I remember a painful day when a fellow bandmate suggested a change to the chords in a song I had written. I burst into tears, ashamed that I was upset but unable to stay calm. Although his comments were expressed respectfully, I took his criticism as unequivicol proof that I was a bad songwriter.
I internalized the belief that I was bad at a young age. My friend’s dad sexually assaulted me, but called it a punishment for being bad. He told me it was my fault, and I believed him.
Changing this belief, and learning to feel worthy, has been an underlying current in my healing journey. I used to think it was as simple as deciding to change the belief, and then I would be set for life. That initial shift is essential. But then we have to revisit the lesson over and over again, in so many situations, until worthiness and feeling good enough become our default beliefs.
As a teenager and young adult, I sought external proof of my worthiness. Getting perfect grades, winning awards, and earning other people’s praise were my chosen methods of proving I was good enough. Yet looking for external validation took away all my power. I would feel successful and worthy when I received a compliment; I would feel like the scum of the earth when I was criticized.
When I began writing songs at age 22, I loved the creative process. But sharing the songs was not so easy, because I was not yet grounded in my own worthiness.
I suspected that people were just saying they liked my music to avoid hurting my feelings, but still I sought out the opinions of others. I asked friends. I asked my family. I was searching for some proof that my music was worthwhile. But really, I was looking for validation that I was good enough.
My friend and mentor Sian Lalita’ Alcock gave me a tough-love lesson. When I asked her if she liked my music, she responded that it did not matter if she liked my music. It only mattered if I valued it. I said, “Right, of course, but what do you think?” She held her ground. “It doesn't matter what I think,” she insisted.
Convinced she thought my music wasn't that good, I burst into tears. I was filled with anger and pain and went to hide in the bathroom.
Still, she made her point. Someone else's opinion of my creative voice is unimportant. I could stop torturing myself on the roller coaster of needing outside approval.
With every song I share, every post I write, every speech I give, I feel the old doubts surfacing. “Is this good enough? Am I good enough?” And each moment becomes an opportunity to strengthen my own feelings of self-compassion and worthiness.
By valuing myself, I have all the validation I need.
Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash