If you are an overachiever who also happens to be sensitive, empathic, or a people pleaser, you have likely given away your power to others. It’s time to take it back!
I have been there. I can finally say that I am over the painful hurdle of powerlessness and low self-worth. I want to pull you over with me.
Join me in breaking the spell of feeling unworthy, guilty, or bad about your achievements.
Your Worst Effort Is Still Better…
I was the captain of the volleyball team in high school. My greatest strength was an accurate and consistent serve. The serve is the one place that can make or break a match. Just getting the ball over the net is half the battle. The same was true in tennis, the other sport in which I excelled. Success was a matter of consistency.
In one volleyball match, I was tired and stressed about schoolwork, and just couldn’t get it together. In a team huddle, I begged the coach to take me out because I felt like I was letting everyone down. The coach, who in retrospect was probably one of the most supportive adults in my life at the time, blurted out, “Michelle, your worst day is better than everyone else’s best. We need you in there.”
Failure Isn’t an Option; Neither is Success
I was mortified. As an empath who is very sensitive to other people’s energy, I remember feeling the searing anger and jealousy from some of my teammates. They were deeply insulted and I felt very guilty for that fact.
I have felt that same negative energy throughout my life when I dared to shine brightly. As you can imagine, doing well has always felt like a double-edged sword.
The reality, however, is that my coach was right. I practiced with a drive and intensity that most of my teammates didn’t possess. It wasn’t really a measure of my raw talent, but rather my desire to be the best I could be. I came early to practice and often stayed late, so that I could master my serve. I toughened up my forearms so that I could control every pass. It wasn’t an anomaly that I played well, it was sheer determination.
The Pain Behind Perfection
I don’t share this story to brag. On the contrary, I want it to offer insight as to who I am and where I have come from, as my outcome may not be what you’d expect.
I have won awards. I have had impressive jobs with a lot of responsibility. I have easily made friends and gotten along with impossibly difficult people. I am kind, compassionate, and dedicated to being a good person. I have also been painfully self-deprecating, filled with self-doubt, and easily manipulated by others.
After many years of research on this strange dichotomy of outward success combined with inner criticism, I know I am not alone. Many sensitive overachievers have experienced this same difficult path of trying to live our best lives, while managing the jealousy, criticism, and cruelty of those around us.
More than Enough
The self-doubt and insecurity I am referring to likely grew from years of shame, criticism, and emotional abuse by toxic people. So, it’s odd for me to report that it seemed to turn around for me in an instant. That is often how dramatic change can be.
This past summer, I was listening to a free meditation from Lisa A. Romano on Insight Timer. She was saying her signature line, a line that carried me through my divorce, “You are enough.” As I repeated that line, like so many times before, I found myself growing unexpectedly angry.
Suddenly, I heard myself say, “F*CK THAT! I am more than enough!” You know things have gotten real when the F bomb shows up.
To be fair, around that same time I had also done EFT (Tapping) regarding that same issue of not being enough. Apparently, my combined efforts finally cracked through the subconscious beliefs that were keeping me trapped.
See the Insanity
There I was in a moment of recognition that I had been setting this terribly low bar for my self-worth, a bar that was no longer acceptable to me. I am so much more than just enough!
As an aside, this is how I feel when I hear the statement, “Black lives matter.” It is absurd to me that an entire group of humans have to justify their worth in such a basic manner. What a crazy world we live in where overachievers are made to doubt their basic worth and all humans are judged by something as trivial as the color of their skin! Once you recognize the insanity, you are that much closer to breaking free.
Change Your Mind
I don’t want to simplify how difficult it is to break free from low self-esteem, or the desire to put others’ needs before your own, as both of those conditions are based on beliefs that are deeply engrained in your subconscious mind.
However, I also don’t want you to feel like you will never overcome them. The solution can be far simpler than you think. It certainly was for me. It just took realizing how silly my beliefs had been, and recognizing I could not let anyone who supported those negative beliefs get close to me anymore. I am love. I am loved.
We All Need Unconditional Support
I must admit, meeting a genuinely loving partner two years ago was likely the catalyst that sparked these revelations. He never lets me put myself down. He corrects me when I over apologize. He points out that I am allowed to have a difference in opinion. He explains that I am not a bad person just because someone doesn’t like my choices. He has only ever seen the light in me.
Through his constant support, I have been able to recognize how ludicrous my hurtful beliefs around myself have been. His unconditional love broke through the layers of abuse and manipulation I had experienced from previous partners. Of course, after declaring my own self love just before meeting him, I was fully dedicated to breaking my unhealthy patterns. Both constants were essential in this evolution.
Healthy Relationships are Vital
As I gained more confidence and read countless articles on how toxic people are typically a driving force in a sensitive woman’s lack of confidence, I realized that I could only be as healthy as my relationships. This led to the following lessons around what sensitive overachievers must do to be mentally healthy.
- Surround yourself with people who support you. Emotionally healthy people support your success. People who show disappointment or envy when something good happens to you can steal the joy right out from under you. Don’t let them!
- Eliminate all toxic people from your life. This may seem impossible and may require rebuilding your entire life. Trust me here! It took me five years, but I have eliminated every single toxic person from my world. I now have a very small tribe of people around me. None of them drain me. They only light me up.
- See yourself accurately. Don’t let others manipulate your perception of yourself. Write in a journal daily, talk candidly with friends. Get really clear on who you are so that no one can cause you doubt.
- Focus on receiving love and kindness. Never reject a compliment. Pause and simply say, “Thank you.” Let the love in.
- Don’t criticize yourself. Self-deprecation doesn’t make healthy people feel good. It only emboldens toxic people to criticize or manipulate you more easily.
As has been true for the last several posts I’ve written, I am fueling my thoughts with the power of the moon. Today is the Full Moon in Virgo. Shortly after writing this, I came across a blog that said this full moon is about releasing perfectionism. I’m ready! How about you?
Resources for Improving Self-Worth:
The following sites, books, and resources have helped me regain my power and improve my self-worth. I hope they help you too!
- Lisa A. Romano (YouTube)
- Teri Cole (YouTube)
- Sarah K. Ramsey (YouTube)
- Glennon Doyle (Facebook)
The Tapping Solution App – There are many great tapping meditations to help you break through negative subconscious beliefs. Tapping really works!
INFJ Revolution – If you are an INFJ (personality type) you are more prone to struggle with sensitivity and putting others first. Reading this book from Lauren Sapala made me feel less alone.
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit.
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4 thoughts on “Reclaiming Your Power”
I was shaking my head in agreement while reading your post. You are such a bright loving light.
Thank you for sharing your heart and your journey of transformation.
Thank you! I hate that you relate. But, I’m very glad to have you in my tribe!
Michelle, we could be twins. INFJ, Tapping, empathic people please. But one who goes into righteous indignation mode easily sometimes, rather than placate. Cheryl Richardson’s Tapping Summit talk on finding peace in turbulent times hit home. The tapping rounds on “Even though I manufacture anxiety “ and “releasing resistance to peace” are wonderful. I did not do them yesterday and was easily triggered. But I caught myself. Thank you.
Hi my twin! There are too many of us, but I’m excited that we are finding our way and gaining better balance and health. Keep up the great work!