I came across this article the other day and it was very helpful to connect the dots for me. I currently have low self-esteem, although that has been raising bit by bit as I've been going through the Transformation Course and focusing on spiritual development. Even so, it didn't really click in for me how strongly it affects my perspective, actions, thoughts, and world-view to have low self-esteem until recently. When it's all you know, it's hard to imagine a different way of being.
Slowly, I am returning to mental and physical health, and choosing to stop the self-destruction and self-sabotage. Learning how to express and assert my own voice again, to dare to have a purpose and consciously live it. To accept self-worth and well-being as my birthright once more.
Thank you to all of you who have helped me see this more clearly. Krystine and Noa, for gently pointing out when I can be kinder to myself. All of you, for sharing your voices and for being positive examples of strong self-worth.
Self-Esteem as a Spiritual Discipline
Hello, everyone! Think about this and tell me what you think.
SELF-ESTEEM AS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE
Four decades ago, when I began lecturing on self-esteem, the challenge was to persuade people that the subject was worthy of study. Almost no one was talking about self-esteem in those days. Today, almost everyone seems to be talking about self-esteem, and the danger is that the idea may become trivialized.
And yet, of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves: it touches the very core of our existence. Some part of us knows this. We know that more fateful by far than what others think of us is what we think of ourselves.
“Self-esteem” is sometimes used interchangeably with “self-image,” which is unfortunate, because the concept is much deeper than any “image.” Self-esteem is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is more complex than any mental picture of ourselves and more basic than any transitory feeling. It contains emotional, evaluative, and cognitive components. It ordinarily exists, in large measure, beneath conscious awareness, as context or container for all of our thoughts, feelings, and responses, as ultimate ground to our being.
Our responses to other people, to the challenges of work, to the sight of suffering or beauty, to the vicissitudes of life – all are affected by our deepest sense of who and what we think we are, what we are capable of, what we deserve, what is appropriate to us.
Self-esteem entails certain action dispositions: to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than avoidance or denial; to operate self-responsibly rather than the opposite. These are characteristics it is difficult, if not impossible, to fake.
What we tell ourselves about our self-esteem, and what it actually is, may be quite different. It may please us to believe that our self-esteem is relatively high when in fact it is seriously troubled. Nothing is more common than to deny or avoid our fears and self-doubts, thereby preventing them from ever being resolved. If I am willing fully to confront my self-esteem problems, to face and accept reality, I create the possibility of change and growth. If I deny my problems, I sentence myself to being stuck in the very pain I wish to escape. I do not wish to imply that if only we are willing to face our problems, solutions will always come easily; we may suffer from blocks we cannot overcome without professional help, or from a lack of knowledge that limits our options. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the way we respond to discomfiting realities reveals a great deal about our deepest vision of who we are – how secure or insecure we feel. It also reveals what kind of future we are likely to create for ourselves.
WHAT SELF-ESTEEM IS AND ISN'T
Of course, most people do not tell themselves anything about their self-esteem because they do not think in such terms. However, the impact of a self-estimate works its way within us whether we are aware of it or not. Ignorance of self-esteem – or misconceptions concerning it – does not nullify the role it plays in our lives.
Self-esteem is not the euphoria or buoyancy that may be temporarily induced by a drug, a compliment, or a love affair. It is not created by praise – or by foolish and exaggerated notions of our capabilities. It is not a shallow “feel-good” phenomenon. As we shall see, if it is not grounded in reality, if it is not built over time through such practices as operating consciously, self-responsibly, and with integrity, it is not self-esteem.
The essence of self-esteem is the experience that we are competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and that we are worthy of happiness. Thus, self-esteem is made of two intimately related components: (1) trust in our mind, in our ability to think, to respond effectively to challenges; and (2) confidence that success, achievement, friendship love, respect, personal fulfillment – in sum, happiness – are appropriate to us.
