I have loved the hit TV show, ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ for years, and was blown away by the series finale that aired this week. If you haven’t seen the show, bear with me, as the insights in today’s post apply to us all, fans and non-fans alike.
To recap, in the series, Annalise Keating, played by the brilliant Viola Davis, is a fierce and prominent attorney and law professor, the epitome of a high achieving professional. Throughout the season a select group of her law students dubbed the “Keating 5” become embroiled in a web of murders, to which Annalise is certainly connected, but does not herself commit. All of the scandals and backdoor dealings catch up to her in the final episodes, and she is tried in court for several murders, prosecuted by a corrupt FBI. Annalise chooses to represent herself as her own attorney, and in her closing argument (linked here), offers to the jury an emotional and deeply honest view of herself, asserting that she is done hiding behind masks “to create a version of myself that world would accept”, as she had done all of her life. She reveals the good, bad and ugly of herself, while maintaining the truth, that she was not guilty of the murders she was being tried for. "Who I am”, she tells the jury passionately, “is a 53-year-old woman from Memphis, Tennessee, named Anna May Hartness. I’m ambitious, black, bisexual, angry, sad, strong, sensitive, scared, fierce, talented, exhausted. And I am at your mercy.”
I was moved by her vulnerability and honesty in this scene, and was reminded of what I believe is one of the most important keys to experiencing our best mental health: Self-Acceptance. Or put another way, Self Love.
Annalise fell into the same trap as many high achieving individuals. She allowed her past, the opinions of others, and even her own mind to tell her that she was not good enough as she was. So many people spend their lives trying to achieve more, obtain more, hoping they can ultimately be happier, worthier people. But the truth is, no external thing will make any of us happy or feel worthy.
Happiness is an inside job, and our worthiness as human beings is inherent; we are already made wonderful at our creation (Psalm 139:14).
Striving for achievement isn’t a bad thing in itself. After all, it is a drive toward excellence that often results in many beautiful accomplishments. Unfortunately, the effects of striving to achieve without first accepting who and what we already are can be detrimental to our mental well-being, causing
depression brought on by feelings that one’s life or self is inadequate,
hiding behind facades in an attempt to be worthy or accepted by others,
jealousy brought on by comparing ones perceived failures to others’ perceived
a never-ending pursuit of achievement in the hopes that these accomplishments
will lead to lasting feelings of happiness and self-worth (spoiler: they never do!)
As Annalise finally learned, the person you really are, when doors are closed and no one is looking, may be difficult to look at, at first. You have flaws, and weaknesses, have made mistakes and will continue to do so, as all humans do. But you are also strong, and lovable, have survived, have done many things right, and continue to press forward.
You are beautiful and a mess all at the same time. You are worthy, lovable and good enough, just the way you are now, even if you never achieve another thing.
It is extremely important to keep this truth in mind as we strive toward our personal goals and growth. One of the main themes of the At Home With Dr. Jeannie blog is personal growth. Striving to be the best version of me is my jam. If you too, are a high achiever, I am offering you this: before you set another goal, or take another course, or make another vision board for your life, make sure you do so from a place of
Love and acceptance of who you are now, and
Gratitude for what you’ve already accomplished.
Abandon any belief that the next accomplishment will make you any more happy or worthy, because remember, you’re already enough right now.
You've Got This,