Because if you don’t, nobody’s gonna do it for you. And whatever did you even get a horn for if not for tooting anyway?
Most of us grew up learning it’s never nice to praise yourself. I, for example, grew up in an all-girls Catholic school. People preferred us meek and modest and judged us based on the length of our underskirts.
Whenever someone was kind enough to point out that I was actually pretty beneath my big, thick eyeglasses—a serious source of my lack of confidence at the time—I pretended I didn’t hear them. Whenever my classmates looked at me enviously for having topped another exam yet again, I played coy and said, “Aww shucks! I’m really not that smart. I just got lucky. And I studied all night.” Hah! I never study all night. And that one time I knew I was going to be top of the class (because, of course, I knew, everybody knew), I just sat there timidly pretending I didn’t know it was going to be me.
And it’s not just me. It’s pretty much everybody born into a world where people are taught that, for some reason I can no longer comprehend, you’re not supposed to love yourself. Instead, you’re supposed to think that you’re flawed and, therefore, needs a lot of fixing. You’re supposed to think you’re animalistic by nature, which means you need to be educated, governed, and tethered by the mind like some beast that could go out of control at any moment. You’re supposed to think that you’re a sinner by default, having come into this physical world utterly naked, vulnerable, and already having done something wrong.
And so, we play small. We play humble. And we put up on a pedestal those people who are beautiful, intelligent, and kind but don’t know (or pretend not to know) that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and kind. Because to do otherwise, to recognize your own greatness as a human being, is to go against everything that’s been taught to you all these years. It’s to risk being called crazy by people whose approval was the only thing you once wanted the most. But more importantly, it’s to risk facing yourself, the fears you have allowed to take root, and uproot them using your own two hands because nobody’s going to do it for you.
That’s something not a lot of people are willing to take. Most people are content to stay in the status quo because getting out of it requires a lot of courage. Or they try to convince themselves that, yes, they want some nice things but it’s gonna cost them the right arm and the left leg and they’re willing to sell any body part to the devil just so they can get their nice things. And when it’s time for stepping up their game, for tooting their own horn, for acknowledging and sharing the light and power within and everything it can accomplish, they shrink and they cower and they hate on the world. Because you can’t toot your own horn. You can’t praise yourself. You can’t think of yourself as way, way, way better than good enough.
That’s how I used to think. And also, I used to sit quietly in corners shushing this persistent little voice inside my head that kept telling me I shouldn’t be hiding in the shadows. That I should be out and about sharing to the world how beautiful, insightful, and big-hearted I was. But noooo! You just can’t go climbing rooftops and shouting to the world how you are all that and more. You. Just. Can’t. Because, of course, that’s not how it works. You don’t just tell people what you are and hope they get it. You show them who you are in your full, blinding glory, and the people who were meant to see will see with eyes and hearts wide open, without you having to shove yourself down their throats.
It’s not just the things we say. It’s not just the things we do. It’s also and more importantly the things we feel about ourselves. Because if you do feel good about yourself, you no longer need to ask for validation from someone else. You no longer need people’s permission to do your own thing. You can love yourself, admire yourself, cherish yourself all day long, all life long, without a single care if people thought you were being a self-centered little bitch who thought too highly of yourself.
Because you know what? We can’t ever think too highly of ourselves. The rational, sensible mind has no means at all to grasp even the slightest shred of this idea of who we are. The mind doesn’t know who we truly are because it cannot know. It’s not the job of the mind to know. It’s the job of the mind to follow you where you want to go, and to be useful, helpful, beneficial when you need it to. The job of knowing who you truly are belongs to your heart. It can’t think. It can’t analyze. It can’t figure things out. But it knows. It always has. And you only need to stay quiet to hear what it’s been telling you all along.
And all along, it’s been telling you to drop all pretense at being insignificant, incapable, mediocre. That’s not you. You’ve never been small at all, except for the times you believed you were. You’ve never been not good enough. You’ve never been less than. You’ve never been just a bag of flesh and bones, whose fate is determined by the movement of the stars or, god forbid, the next elections. You’re so much more than that, and you’re doing yourself and the whole world a disservice by trying (and failing so badly!) to convince yourself that you’re somehow less than who you are.
The world doesn’t need people who shrink in the corners when their gifts could be unleashed. We don’t have to refuse to step up to the responsibility of wielding the magnificent power that we have within. And what of people who turn green with envy at the pretense, of course, of denouncing your horrible selfishness? They need you to toot your own horn for yourself because by doing so, you’re tooting their own horn for themselves as well.
Nothing is ever as selfish as we think it is. All the things we do to ourselves, we do to everybody else. And when we suppress our own power just so we can live up to the expectations of others, we suppress other people’s power as well. When we allow ourselves to shine, we shine so bright that our light becomes the spark that emboldens others. So, go ahead. Climb up to the top of that roof and tell the world you’re here. It’s about damn time anyway.