Self-esteem is not a luxury but a vitally important psychological need. Its survival value is obvious. To face life with assurance rather than anxiety and self-doubt is to enjoy an inestimable advantage: one’s judgments and actions are less likely to be distorted and misguided. A tendency to make irrational decisions – as well as a fear of making decisions – are both observable consequences of intellectual self-distrust. To face human relationships with a benevolent, non-arrogant sense of one’s own value is, again, to enjoy an advantage: self-respect tends to evoke respect from others. A tendency to form destructive relationships – and to experience the suffering they occasion as natural or one’s “destiny” – are familiar effects of feeling unlovable and without value.
Childhood experiences – or, more precisely, the way a child interprets childhood experiences – tend to lay the foundation for the level of self-esteem that will emerge later in life. Adults who give a child a rational, non-contradictory impression of reality; who relate lovingly, respectfully, and with belief in a child’s competence and worth; who avoid insults, ridicule, and emotional or physical abuse; and who uphold standards and values that inspire the best in a child – can often make the path to healthy self-esteem seem simple and natural (although not invariably or necessarily; a child’s own choices and decisions should not be discounted). Adults who deal with a child in the opposite manner can make the path to self-esteem far more difficult and sometimes impossible (without some form of help).
However, what nurtures and sustains self-esteem in grown-ups is not how others deal with us but how we ourselves operate in the face of life’s challenges – the choices we make and the actions we take.
In psychotherapy, work with self-esteem may have to begin with healing childhood psychic wounds, breaking destructive patterns of behavior, dissolving blocks, or neutralizing anxiety.But, although it can clear the ground, the elimination of negatives does not produce self-esteem. Just as the absence of suffering does not equal the presence of happiness, so the absence of anxiety does not equal the presence of confidence. Self-esteem is built over time by the practice of:
- choosing consciousness rather than unconsciousness.
- self-acceptance rather than self-disowning.
- self-responsibility rather than passivity, alibiing, or blaming.
- self-assertiveness rather than self-suppression.
- purposefulness rather than drifting.
- integrity rather than self-betrayal.
These practices are what I call “the six pillars of self-esteem,” and I call them “practices” because I want to stress the significance of consistency and discipline. They are not things we do only when we feel like it. They represent an orientation to life that has the aspect of an ethical code. To a well-integrated person, they may come to feel like “second-nature,” but that is not a state into which anyone is born: it represents a spiritual achievement.
When I use the word “spiritual” in this context I do not intend any religious, mystical, or otherworldly meaning. By “spiritual” I mean pertaining to consciousness (as contrasted with “material,” which means pertaining to or constituted of matter); and further, pertaining to the needs and development of consciousness. Now let me explain why I call the attainment of self-esteem a spiritual achievement.
The foundation of the practice of living consciously is respect for the facts of reality, respect for truth – recognition that that which is, is. Such a practice reflects the understanding that to place consciousness in an adversarial relationship to existence – to evade or dismiss reality – is to invite destruction. To work at cultivating such awareness within oneself is a noble pursuit, even a heroic one, because truth is sometimes frightening or painful, and the temptation to close one’s eyes is sometimes strong. Whether the awareness we need to expand pertains to the external world or the world within ourselves, to strive for greater clarity of perception and understanding, to move always in the direction of heightened mindfulness, to revere truth above the avoidance of fear or pain, is to commit ourselves to spiritual growth – the continuing development of our ability to see. Whatever other virtue we may aspire to, this one is its base.
The practice of self-acceptance is the application of this virtue specifically to oneself. Self-acceptance is realism – meaning respect for reality – concerning ourselves. It is the acceptance of our thoughts, emotions, and behavior – not necessarily in the sense of liking, condoning, or admiring – but in the sense of not denying or disowning.
Self-acceptance is my willingness to stand in the presence of my thoughts, feelings, and actions, with an attitude that makes approval or disapproval irrelevant: the desire to be aware.
Obviously we will like and enjoy some aspects of who we are more than others – that is not at issue. What is at issue is whether we can be open to that which we may not like or enjoy. Perhaps I have had some embarrassing thoughts that reflect an envy or jealously I believed I was “above”; perhaps I sometimes experience emotions that clash with my official self-concept, such as hurt or humiliation or rage; perhaps I have sometimes acted in ways that are shocking and dismaying to recall – the question is always: can I allow space within my awareness for such realities without retreating into rationalization, denial, alibiing, or some other form of avoidance; and also, without collapsing into self-repudiation (which is just another way of running from reality). Self-esteem cannot be built on a platform of self-rejection. Spiritual growth cannot emerge out of self-made blindness.
