you, less than

[Today’s guest post comes from Pam Slim.]

You, Less Than.

I still remember the smell of damp ivy from a recent rain as I stood in the backyard, waiting for my Dad to take my picture.

It was 1971 and I was five years old. I was wearing a brightly colored knit vest, a present from my grandma. I tied my shoes myself, but was not totally sure I had them on the right feet. It didn’t matter. I was one powerful little girl. The Champion of the World.

My Dad smiled at me, squinting his eyes as he crouched behind the camera. I was safe, cherished and loved. He snapped the picture.

Things blew up after that, rather quickly.

My Dad left home and his marriage, to find himself. That’s what people did in the 1970’s in Marin County, California.

My world of family dinners and Dr. Seuss bedtime stories in my Dad’s lap ended. It was scary, unfamiliar, off-balance.

The way I had known myself: child of happy parents, member of a “normal” family was no longer.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was. I tried to be a perfect student. And when that got to be too much, I inhaled, a lot. In my twenties I fell into a treacherous lover’s arms and paid dearly with a broken heart and wounded soul.

I found martial arts, self-employment and writing.

And one day in a box full of old family photographs, I found the picture.

Holding the yellowed edges in my hands, I remembered who I was. I felt who I was. Who I had always been, except when I forgot.

Circumstances can cause you to question who you are.

A boss writes you a stinging performance review.

A reader leaves a bitter comment on your blog post.

A vocal audience member questions your authority in the middle of your presentation.

A publisher sends back your treasured manuscript with a crass note.

A spouse berates your manhood, or womanhood.

And you go from You, The Champion of the World to

You, less than.

You, squashed.

You, angry and off-balance.

You, the misfit.

You, the fuck up.

When you fall into this deep pit of treachery and despair, you need something to pull you out. An image, a word, a note. It helps when this object reflects both the love you have for yourself as well as the love someone has for you.

Like a picture of you through your parent’s eyes.

Or a note from an impassioned reader who loved the piece that you loved to write.
Or a rock from a beach that was so beautiful you could swear that the sand was kissing your feet.

You, less than, is a lie.

Remember who you are.

[Pamela Slim is an author and coach. You can find her at Escape From Cubicle Nation.]

[The “Remember Who You Are” archive is here.]

[Download the high-res “Remember Who You Are” poster here.]


  1. Wow, Pam. Why is that whenever I get my most frustrated and stranded and lost, you’re there pointing the way? And nudging me a bit in the ass to get going.

    *mwah* You’re a treasure. Hugh’s cool, too.

  2. I’m sitting here very nearly speechless and in tears. Trust me, it takes a lot for that to happen when I’m in front of the computer. Thank you – this is beautiful… and timeless.

  3. Oh my god, Pam. The brought tears to my eyes. I sometimes wonder if we have to go through such pain to embrace such total beauty and love. I hope not, but it seems that way sometimes.

  4. We always feel better when we look at ourselves -and others- through the eyes of unconditional love and acceptance.

    Great post!

  5. Wow. Wow. Wow. Count me as one brand new reader who loved this piece you must have loved to write because it’s so fully from the heart and soul, and of truths that will resonate with so many. Though it sucks when you’re stuck in the muck, those who get out better and brighter can see the gifts in all that chaos. I often say to audiences, “We’re all broken. Isn’t that great!?” Thanks for being so open and honest in sharing your broken pieces and how you’ve put them back together to create the best, real you.

  6. Pam, This is such a personal, yet universal, story. You’ve given heart and soul to it, with this beautiful picture of you in your vest, looking back at your father with such love. This reminder is timely. I think I’ll go look for that special picture…I know just which one.

  7. takes my breath away pam.
    echoes so much of my now. and what i’ve started defending more. oh to bottle up that lesson and give it to every 5yr old. tx @christinekane for tweeting this post. thank you pam for writing it and @gapingvoid for sharing it here.

  8. I was in my last crappy corporate job and allowing my boss to bully me. I of course did what any grown woman would do, ran to her mommy. She looked right at me and said, “Remember who you are.” It was one of those defining life moments. I did remember. Now that boss knows who I am too. And it’s not a woman who allows herself to be bullied.

    Loved this post Pam and excellent use of the word fuck. 😉


  9. This was beautiful. I can’t wait to share it. It’s sad how the bad things stick around for too long and we forget our true story. It’s easy to get lost in a misplaced criticism. Thanks, Pam (and Hugh), for the reminder.

