Inspire (verb): to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence i.e. His courage inspired his followers; to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.) i.e., to inspire confidence in others.
I learned as a young woman how to politely say, “Thank you,” to compliments about my physical appearance. When someone says something nice about a dress I have on or a pair of shoes I’m wearing I have no problem saying, “I know, right?” But when someone tells me they’re inspired by my walk away from a safe job with a comfortable income I become flustered. It feels really awkward.
I hear the words “inspire,” and “inspirational,” quite frequently. Every time someone uses one of those words, I feel like I should look behind me to see who they’re really talking to. I mean, is being wet your pants scared inspirational? True, the wet your pants scared stage didn’t last long and I overcame it long enough to actually follow through with my decision to leap off the cliff of the unknown. But, I don’t feel inspirational.
I started questioning my reaction to these words about a year ago. A man I knew started literally yelling at me when he told me he found me inspirational and I tried to turn the compliment around by being gracious about where he was in his life. He was insulted I would not accept his accolades. He had no concept of why I would be uncomfortable with his words. He obviously had anger issues and this conversation went a long way towards helping me make the decision I didn’t need him in my world. Despite the inappropriateness of his anger, it still made me think: why am I so uncomfortable with compliments on my achievements?
I realized I tend to always pooh-pooh the compliment. I tell them that I know not many people have been in a place where they could afford to take the risk. I tell them I am single and I live by myself, so no other person was going to have their lifestyle at-risk because of my decision. I tell them that the YMCA gave me a safe place to land when I needed a cushion to bolster my courage. I tell them I’d made good investments.
All of these statements are true, but I have to recognize the flip side of each one of them. Yes, not everyone can afford to take the risk, but there are plenty who could and don’t. I took it. Yes, I live by myself, but that also means that if I fell flat on my face, there was no one by my side to pick up the slack. I was willing to fall on my face if necessary. Yes, the YMCA gave me a safe place to land, but they got a hell of an asset in the deal. It’s not often a seasoned customer service professional with extensive management experience is willing to accept a part-time position at little more than minimum wage. Yes, I did make good investments, but at the time I quit my job I wasn’t receiving a single penny from any of them. I have since made decisions that have put me in a position to receive monthly annuities from more than one source. That means I was smart.
It feels awkward for a person who struggles to own her achievements to write all of the nice things above, but I made myself write it. I can confidently tell you that all of this is true, but it feels awkward to say so. People are so willing to believe the negative things people say about them but it’s hard to believe the nice things people say for some reason.
I was going to end this piece by writing:
So, if I don’t feel inspirational, what do I feel? I feel lucky. I feel damn lucky. I am damn lucky I was in a position to give myself some breathing room when I was choking on the toxicity of my job. I am damn lucky I had the support of my family and friends. I am damn lucky that I have been a student of the Buddhist thought processes. I am damn lucky to have had the written works of Louise Hay, Iyanla Vanzant, Jill Bolte Taylor, Liz Gilbert, and James Altucher all cross my path at just the right times in my life. All of these factors enabled me to find my path and open myself to my journey.
One might say I find all of this inspiring.
Every word in that paragraph is true. But, once again, it puts me in the position of giving everything, or everyone, else credit for my achievements. I’ll try finishing this way instead:
I work hard to follow my instincts whenever I feel them trying to guide me. I listen to my gut, even when it feels uncomfortable to do so. Okay, maybe, especially when it feels uncomfortable to do so. I live my life, day by day, trying to make the best decisions for myself without worrying about what anyone else thinks about it.
I love the life that’s resulted from those decisions. I have no idea what my future holds, but I’m going to do my best to continue living my life honestly and openly. If anyone finds that inspiring, thank you.