Tyler’s Note: This is a Riskologist Field Report by Amy Pearson from Bloom Life Design. Field Reports are written by readers just like you, so be nice, enjoy the story, and take action on the lesson.
I am a woman on a mission.
And I know it sounds cliché, but my mission really is to save the world—from war, famine, poverty, ignorance, hate, intolerance, rude Starbucks baristas, bad reality TV, etc.
I realize that sounds like a lot for one person, but hear me out. What I really mean by saving the world is that I have always wanted to make a difference. Make my mark. Go big.
So, I spent my entire adult life trying to make a difference, to make my mark, to go big. I worked at a rape crisis center, volunteered in an AIDS hospice, delivered food to the poor, wrote letters and organized campaigns for political prisoners, lobbied federal legislatures, demonstrated all over the country for all kinds of causes, and I even stopped eating meat for like a day.
Growing Up To Be “Good”
I wasn’t always such an intense crusader. As a girl, I loved to spoof synchronized swimming performances (sans water). I once brought down the house performing a monologue of Row Row Row Your Boat to an initially very earnest group of beauty contestant judges. I wore the pin “I Will Never Grow Up” like a badge of honor.
But over time, as my desire to “be a good person” grew, I became a lot more serious.
As an adult, when I wasn’t out doing good deeds, I was at home reading about how the world was going to hell in a hand basket. I had to be informed after all, so I became encyclopedic in my knowledge of issues like rape, the death penalty, torture, poverty, hunger.
I watched every single Michael Moore documentary only to fall into a deep shame for not doing more. Not being Michael Moore. Not making enough impact.
Even as I spent all that time and energy trying to make a difference, I had a dirty little secret: All of my effort to do good felt really, really bad.
When “Doing Good” Feels Bad
Each time I learned about another environmental crisis, I used it as a stick with which to beat myself over the head. I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t doing enough, I told myself over and over.
Looking back, it’s no surprise why my deep desire to make a difference didn’t feel good. I used my progress—or lack thereof—as a reflection of my self-worth. But people “ohhhed” and “ahhhhed” at my good deeds so this was my consolation prize.
Ironically it wasn’t until the universe hit me on the head with its own stick that I learned how to achieve my mission.
To make a long story short, the “stick” was the devastating loss of my mother and the birth of my twins, 3 months later.
I Stopped Tolerating Bullshit
I had been working on a report for a progressive think tank about the mortgage interest rate deduction at this time when I witnessed my ability to tolerate bullshit recede from my life like a distant memory. I realized I hated reading the newspaper. I didn’t want to study economics. I didn’t care about fiscal policy.
All I wanted to do was read about near death experiences…then about angels…then about past life regression.
What would my mentors over at the Hatfield School say?
It didn’t matter. I kept reading. My metaphysical book binge morphed into a full-out self-help reading frenzy—Martha Beck, Debbie Ford, Eckhart Tolle, Barbara Sher…
Self-Indulgence Led Me Back to Me
And as I luxuriated in each seemingly self-indulgent title, each one led me back to myself.
They led me back to the girl who posts YouTube videos of herself dancing to MC Hammer as a way to blow off steam, who breaks the ice by joking about farts, who fantasizes about giving away free hugs in urban settings or organizing large-scale flash mobs.
The real me loves to laugh. And the thing I didn’t realize is this:
The real me, who is outrageously imperfect in every way, is the one with the power to “save the world.”
You see, Scott Harrison over at Charity: Water wants to save the world, too. The difference is he is very clear about his mission—restore clean water to Africa and change the face of charity.
Approve of Yourself First
My desire to make a difference never amounted to much because I got confused. I thought I had to make a difference to even justify my existence.
But now I know that it’s really the opposite:
- I can save the world with a piece of lettuce stuck between my teeth.
- I can save the world and wear hammer pants.
- I can save the world and love to read about angels, near death experiences and reincarnation.
