, we all REALLY struggled. This got me thinking. Why do we feel the need to hide our light under a bushel; to dull our sparkle; to be so self-deprecating and so modest?
Why can’t we see our own greatness?
I had a theory, but I wanted to check it out. So I text my friend back. Probing into her current feeling of ‘sparkle’, I asked her to unpick it a little more for me, to tell me how she really felt in that moment. Being a trainee counsellor this is something that she is used to doing, so I knew I’d get a good answer!
Her reply came: “I feel like I can just be me. It’s like I’ve come back to myself. I feel empowered, in control, self-aware, strong and resilient.” Yup. My theory was correct.
It all leads back to confidence and self-worth.
So, I decided to do a little bit of research into confidence and self-worth. I wanted to find out what differences divided my sparkling best friend and the women in my mentoring group who so clearly struggled to shine.
I soon stumbled across something very interesting.
Confidence and how we view ourselves (self-worth) is key to every interaction in life. Your interactions with yourself, with others, with the world around you all depend on the type of self-confidence you posses. It can be broken down into two categories:
Conditional- You will believe in yourself if…
This type of confidence and self worth means that you feel like you’re okay if certain external events take place. For example, ...if I loose weight, …if someone tells me that I’ve done a good job today, …if I’m better than someone else, …if I earn X amount, …if other people like me. The problem is, this type of thinking presents a Me vs. Them concept- where we make lots of comparisons and continuously feel like we’re in competition with the world. When things go wrong, we tend to internalise the issue and feel like it is a personal attack on us; that it somehow reflects our own worth. When we live in a conditional world, we can become more open to depression, stress, anxiety, health problems, relationship issues, amongst many other things.
Unconditional- You will believe in your self, regardless of others.
This type of confidence and self worth comes from knowing (and accepting) who you are. You are self-aware and able to focus upon the core values and personal characteristics that are most important to you. You are no longer in competition with everyone and everything else, because you believe in the person that you are on the inside. When you come from this place, you are at greater peace with yourself and others and no longer need external validation.
No prizes for guessing which category I had been unconsciously dwelling in lately.
Conversely, I could see that my friend’s sparkle was coming from an unconditional type of confidence and self-worth. Exercise was a key which had unlocked the door to her source of sparkle. I instantly knew that I wanted me some of that! So I got to thinking about how I could strengthen my own ‘Unconditional Self-Worth Muscle’ and ultimately start to follow that piece of advice that I’d been given years ago.
I asked myself ‘Am I really doing myself, or anyone else, any favours by making myself small and dulling my sparkle?’ ‘NO, I certainly am not!’ I concluded. Let me explain my reasoning behind this.
This paraphrased quote from Buddha explains that when we shine out with our bright lights, we can encourage and inspire others to light up too. We don’t loose anything of ourselves by sharing our happiness; just like a candle we can pass on our energy yet still keep all of our own light.
So, with that thought in mind, consider What Makes You Sparkle? Why not try an exercise in uncovering all of the internal aspects, characteristics and values that makes you so great? Take some time to start noticing the moments when you feel good about yourself, what were you doing that led to that feeling? What exactly do you feel in that moment? Start compiling a list about yourself, focusing on your qualities and reasons that you are so wonderful. Add to it over time: as you start to look for proof of your amazingness, you will find more and more evidence to add to your list.
However, I also believe that this concept extends beyond just noticing and sharing our joy.
I believe that our sparkle can even be made up from our hard times, from our difficult life lessons, from our traumas and our challenges; the things that could traditionally be thought of as ‘ugly’ or ‘shameful’ to share. But the thing is, I genuinely believe that by speaking our deep truth, we give permission for others to do the same. And when we honestly and vulnerably open up our hearts like that, we open ourselves to new, beautiful possibilities. We can find new levels within ourselves, we can connect to ourselves and others in ways that we never before thought possible. And what is shameful or ugly about that? Nothing, I say.
So, my lovely, I urge you to find your sparkle, don’t wriggle to fit in. Be you; be all of you. Own your light and your dark- accepting all aspects of yourself is the way to unconditional confidence and self worth. Love your YOU-niqueness. In spite of the rest of the world and their opinions, know your greatness.