While I’m traveling I meet a lot of young adults who struggle to take ownership of their lives. Somewhere along the way they learned they weren’t smart enough, funny enough, clever enough—GOOD ENOUGH—to go after their dreams. Some of them don’t know what those dreams are because they’ve been doused with more reality than they can handle. I’m all for realism but not when it cripples imaginative thinking; that’s where I set my limit. Unfortunately I see that all too often.
Many of us tell ourselves “no” before anyone else ever gets the chance to say it. We think—why bother? Why humiliate, embarrass, and make myself vulnerable for something that will never work out? Because it could work out. And even if it doesn’t—so what—the lessons we learn through failure are often that much more valuable. Hearing “no” is not the end of the world; in fact it usually opens our eyes to a whole new world of opportunity.
Whether or not you have been beating yourself down with this negative self-talk, I have a challenge for you today. I recently heard in my practicum class about the value of having a positive praise binder. In this binder, you keep all the nice cards, comments, emails, and compliments that you’ve received. It can be tremendously healing when you’re having a bad day to look at this binder. And when someone does tell you “no” and you feel brokenhearted—you can turn to this book and remember that you are loved.
I have done a virtual form of this binder by keeping every kind word and email that has been sent to me. I look at it every now and then when I’m feeling defeated. My spirits are lifted when I read it and I am reminded of my resilience. After I read these words, I know that I can go on and do more.
There are a few key times when these kind words were particularly helpful. For instance when I was writing my first book and I really doubted my ability and worth as a writer, people sent me messages like these:
“Hey Lauren its nice to hear that you are still an extremely creative, inspirational, and involved girl… Sounds like this project could do a lot of good, especially in a time when there is so much pressure put on teens that they easily forget the most important part of life… being happy.”
Or when one of my mentors, Lisa Bloom, saw something in me:
Lisa Bloom: @TheSunnyGirl5 Note to world: The Sunny Girl is going places. You heard it here first. You look like my long lost daughter, Lauren! Thanks for being game for vegan lunch, and keep shining
It takes just a few minutes to say something thoughtful to someone. But it may carry them through the darkest nights, weeks, or months of their life. We often don’t know what a gift these words can be, and so we hesitate to give them. We feel awkward, clumsy, and once again, vulnerable to say something meaningful to a person. We stick to small talk and keep it superficial. It’s safer that way. But not sweeter.
On the flip side, if you tend to shun compliments or they make you feel comfortable, work towards acceptance. Let the words sink in and sit with them. Don’t push them away or ignore them. Don’t belittle the words or deny them. Nurture them with gratitude and don’t be ashamed to savor them. You never know when they will carry you through your night.