When I approve of myself first, my purpose is clear. Now, saving the world, to me, means being an example of what is possible.
Tomorrow it might mean something a little different. But it’s a lot easier to know how to make a difference in my own way when I approve of myself, first.
And, as a result, over the last four years, I have learned how to be me again. Your “me” might love to read the newspaper. Your “me” might love to geek out on economics. Alas, my real me does not.
And in the past four years, I have done more to save the world then all of my previous years combined.
It Starts With Being Real
I know it without a doubt. And it started by just being real.
By being an example of what is possible, I save the world one person at a time.
I helped someone learn how to love herself again after a childhood of abuse. I helped someone else find the courage to begin writing again. I helped another person leave a job she hated. Another one is applying for a patent. Another one is considering film school.
As I write, this comment just came through on my blog:
Amy, You changed my life with 8 simple words, ‘it’s all about the story you tell yourself’. From the moment I heard that phrase I realized I am in complete control of my emotions.
You taught me that I am perfect just the way I am, right now in this moment. Every day is still a challenge because as you say I am a recovering approval addict, but I feel so much lighter these days. There’s much to be said about letting go and accepting the now, it’s quite liberating! So thank you, I’m more appreciative than I could ever express in words.
So, if you too are on a mission, stop trying to be good! It’s the only way to actually make a difference.
How to Get Over Being Good
The crazy thing is, when you begin to let go of “being a good person” you actually create the freedom to bring more goodness in the world. Here’s how to begin:
Stop worrying about what other people think.
I spent much of my adult life getting high on approval. Those “ohhhs” and “ahhhs,” may have been a quick hit but they didn’t help me get any closer to my mission.
As a life coach, I know that worrying about what other people think is a sure-fire way to kill your power. Approval seeking will leave you hopelessly stuck, lonely and full of resentment. Not the combo you want if you are on a mission.
Eliminate the word selfless from your vocabulary…
…and start being more selfish! I used to think I had to be selfless to save the world. What bullshit!
Selflessness is all about putting yourself last on your list. I learned that putting myself last meant my good deeds were empty of any real passion or sincerity. Once I gave myself permission to be more selfish, I started to finally get some clarity about how I could make a difference in the world in my own unique way.
Stop trying to motivate yourself through negative self-talk.
I used to think I had to beat the crap out of myself in my head to get anything done. But this type of thinking is not logical. Beating myself up in my mind just left me grumpy. The more grumpy I felt the more grumpy I acted and the less motivated I was to do anything other than pick fights with my husband.
You might argue that without negative self-talk you’ll spend the rest of your existence on the couch. All I have to say is ignore that mental chatter and you’ll be happier and more energized to do your work in the world.
Throw away any preconceived ideas of how to accomplish your mission.
I thought I needed to be a very serious person with a PHD to save the world. In reality, I just ended up one very unhappy person blowing through a lot of time and money on degrees I didn’t need.
It’s ironic that releasing control of the “how” and just allowing myself to follow my interests was ultimately the only way I was able to get clarity around my real work in the world.
Stop worrying about your flaws and focus on your strengths.
I thought I was going to save the world by forcing myself to read as many newspapers as possible even though the real me wanted to curl up into a fetal position every time I read about the latest crisis.
When I started worrying less about my knowledge of current events and started focusing on my strengths, I was blown away by the things I could do.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Gandhi knew what he was talking about. I noticed that the more I treated myself with love and compassion, the more I could show love and compassion to those around me. The more love and compassion I showed to those around me, the more they seemed to show it to people around them.
Peace is something that starts inside and fans out from there.
So, there you have it. Go out and save the world the only way you can.
Amy Pearson is a Master Martha Beck Life Coach at Bloom Life Design and Coach Instructor for Martha Beck Inc. Her mission is to help women lead their lives from self-love and confidence so they can play big in the world. Click here to learn more about her and sign up for her free e-course called “I Don’t Need Your Approval! How to Overcome Your Inner Approval Addict.