Less qualified people have filled positions you’ve been hesitant to apply to.
Let that sink in.
There’s no use in waiting another five years to do what you could do right now. Draft up the proposal. Get the resume edited. Call up your connections, and get your blessing.
Listen, you getting your blessing isn’t a selfish thing. It’s actually worse if you don’t say yes to taking the necessary steps needed to actualize the dreams that have been burning inside you all this time. Saying yes means that others will be blessed. Your hard work, your talents, your gifts, your doing things even if you fail, will absolutely mean answered prayer for someone else.
And no, you may never hear about those prayers, but that isn’t for you. You don’t do it for the glory, you do it because you have to.
You get to note the responsibility you hold as an educator, an artist, a songwriter, a parent, a lawyer, a student, a mentor, an accountant, a researcher, a police officer, a solider. The responsibility to use the abilities you were born with, to sharpen them by being a student of your craft, to seek feedback from those who are where you want to be.
This post might make you upset because I’m calling you out. These words might be shining light on the places you’ve been ignoring.
But, you need this.
It’s time to stop thinking you’re not good enough. It’s time to imagine what your life would be like if doubt wasn’t an added ingredient.
People have failed you, but you’re still here, You’ve dropped out at some points along the way, but you’re still here. Your friends and family may be saying, “What are you even doing with your life?” but you are still here.
And because you exist, because you have breath in your body, means you have another opportunity (if only the next 24 hours) to surprise yourself.
Don’t miss it. None of this discounts everything you’ve done in your life up until now. It doesn’t take away from every heart you’ve touched. It’s not a: “Your best wasn’t good enough, so do better.” No, this message is for the person who’s become comfortable letting others fill shoes that they know they should be wearing.
You know who you are. Go and get yours. Go and do it like only you can. Don’t let another excuse keep you from it.
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They’re not going after you. They never call you first, email you back, text to see how you are.
At this point, they’re probably ghosting you, but you’re thirsty and hungry for their attention and validation. They know this. Maybe they don’t.
Either way, you’re not a priority for them, but you keep going after them. It’s not healthy. You need to let them go.
If you keep holding on, you’ll miss out on all the people right there in your life who actually want you and want to give you love. You’ll miss out on yourself and all the things you’d be sacrificing if you and this person actually did life together, business together, creativity together, making a family together.
You’re willing to compromise your values just to be with them. You know you shouldn’t, but you ignore your truest voice.
You’d rather partner with fear instead.
Dear reader, I gotta tell you, it’s time to stop chasing people who don’t want you. People who’d bring all that’s toxic into your life. People who won’t give to you how you’d give to them. People who are clearly disinterested in who you are and what you bring.
I know this because I’ve been that chaser so many times in my life. I’ve gone after the people who only want to cause me harm. I’ve gone after people who were only meant to be in my life for a brief season.
Everyone isn’t meant to stick around forever. Some people come into our lives for the job, the date, the money, the laughs, or the trip, and then they leave.
I’ve feared that letting go means losing something I’ll never ever get back: someone who loves me, someone who sees me, someone who wants to create with me. I have attachment and detachment issues. I fear being alone. I’m uncomfortable with too much silence.
Mostly though, I fear that letting go of people means that something is wrong with me. But that’s not true.
Letting go of someone could be the breakthrough you’ve been needing to give to yourself.
It could mean you seizing an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise. It could be making space for the people, the healthy habits, the practices, and the love that would actually light up your life.
But, you won’t get any of that if you’re fixated on everything and everyone that doesn’t want you.
Make the shift.
It’s taken years, but I’ve made the shift through deep work with therapists, close friends, my wife, God, and myself. Today, I’m fortunate and thankful to have the relationships I didn’t have growing up. I’m no longer sticking with people who brought violence and pain and humiliation into my life.
Sometimes, I see myself starting to chase others, but then I think: Do I have the love I need?
How to begin shifting your own narrative.
Check those stories you’re telling yourself.
What am I afraid of losing if I let them go?
Why do I keep going after people who never go after me?
What would happen if I focused on what I love, instead of on who could love me?
How am I grounded in the relationships I already have?
What’s the loving choice in all this? What’s the fear filled decision?
Sit with the real answers that arise. Write them down. Talk them out with someone you trust. Talk them out with me, you know I’m here.
But, don’t retreat when painful realizations show themselves. We often avoid the truth because it’s hard to digest. Then, we spend years of our lives suffering, because we chose to act from a deficit, rather than make decisions that align with our values.
Who do you need to stop chasing? What’s your next move with this? Whatever it is, I encourage you to carry grace with you during this process. Go slow with it. Go easy on yourself. It doesn’t need to happen today.
I hope you get to a point where you can say: I’ve let go of at least one relationship that was draining me. I was doing all the work, and they weren’t willing to. I’m glad I chose me.
According to Google, the definition of purpose is: “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
So, when someone asks us: “Hey, uhhh, what’s your purpose in life?” They’re asking us why we exist?
When I was a child, I had a close family member who’d repeatedly confront me with similar questions but from a place of anger and intimidation. They’d ask 9-year-old me: “Why are you even here? What do you do around here? Nothing. You do nothing!” They knew how to break me down. I felt like I was always making mistakes and feeling I wasn’t good enough. I internalized those thoughts, and part of me is still struggling to come up with a good response.