The more aspects of reality a consciousness is open to seeing – and the operative word here is seeing, not groundless believing – the more highly evolved the consciousness and therefore the most mature the level of spiritual development.
In understanding the practice of self-responsibility, let us begin with the observation that the natural development of a human being is from dependence to independence, from helplessness to increasing efficacy, from non-responsibility to personal accountability. Self-responsibility means that we recognize first, that we are the author of our choices and actions; and second, that we are responsible for our life and well-being and for the attainment of our desires; and third, that if we wish to gain values from others, we must offer values in exchange: no one exists merely to take care of us; no other human being is our property.
The most fundamental expression of self-responsibility is reliance on our own minds – the choice to think and to operate consciously – as contrasted with living second-hand, off the borrowed values and judgments of others. Independence in the full sense is not a state that comes easily to most people. What many call “thinking” is merely a recycling of the thoughts and opinions of other people. To look at the world through one’s own eyes and be willing to live by one’s own judgment, requires courage, self-trust, and intellectual conscientiousness. To be willing to be accountable for one’s actions requires integrity. These are moral and spiritual virtues.
APPLYING THE PRACTICES OF SELF-ESTEEM
To many, self-assertiveness may seem like the very opposite of a spiritual virtue. And yet, if the practice of self-assertiveness is considered, not in a vacuum, torn from all context, but as part of a network of virtues that include rationality, self-responsibility, and integrity, it may be viewed in a very different light, as an essential step toward the realization of our humanity. Self-assertiveness is not about running over widows and orphans to get to the front of the line, or being rude to waiters, or behaving as though no one’s needs existed but one’s own.When I write of self-assertiveness, I have in mind the courage to treat oneself and one’s convictions with decent respect in encounters with other persons; the willingness to stand up for one’s ideas and to live one’s values in reality; the honesty to let oneself be visible to others – or, to say it differently, not to be so controlled by fear of someone’s disapproval that one twists one’s true self out of recognizable form. Thus defined, we can see that self-assertiveness is not self-indulgence but is among the rarest of virtues. Certainly spirituality is more to be associated with openness than with self-concealment, with candor rather than dissembling, with authenticity rather than a calculated persona.
The practice of living purposefully, as opposed to passively drifting through life, is essential to any genuine sense of control over one’s existence. It is our goals and purposes that give our days their focus. To live purposefully is to think through and formulate one’s short-term and long-term goals or purposes, to identify the actions needed to realize them, to keep oneself on track, and to pay careful attention to whether the outcomes produced by one’s actions are the outcomes anticipated or whether one needs to go back to the drawing-board. To act only on the whim of the moment, or on the basis of the chance encounter or chance invitation or chance opportunity, is to embrace helplessness as one’s fundamental response: one is not a thoughtful initiator but only an impulsive reactor. To remove oneself from the realm of purpose is to exist on the sidelines of life, to become a non-participant. After that, no form of spirituality is possible.
The practice of integrity entails congruence between what we know, what we profess, and what we do. To be loyal in action to one’s understanding and professed convictions is the essence of integrity. When there is not congruence but contradiction, at some level consciousness is betraying itself. If one is genuinely concerned with the growth and evolution of consciousness, which is what a spiritual quest or commitment entails, then a lack of integrity cannot be tolerated: it is a self-inflicted wound one must strive to heal. If we torment our mate with small or large lies and inconsistencies, are cruel to our children, or dishonorable with our associates, colleagues, or customers – if we run from honest self-examination while protesting it is our highest concern – we cannot buy our way to spirituality by studying the I-Ching, the Kabbala, the Bible, or the scriptures of Buddhism. The issue is not so much whether we are “perfect” in our integrity but rather how concerned we are to correct such breaches as might exist. In the absence of such concern, whatever our life journey is about, it is not about spiritual growth.