  10. Thank you sooo much everyone for your kind words! Now I am the one with tears. :)

    It is easy to forget who we are, isn’t it? Even when we have been there all along. :)

    Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog Hugh, it is a great honor for me as a long-time fan of your work.

  11. Pam –

    Just when I think things are totally cliched & we are simply trying to rephrase & rewrite the same story you come across pure inspiration.

    Thank you for sharing pure art.

  12. Pam, I’m sending the five year old you, and the current you, a genuine hug. I was there, too. My dad left the same year. I was nine, a little older than you, but I would have played with you on the playground.

    Thanks for writing this.

  13. Really!

    This is exactly why I had to leave one of the biggest banks in Canada.

    I remembered who I am.

    One line near the end, mixed with the photo at the top reminded me of “the creative habit” by Twyla Tharp. She does an exercise with an old photo of her as a child.

  14. I love this post almost as much as I love you. I have always seen you for the World Champion you are,bright-intelligent- beautiful and engaging.. and I am so proud to be your friend.


  15. Well, there’s my early morning cry over, anyway.

    Lovely, Pam.

    (that’s as long a comment as I wanted to leave, but the system tells me it was too short, so here’s some more text. *shoots a ‘seriously?’ look* )

  16. […] If you feel beat up and need a good lift, please read this note by @pamslim April 16, 2010 by Ignacio Go on, please. Read it. Click right here. […]

  17. Beautiful and so touching. Thank you for sharing something so personal yet we can all relate to it.

    Just added started following you on Twitter. Thanks again


  18. A beautiful essay from Pam Slim – “you, less than” « … for mothers who want to live out loud … says:

    […] Click here to read the essay. […]

  19. I have been trying for half an hour to write a fitting comment. I give up.

    I love the poetry and directness of this, and I love you, Pam (you know how I mean).


  20. Just beautiful, it’s so easy to look at this picture and think how cute, what a creative little girl. Thanks for filling in the ‘wonder what happened?” part… I laughed on the outside and inside my stomach curled up.

  21. Wow Pam,

    This was truly magnificent writing. I have tears in my eyes.

    You are my heroine for always reminding me that “I am enough” and to go out there and just do it! (Whatever “it” may be).


  22. love this pam. thank you, i really needed this today. the more i get to know you the more you rock. best, amanda

  23. I’ve been known to print out particularly moving and brilliant blog posts that I never want to forget — but it doesn’t happen all that often. I couldn’t hit “print” on this one fast enough. You know that feeling you get when you don’t just hear or read truth, but FEEL it on your skin and in your veins? That “coming home” feeling? This one gave me that, and it felt so very peaceful. Thank you, Pam.

  24. Damn, that is such a powerful message and delivered in such a powerful way too!

    Thanks Pam for writing this. It cut through the heart and really spoke to me, and to many others obviously.

    Amazing writing. Great to see you in that photo too! I can totally recognize that spunkiness!

    P.S. I also found martial arts and self employment… and booya!

  25. very timely. just as i was going through a bout of questioning who i am and my capabilities, hence worth… thks for the words, they strengthened my inner man.

  26. Wow. Powerfully written. You continue to blow me away with your connection to truth. You are Pam and I am Diane and I’m in love with both. :) Damn, I’m in love with all of you! You’re all amazing!

  27. What a fabulous post, Pam. Thanks for reminding me who I am. Not less than, always enough, and just right – me.

  28. Remembering who I am actually led me to leave my father…or at least not follow him when he left us a couple years ago. You would think that it wouldn’t hurt so much when you are all grown up, but it still does.

    Until recently, I thought I was discovering who I was. Now I realize that I am remembering who I am.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  29. pam and hugh! two of my fave people :)

    pam, thank you for this. this gets to the heart of the inadequacies most of us have felt, or feel, from time to time. this external pressure and criticism is destructive, but worse, it’s a false barometer of our worth. we are, all, innately worthy. we are perfect in our imperfection.

    rock on.

  30. I like the proactiveness of this. Have a picture ready, a rock, a letter.
    I have a note from my dad somewhere that says “I didn’t make junk.”
    Really nice, Pam, and I love the picture too.

  31. Pam, that was beautiful, and right on the mark for me right now.. How true it is that we forget who we are !!
    Thank you for that

  32. Pam, this is both touching and powerful. Thank you so much for sharing. I am not really sure how to continue my day now – just feel… touched.