But I’m healing.
And, I’ve come a long long way. I bet you have too.
Maybe you’ve had some bullies in your life. Maybe someone has made you feel like less without even meaning to, but you still question your impact, your meaning, your reason for being. Am I doing enough?
Maybe you saw a groundbreaking TED talk, or you heard the news about an amazing child prodigy, or your friend told you about someone who has this really cool start-up. What am I even doing with my life?
Perhaps, you’ve found yourself scrolling on social media late at a night and feeling like everyone but you is living their best lives.
Or maybe you go deeper with it and ask yourself: “Is there even a reason for me to be here? Do I even have a purpose? And if I don’t, what’s that mean about my existence.”
A lot of us end up here. You’re not alone.
We spiral and find ourselves viewing our lives as meaningless and worthless because we aren’t doing what others are doing. We internally berate ourselves for not accomplishing what we could be accomplishing based on our qualifications, ability, privilege, network, or training.
We convince ourselves that we don’t measure up.
We tell ourselves that we’ll matter more when we get the job, the spouse, the money, the degree, the _____.
Sadly, our self-worth can often be completely tied up in everything we don’t have and everything we feel like we’re not.
We can find ourselves in the happiest experiences of our lives (like truly thriving), only to be swept under the waves of self-doubt and misery moments later, when we realize we don’t have ourselves all figured out yet. Or when we hastily push ahead and set another goal to accomplish. Or when we realize that some parts of us are still broken.
But, here’s the truth of it: all of us have brokenness. All of us have doubt. All of us have shame. And still, our lives have meaning.
Each of us has the capacity to add something to the communities we live in, the churches we’re a part of, the families we care for, the schools we attend, and the strangers we meet. We can make all those places a little better. Often we’re doing this by simply showing up and being ourselves – our clumsy, unsure, brilliant, zestful, intelligent selves.
Yes, I’m still talking about you and me.
I think we get to break up the concept of purpose into smaller and more realistic pieces. Instead of asking: “Why am I here?” ask yourself about what you enjoy, what breaks your heart, who has thanked you recently about something you did for them, what you’re good at – like naturally good at, or what you work hard at even though you don’t get paid for it.
Ask yourself about what you’ve made it through. Ask yourself about how resilient you’ve been. Ask yourself about the things no one can ever take from you.
What excites you – or what used to? What do you care about – even if others don’t find it the least bit interesting.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about these questions, and here’s what I came up with.
Pieces of my purpose: To be a kind, good, and caring husband. To be a supportive older brother and supportive to others in my family. To be a solid and dependable friend. It breaks my heart to know that others are struggling in silence with mental illness. I find myself thinking of ways to help others take better care of themselves – this keeps me up at night. I also find myself thinking of ways to create community with other black men around issues of health and wellness, because so many of us are dying and suffering from preventable issues. I enjoy doing improv, writing, connecting with people, dancing, and bringing people together. If I wasn’t afraid, I would go all in on my dreams – I’m getting closer. Even at my lowest points, my worst moments, my biggest failures, I am still loved. I wholeheartedly believe part of my reason for being on this earth is to share God’s light with others through my work. I’ve often struggled to communicate this, because I feel like saying I’m a Christian and I love doing the work of the Lord turns others off, but it’s who I am. So here it is: I love Jesus. And if you don’t, I’m cool with that, and I still love you and celebrate you and think you get to have the big wondrous life you want to live. I find that leading and living from my heart makes all the different. It’s about love for me. That’s the big picture. Lastly, I believe I’ve had a positive impact on the lives of many just by showing up and being kind.
And, there’s so much more to me.
There’s so much more to you.
If you’re struggling to get unstuck from feeling like you have to have your entire life figured out today, I encourage you to pause, take a deep breath, and find some time to reflect on the topic of purpose in a different way. Remember to break it up.
Here are some questions to ask yourself this week, as you dig into this topic a little more.
I don’t suggest trying to respond to every one, it’s not a test. See which question tugs at you the most, kicks up stuff for you the most, or just feels most salient for you right now.
What issue or idea has been keeping me up at night?
What’s been breaking my heart?
What am I already doing that has a positive impact on the lives of others – if only a little?
What have my friends, family, or strangers thanked me for lately?
What would I create, add to, join, or show up for if I had the resources and wasn’t afraid?
What have I been hesitant to tell others about who I am and what I believe?
Oh, and I just gotta say this. Sometimes, we need to put down the journal, and get out, do something, and shake things up. I’ve personally found that taking action is a healthy way to move through the anxiety of trying to figure out ALL THE THINGS. This means signing up to volunteer service, joining a book club, attending a free lecture at a nearby college campus, or signing up for a workshop gets you out of your comfort zone. Thinking and reflection are necessary, and so is getting lost in experiences, meeting people you’ve never met, and doing things you never thought you could do.
Perhaps you won’t find the entire meaning for your life by doing this (you don’t need to), but you will learn something about yourself. You will take memories with you, and you will hopefully feel a little more alive.
You do not have to know your purpose in life to have meaning on this earth.
You don’t even have to be living on purpose to be belong here.
You already belong, and you’re already enough just because of the fact that you’re living and breathing. Those are the prerequisites. Live. Breathe.