Most days I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing, and I’m pretty sure that many of us feel that way at times. Self-doubt, impostor syndrome, low esteem—all of these things are part of the oh-so-fun package that is the human condition and we all address these issues in different ways.
The phrase “I’m my own worst critic” is widespread for a reason, after all.
But a few weeks ago now (which, by the way, I can’t believe) I attended a talk that made me reassess how I approach myself and how I wish others could approach themselves too. It was by the ever-lovely Girl On The Net and it concerned pitching articles to companies and journals, but I think the overall message is a much more universal one:
No one does what you do quite like you.
Oh yeah, it’s time to talk USP
Wait, USP? Like The Shipping Company?
You’ve jumbled up some letters there my friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the play on words, but that answer is still ‘no’.
Instead USP stands for ‘Unique Selling Proposition’. Those in the sales world (or the business sector generally) may already know what this means but, just in case, I thought I’d give a very brief run down.
A unique selling proposition is basically what your company can offer in terms of your product/approach/ideas that other companies simply can’t. In short it’s what makes you stand out from the crowd and what draws others in.
It’s what makes your company unique.
Self-Doubt Is a Bitch
As you can imagine, thinking of a USP is often easier said than done.
Everyone’s thought of something before and the phrase ‘Simpsons did it’ isn’t just a South Park mantra—sometimes it really can feel like your company (or even you) have nothing unique to offer.
This is bullshit.
As GoTN so lovingly pointed out to an audience of eager writers, journalists, and sex advocates (all quietly doubting themselves while all being admired by at least one other person in the room) we are all unique and so we all have something to offer to the world—ourselves.
This is something I see in academia too. Whenever we present an assignment to a group of Undergraduates they fear that because there is only one topic their work will seem disingenuous. But I could mark papers on the same topic for eternity and not find two that were completely alike. It’s just not possible.
But What Does This Mean For Me?
All this may sound well and good for a business, or a writer, or other content creator, but what about you—my lovely reader who is here right now? What does the idea of a USP have when it comes to personal esteem?
Well, as you can imagine, there’s a great amount of power in building ourselves up.
In life what we cultivate in ourselves is what will grow and be reinforced over time. This is the case for negative emotions and behaviors but it also appeals to the positive too—all the things in life we want to develop but often feel unable to do so.
But motivation doesn’t always come before action and sometimes we have to kick start ourselves in to action before we can grow.
It’s with this in mind (and with inspiration from GoTN) that I propose that we all try to find our own USP so that we can sell ourselves to ourselves. Or, to put it another way, embrace radical self-love.
Okay, so how is this done?
Well, here are a few methods that I’ve been trying out. Hopefully they’ll be of help to you too.
Write Down Your USPs
This one is perhaps the hardest of all, because our inevitable go-to is to be critical of ourselves.
Back when it was ‘survival of the fittest’ there was a reason for this. Focusing on our faults allowed us to avoid potential risks with a great big ‘DO NOT WANT’ signal to the brain. But although we’re no longer at imminent danger of being attacked by deadly animals our brains still haven’t got the memo in every regard and they like to make us dwell on things that are now incredibly unhelpful.
But now that you know this you can accept this fact and simply acknowledge it when you sit down to do this exercise before going on to write the positive thoughts that you think make you truly unique (or lovable).
This may very well be too hard. Maybe you start with only three points. Or maybe just one.
Maybe instead of writing ‘I am confident’ you instead write ‘I can come to think of myself as confident’ or any other progressive step that you need.
The important thing is that you acknowledge that you actually do have unique aspects to yourself which are positive and beneficial.
But, if this really is too much then you can always…
Brainstorm Your USPs With Others
This was the harder one for me. Much harder, actually.
I’ve always struggled with complements and have never really been comfortable with people giving me praise that I feel is undue.
But working on my USPs with others did come with its own benefits.
Firstly, because I was writing down what I believed to be my friends unique aspects I realized that I wouldn’t once want them to feel like they didn’t possess these traits, or that they weren’t worthy of them.
These were the aspects that I saw in them, even if they couldn’t see it themselves, and it felt sincere and loving to write them down.
It was at this point that I was able to put myself in the shoes of those who choose to complement me and realize that, even if I don’t see myself a certain way, the people around me feel that I am that way with complete sincerity.
I don’t get to control how others see me and I might just learn something if I take their words to heart and accept that my personality comes across in such a way that might be considered loving, caring, or perhaps even self-assured.
Knowing that these descriptors were things that others assigned to me allowed me to start seeing them in myself and to stop rejecting the kind words of my friends—both very empowering acts!
Which brings me on to my next point…
Be Authentically You
One day when at my therapy session I confessed that I was worried I was a fraud—That I was just doing nice things to make others around me happy and that I wasn’t nice at all.
At which point she asked “But isn’t that the very definition of nice? Someone who does things to make others happy?”
We can only ever be who we are and we can only ever do what we do. Sure, we can be insincere but even then we’re making an active decision to be an insincere person—our intentions and our actions match up.
So, whoever you are and whatever you do, try to live as authentically as you can. Be impeccable with your words and stay true to what feels right to you.
At this point you hardly even need to document your USPs. They will naturally present themselves to those around you. And then, when people acknowledge them, you can say thank you and make a mental note.
“This is me, and no one else is quite the same”.
Surround Yourself With People Who ‘Get You’
That’s not to say ‘create an echo chamber’. That’s never a good thing.
Instead it’s a matter of acknowledging that you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine.
When you aspire to live authentically then you’ll naturally make it clear what type of person you are. Some people will like it and some people most definitely will not.
When you meet people who are incompatible you may engage with them, but if they dislike you fundamentally as a person then there comes a time when you need to accept your differences and allow yourself to back away from the situation for your own peace of mind.
But, in doing this, learn to embrace the aspects of yourself that have led to any parting of ways or, conversely, the strengthening of any other friendships.
Eventually this will provide you with a solid support network which won’t just show you your USPs but will also help you grow in confidence and self-contentment.
So go on—start exploring what makes you you. It won’t always be easy but it is always worth it (because you are).
This article was inspired by Girl On The Net’s talk, ‘Pitching 101: learn to sell your ideas’, given at Eroticon 2017 and is part of the wider KnickEroticonGlory series. Please show my wonderful Eroticon sponsor Knicker Rocker Glory support and go check out Girl On The Net’s site. Both are well worth a visit.