Life is a series of group projects. We learn this early, starting when we’re in school. If you’re like me, you hated group work growing up and looked forward to one day graduating and being responsible only for yourself. Then you got into the job field and—surprise!—literally everything is group work.
We like to think of ourselves as independent creatures, but the truth is that nothing we do is truly a solo effort. Everything we accomplish requires other people on some level. Whether it’s offering advice or support, teaching us something we didn’t already know, or finishing part of a project that we’re unable or too busy to do, we’re constantly collaborating with others in order to achieve our collective and individual goals.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me 26 years to realize this, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t accomplish anything worth doing in this life on my own. I need other people in order to make an impact on the world. And you do, too. Because life is a team sport, and we’re going to have to work together to succeed.
But here’s my biggest problem with group work: I never know if I’m doing enough. I don’t see myself as particularly skilled or charismatic or intelligent, and so I often feel like I’m not bringing anything to the table when I‘m working with talented, smart people. I’m a part of the group, sure, but I don’t feel like I’m adding anything of value.
This can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. I ask myself, “Why am I here? I have nothing to offer.” And when the project’s done and others say nice things about it, I feel wrong taking any sort of credit, so I downplay my involvement. It’s not that I don’t want to be a team player. I just never feel like I’m contributing enough to deserve to be a part.
I used to think this was unique, that I was the only one who struggled with these feelings of inadequacy. But the more people I work with, the more I hear the same thoughts echoed back in the voices of others. It’s almost like we’ve each been programmed to believe that we aren’t good enough, that we’re not doing enough, that we aren’t enough. We carry those insecurities with us when we work with others, and they hold us back.
Because when we feel like we don’t have anything to offer, we don’t offer anything. We don’t step up when the need arises. We don’t take the lead, even when we’re qualified. We stifle our ideas that could turn out to be really helpful innovations. We hold ourselves back, which just leads to even stronger feelings that we aren’t doing enough, and it turns into a vicious cycle.
Here’s the truth, though: You do have a lot to offer. And if you’re worried about doing enough, that means your heart is in the right place. You just have to get past your insecurities and buy in to what the group is doing.
Studies show that the groups who have the most success are the groups with the most diversity. This means that simply by being a part of a group, you are bringing knowledge, experience, and insight that makes the group better. You do so with nothing more than your presence. And the more you give yourself over the group and its vision, the better you make it.
Each of us has been blessed with God-given gifts, talents, interests, and more that others don’t have. We’ve been given these things for a purpose, and that purpose is to make the world a better place. When we allow our insecurities and frustrations to hold us back from using our gifts, we’re depriving the world of something great, and we aren’t living up to our callings.
I’ve found that once I let go of my feelings of inadequacy and really start to believe in something, I can’t help but get swept away in it. I can’t help but dream and come up with ideas for how to make a project better. I can’t hold back the joy I feel when things progress and when the work is finally complete. When I lean in and exercise the gifts God has given me, I become my best self, and everyone is better for it.
You have something to offer. You are making your groups better simply by being a part of them, and you have so much to contribute. So don’t hold yourself back. Let go of the insecurities, trust yourself, lean on your partners, and see how far you can go. I know it works because I’ve been learning how to do it, too, and I can assure you that it’s well worth it.
Thanks for reading, friends! I’ll see you next week.