If you are anything like me, you have likely heard this a lot in your life as well: “Oh, but you just have so much potential.”
It kind of stings, no?
Likely because it is typically delivered via a tone that carries a little bit of pity, and instigates a varying amount of shame.
This started for me when I was in grade school and my parents would come home from parent-teacher conferences and tell me that my B grades basically were not good enough. They would always tell me that my teachers told me that I had “smarts” (add this to the list of words that makes me clench my jaw), and then would basically attempt to get me to do better by making me feel as if I was not enough—as if I was constantly falling short.
They were well intended, but it did not have the effect on my performance that they had hoped it would, I don’t believe. They were right, I could have done better and I eventually did, but it was not as a result of these interactions.
I am guilty of communicating this to people as well—both through my words and actions. Admittedly, I have even done this in my relationships. I have dated and married men who had this “potential” and was constantly expecting, and even demanding, more from them.
I saw in them so much possibility.
I saw that higher part of them and I truly thought that I saw unique gifts that they had, and I wanted badly to encourage them to use these for themselves—and selfishly toward me. As you can imagine, in the long run this did not bode well for either of us.
I see things a little bit more clearly now. I have a teacher who told me recently to look at my future as a field of potential, and I felt something shift within me. The next time around I did not feel that sting and dose of shame.
It was different this time around both due to the intention and delivery of this message from my teacher as well as the manner in which I chose to receive it.
We all have a higher potential—even a “highest” potential, but it is within our perspectives of ourselves and others that makes all of the difference. We all have those unique gifts. We all have unique ways that we see and can interact within this world of ours.
The tricky part of this though, is that we cannot force others to see these things within themselves. It is perhaps even wrong of me, or any of us, to claim that we can see this in someone else.
We can see that light within them, but to fully understand someone else, I argue is not within our scope as people.
The only people in this world that we can ever even come close to truly understanding is ourselves, and that takes time, stillness, grace, forgiveness and self-love.
What we can do, is both see and honor wherever we—or where anyone else is at.
When it comes to doing this for ourselves, I cannot truly feel that potential for my future until I see myself as being completely full where I am at currently. I cannot grow, I cannot improve myself if my starting point is seeing myself as someone who is lacking. The energy is wrong and I will be going at the endeavor from a place almost of “fixing” more so than anything else, and none of us—not one of us, ever needs fixing.
We all struggle. We struggle with different things. Some of us may struggle with addiction, some with anger, some with keeping a job, and the list goes on, but these situations are not that of which we should identify.
Our struggles are not who we are.
We are not our struggles.
The potential that we have is a matter of alignment.
It is about being true to who we are.
It is about listening to what we feel is right for us.
We are always complete. Always. We can perform and take actions and do things that can be really far away from who we are—or we can become closer to this.
It is extremely difficult for any of us to be in alignment with this at all times, but the closer that we get to our thoughts, words, and actions being in-line with what is true to us, the more of that potential we are fulfilling.
When we see that we have not done something that is perhaps part of this potential for ourselves, it is crucial that we respond in a positive way.
This is such a game changer and carries so much weight that I believe this requires re-emphasis: When we step out of alignment with what is truly “us,” when we do things that perhaps are not good for us, do not feel right for us, are unhealthy for us, or even hurt ourselves or others, we have got to forgive ourselves. We need to have grace for ourselves in these times or it can just lead to shame, guilt or other states that can just lead us further off the path.
We acknowledge this, learn from it, and we can let it go.
We come back to who we are and we choose the best course of action in which to continue.
Again, our “potential” is not to be seen with the perspective of that which we are not. Rather, this potential for ourselves, basically is just that. It is our self.
We can choose in any situation to think, act and speak in alignment with what is really us.
That is the beauty of it—it really is simple. We don’t have to chase after potential like the proverbial carrot.
It is already within us.
It is us.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Travis May