I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, but I wanted to share my “word of the year” with you – encourage. When you look up that word, other words such as advice, support, confidence, inspire, and hope pop up. I love that, don’t you? If we consciously think about encouraging others, we can help give them confidence and hope. HOPE! Hope that they can pull themselves out of a problem situation, hope that they can do better at…whatever it is they’re struggling with, hope that they can get through a difficult season of life.
When you make an intentional effort to encourage, you have the opportunity to inspire. Think about it. Who has inspired you? How can you “pay it forward” and inspire someone else? We often think of inspiring and encouraging young people, which is so very important. But there are people in all age ranges who need encouragement. Maybe someone has lost a job. Or they are dealing with a difficult teenager. Or they are the sole caregiver for an elderly parent. Or they are struggling through school, trying to better themselves by getting a degree at what some may consider an “advanced age” (sometimes that advanced age might be anything over 30!). You may be the one to inspire them to keep putting one foot in front of the other as they overcome life’s challenges.
But there’s another category of people we need to intentionally encourage and that’s ourselves. Every single person moves through life from their own perspective. That naturally results in others thinking how they are moving through isn’t the “correct” way. Sometimes that attitude from others can be hurtful and we sink into what can become a dangerous place – we feel like we are doing it wrong, which can lead to feelings of being “less than.”
Let me just stop right here and encourage you…don’t let the committee in your head (fed by those who want to “help” you do it right) tell you that you aren’t enough. You ARE enough. You are NOT less than. Could you do better in some areas? I have no way of knowing that for sure, but if you’re anything at all like me, the answer is a resounding “absolutely!” But that doesn’t mean you should get discouraged. It just means you need to have an awareness (our word in the last blog post) of the situation so YOU can decide if you are being your best self in a particular situation.
Here’s an example: I was reviewing some evaluations from a few weeks ago (yep, I read every one!), and although most were very positive, there was a comment that really took me off-guard. Honestly? My feelings were hurt. I always take comments seriously, but since it was the only really negative comment, I had to mentally push myself back from my desk and encourage myself. Because of my upbringing, it can be a struggle for me to debate my own committee inside my head. The folks lounging around inside there know just where my vulnerabilities lie, and they love to ramp up the negative chatter. So, I had to encourage myself – there wasn’t anyone else to do it for me. Here’s what I’ve found though…every time I have to do that for myself, it reaffirms that “I’m okay” – maybe even more so than when someone else tries to encourage me. Sometimes, those people who want to encourage me are just being their sweet selves and I’m never sure if they have a clear perspective of what’s going on. But when something is dragging me down, I DO have a clear perspective since it’s my life that’s being affected. And I also have the opportunity to stop in the moment and encourage myself.
So, I’m going to challenge you to do the same. The next time something is weighing you down, take a moment to consciously re-frame your thoughts. How did I do that in the example I mentioned? I said to myself (yes, I often talk to myself, lol) that what that person said was obviously their reality on that day and that’s okay. It didn’t necessarily make it true in my life and I can be encouraged by the thought that I am now aware of the negative feeling that person expressed and if it’s useful, that’s great. But I don’t have to allow it to influence my feelings about myself.
Now…here’s your challenge question for this post (have you noticed I like to challenge you??): think of someone right this minute that could use some encouragement. You don’t necessarily have to take action right this minute, but don’t let too much time go by before you reach out to them because if you’re like me, it may slip your mind. Don’t forget to include yourself in that list if needed.
And remember, you ARE enough.
If you need any resource recommendations in that area, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send you a few things I’ve found helpful. Until next time, be encouragED and encouragING!