  33. […] You, Less Than by Pam Slim Circumstances can cause you to question who you are. […]

  34. Circumstances can cause us to question who we are. Sometimes that’s because events or people conspire to make us feel less than. Other times they demand things of us that we’re not used to.

    Say you’re a writer, very disciplined, and you spend a minimum of four hours a day holed up in your study, practicing your craft.

    That’s exemplary behavior for a writer.

    But wait. Let’s say you’re married now, with two kids under the age of three. Now it’s not so easy to get four hours a day to yourself. Now you have to decide between neglecting your family and neglecting your art.

    Either way, you feel like you must be less than. The irony is that you’re less than because you’re becoming more than. You’re trying to grow yourself to fulfill life’s new demands.

  35. Oh. Pam, you moved me. I cried. How beautiful. Thank you (and Hugh too).

    You look exactly the same in that pic at 5 as you do now. x

  36. I suppose we all need to hear this message, perhaps daily, but I am thankful to you for this post today because I have a friend who so desperately needs to hear this. This friend’s spouse recently confronted with news of a lover and filed for divorce within days. They have two children, one of whom has Down Syndrome.

  37. Speechless. And had very much needed to read this message, right now.

    Impeccable timing, powerful words.

    Thank you.

  38. thank you, Pam! wonderful and universal
    story. a great message for people who try to build and create their own lives
    based on who they really are. I love that phrase, “Escape from Cubicle Nation”. that is really good! :)

  39. Thanks for sharing this with all of us Pam, it is great writing and a gift to everyone who gets to see it. I’m lucky because I met Derek Sivers in London UK and he helped me show my new songs and poetry to the world. Dennis Derby, peace and love!

  40. Thank you for making me cry, first thing in the morning. I am married to someone who makes me daily feel less than. I’m not sure I ever saw that before.

  41. I am truly inspired…inspired to remember things that unintentionally have been forgotten. Reminded that there were important moments that deserve to be remembered, stored away with all the painful memories that seem to flood and overcome when childhood times pop into consciousness. Thanks Pam…

  42. Such a special gift you’ve shared – and a reminder of how, in a split unplanned second, the world can be changed – by amazing eloquence! So glad I stumbled upon your post – I will become a follower. THANK YOU!

  43. Thank you for this post. It hit me hard, because, as a person who has spent a lot of years writing advertising, being taken down a few notches is a daily occurrence. Worse, I actually worked for someone who LIKED taking me down a few notches. Every day. A few times a day. Anyhooo, I fina lly suffered a brain injury (for real)and remembered who I am. It’s a constant struggle and your post helped. Thank you again.


  44. Pam,

    tears are welling up…you’re right, I need to find my reminders and keep them near by.

    Thank you for bravely sharing this piece.

  45. Pam, you are simply amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing-ness with all of us!


  46. Wow, does this resonate with my week. Thank you to a friend for directing me toy your blog. After 30 plus successful years in my profession, my skills and talents as a designer were questioned by a potential client. Thanks for a positive refocus directed to my most important critic and fan – myself.

  47. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! This is the age it seems riiight before many of us begni to be squashed. We do an exercise where we have everyone think of objects/images they loved at this time period- 5-9 years…….it always seems to cause a huge ah- ha moment. We still love those things but have told ourselves we cannot have them.
    Oh yes you can.
    You are amazing.
    Thank you Pam(:

  48. […] PIF (the controlling group behind IgnitePhx), ASU and those close to both are now bordering on insanity. It’s time to call it quits.You are so awesome, you get all my posts for free. Click on my […]

  49. Just what I needed to hear! What a wonderful read! Didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. Straight from the heart to the heart.

  50. Beautiful. A gem of wisdom. It’s so easy to get beaten down, so hard to remember, sometimes, who you are.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  51. […] and wonderfully I found this gem.. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Cultural ties with Georgia11/4: Lecture on […]

  52. A client sent me to your post after a particularly powerful session. Quite a compliment, actually.

    The thing is – those triggers only hve the power to send you into the depths of despair if they connect to a belief you already have. Shift your beliefs and you unhook those triggers.

    Yes, having things/people/places that help you out of the despair pit (my sister and my name for it) once you’re there, that’s really important. But if you don’t unhook those beliefs, the despair pit will always lurk like a trap just around the corner.

