In the past I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact that a lot of my family and some of my friends just “don’t get it” when it comes to my career. It’s not that they don’t love me or support me more broadly, it’s just that much of what I do is foreign to them. As with anything, without a context it can be hard to understand why something is important or meaningful.
But it hurts to be misunderstood! It is painful to feel like your accomplishments don’t matter, because some of the people closest to you don’t understand why they’re a big deal. It sucks to come home from a year living in another country and have certain people not ask you a single question about your experience.
In the past I’ve often turned to Sarah Von Bargen’s genius concept of The Authenticity Tax to help me with the sting of this lack of understanding. She says that the authenticity tax is the price we pay for living a life that’s right for us. It’s usually experienced in the form of strange commentary, weird looks, lack of enthusiasm, or outright confusion at our life choices from those around us. Trust me: having this mental heuristic helps. A lot. It has been such a balm to me over the years.
Yesterday, I had another realization that helped: I can be a better advocate for myself. If my loved ones don’t have the appropriate context for the things I’m doing, I can give it to them. I can proactively announce things rather than waiting to be asked about them. I can celebrate my own achievements in a way that makes it obvious how I feel about them, and what the appropriate response should be.
Over the past year I’ve been noticing that my own uncertainty evokes uncertainty in others. My lack of confidence in myself seems to create a lack of confidence in me from others. My doubts cause doubts. I’ve seen it again and again in my work: the minute I put the fear and doubt aside and focus on confidence and trust, those are reflected right back to me.
All this is to say, yesterday when this big project launched, which feels enormous to me but (naturally!) teeny-tiny to pretty much everyone else on earth, I advocated for myself. I announced it everywhere, and then I wrote an email to announce it to my entire family, proactively explaining why it’s important to me, why I’m proud of it, and why it’s such a big deal. And guess what? They were instantly there to cheer me on.
Maybe this is a secret of adulthood that everyone has learned already, but it bears recording for my future self: Advocate for yourself. Celebrate yourself. Explain yourself. Give people the benefit of the doubt. You will be far happier with the results you get, since people can’t read your mind.