  53. Hugh sure knows how to pick his guest bloggers!

    Thank you for deftly putting into words what we all need to be reminded of – because we all go through it and lose ourselves from time to time.

  54. It took me years of therapy…to find “me”. I did make lots of progress, however…It wasn’t until I found an old photo of me at 5 or 6 yrs. old, standing so proud with my Brothers,..all smiling and loved…that I remembered Who I was…Who I am. Thanks for puttig it into words.

  55. A friend forwarded your post to me because of the similarity to one I wrote this week as well: Kinder to a Stranger
    You have taken a little bit of a different perspective, but the message is absolutely the same. Love that cool photo of you in the slammin’ vest and if we met, I’m sure I would love you too.

  56. I was first drawn by the photo as a photographer. Its a very good photo and when I look at it I see my own daughter. Its my prayer that I’ll always give her the You: Champion of the world.

  57. Thanks Pam!

    This is such a wonderful post! So many people let others define them and it can take so much work to undo the brainwashing. Thanks for writing this and helping people remember who they really are.

  58. I think we all need to be reminded of who we are from time to time. Day to day life has a way of wearing us down and the stress of life can be overwhelming. Great post! Thank you!

  59. […] to Jin, I discovered a gem of a guest post on the excellent GapingVoid blog.  In “You, Less Than“, Pamela Slim presents her views on finding an identity that is distinct and true to your […]

  60. Too beautiful, too touching… this strong motivated successful 50-something alpha male is typing through tears to say thank you.

  61. Reading this at 12 midnight makes me want the morning to arrive even faster when I can take action and be me, more than! Thank you Pam.

  62. […] Slim (@pamslim) has a bee-oo-tee-full guest post at Gaping Void for Remember Who You Are. And as much as I loved her post, something about the series nagged and niggled at the back of my […]

  63. Pam,
    That is very powerful. Thanks for sharing. In sharing so intimately, your story provokes identity defining memories from childhood for all of us

  64. I have one picture like that. I am probably around the same age, come to think of it, or a tiny bit older. We were visiting a farm. The children were playing “house” and I was dressed in a long dress and high heels. We decided that we needed a baby.

    Someone said, “Wouldn’t it be groovy if we could use one of the new baby pigs!” Yes. I remember clearly that the word groovy was used. It was the 60’s!

    To this day I’ve never met a challenge that I didn’t like so I stomped out to the pig yard, in my long dress and high heels and caught a “baby.”

    And that is “my picture.”

    After reading Pam’s post and all of the comments I have a new found appreciation for the power of that image.

    Thanks for sharing and encouraging me to remember.

  65. Wow…Pam…I don’t think I took a breath while I read this…This is such a poignant sharing of your life…how beautiful, how touching, inspiring and melodic. I felt so many emotions reading your story…you say so much in such few words — very powerful. The photograph of you is unforgettable…you look as I see you today – happy, confident and empowered. So life took you on a 360 degree journey…might have been painful, but during that time, you were “collecting” all that you needed, in order to be who are you today, to give to the world what it needs and what you so kindly offer. Thank you for that sharing…it is simply beautiful.

  66. […] run (I said, RUN!) check it out: Pamela Slim’s: You, Less Than. I hope you enjoy it as much as I […]

  67. […] Slim (@pamslim) has a bee-oo-tee-full guest post at Gaping Void for Remember Who You Are. And as much as I loved her post, something about the series nagged and niggled at the back of my […]

  68. […] when we looked at ourselves through the mirror of our peers and colleagues, we felt awkward, less-than and not quite to par.When you view your success through someone else’s mirror:There is always […]

  69. […] point is when you temporarily forget who you are, sometimes a little bit of inappropriate badass thinking is just what you […]

  70. […] Slim (@pamslim) has a bee-oo-tee-full guest post at Gaping Void for Remember Who You Are. And as much as I loved her post, something about the series nagged and niggled at the back of my […]

  71. […] If you only focus on big huge wins, then you miss the daily miracles of the work itself. Like former clients who come from behind and fund their Kickstarter projects with moments to spare. Or clients who work diligently to make a plan to leave their job and start a successful consulting practice. Or even blog posts that make us feel proud to have written them. […]

  72. Wow Pam. Your authenticity pierced through to me & brought a tear down my eye (only 1 though because I’m in public reading this right now).

    I relate with your experience at the age that you were at, and can connect with the feeling you felt. Thanks for sharing your story & inspiration Pam!