SELF-ESTEEM AND SPIRITUALITY
I began thinking about the relationship between self-esteem and spirituality some years ago when I was asked a provocative question by an elderly businessman. I was addressing a group of CEOs on the ideas I was writing about in The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. I was talking about the practice of living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity – and why they were the foundations of self-esteem. At the end of my presentation, the oldest businessman in the group said to me, “Is this a religion – these principles?” At first, I was puzzled, since I had made no reference to religion and no such thought was in my mind. Seeing the puzzled expression on my face, he corrected himself: “Perhaps what I mean to ask is, is this a code of ethics?” I answered, “Well, I hadn’t quite been thinking of it that way, but now that you ask, yes, I would say it is – or part of one. After all, it’s not surprising that the virtues that self-esteem asks of us are also the virtues that life asks of us.” Afterwards, I found myself reflecting on why he had first thought of religion. Was it simply that for many people religion and ethics are almost synonymous? Somehow, in this case, I did not think so. What I began to suspect much later was that he had been groping for the connection that I have made explicit in this essay: the connection between the six pillars and spirituality.
For many people, one of the commonest associations with the idea of spirituality is the longing to feel at home in the universe – to feel benevolently connected to all that exists and to the ultimate source, whatever that might be, of all that exists. We will not, in this context, raise the troublesome question of whether we wish to be benevolently connected to that which we regard as evil: instead, we will focus just on the longing for the experience of peace and harmony with existence, in the most profound sense imaginable.
Whatever else may be required for the fulfillment of this desire, peace and harmony with oneself is a precondition of peace and harmony with anything else. A spirit cannot be benevolently connected to the universe ahead of being benevolently connected to itself. However, there is a sense in which the reverse it also true. The relationship is reciprocal. A spirit cannot be benevolently connected to itself if it is in an adversarial stance to reality. That is why the theme of respect for the facts of reality runs through my discussion of all six pillars. That which is, is; that which is not, is not. No truth is more fundamental. To embrace this truth is the beginning of self-esteem. It is also the beginning of spiritual development.
I just want to let you know that I'm completely mystified as to why you would have low self esteme when I have read so much compassion and wisdom from your posts. To me, self esteme is about being proud of your own actions. I think you have great reason to be proud of your actions here at the gathering spot.
I'd have to echo Noa's sentiments as to yourself. You speak eloquently, gently and with such love to those you respond to and your spirit soooo shines through. Regardless, I do know that in my own case, I am much harder on myself than I am on others and I suspect that might be true of many of us. I realize much has to do with my very early childhood experiences and those are so ingrained in us that it really can take alot of discovery and 'work' to unearth and release that junk.
I liked the article but am not in total agreement with all contained therein. I am not in agreement that 'A spirit cannot be benevolently connected to the universe ahead of being benevolently connected to itself. However, there is a sense in which the reverse it also true. The relationship is reciprocal. A spirit cannot be benevolently connected to itself if it is in an adversarial stance to reality.' I believe we are always connected to the Universal Oneness even when we don't realize or 'know' that we are, and I believe that Oneness is working in through and with us to bring us to exactly where we are to be even in spite of ourselves. Yes, our 'doing' can advance or suppress our growth but it doesn't stop it.
Reality is often different than we perceive it and my perception of it is different than every other human's perception of it that is within my periphery so to even assume we know what is real comes into question. What is real? What we see or what we feel? We can look around at what is 'real' to our contemporaries and recognize illusions therein. I agree with the author that his six steps are beneficial ones I'm just not in agreement that self esteem is as important as purported here. Self acceptance yes, self responsibility, yes...but that self esteem is intimately important to the sense that one is a spiritual being on a spiritual path...not so much.
In my own experience knowing the Power, Love, Light and Peace that is possible doesn't rely on my own sense of self esteem and my own self esteem doesn't increase that power. It is my acceptance that it doesn't rely on me to BE and that it would and does exist regardless of my human emotions and machinations regarding it seems more important. When faced with the most spiritual experiences realization of the greatness of that power and how limitless it is leaves me humbled and in awe of how the Universe has orchestrated All around us. I can't agree that self esteem is 'the' necessary ingredient for Spirit to be working with and through us. Spirit is something we don't limit by a few thoughts of our own inadequacy.
Finally, you are as beautiful, Light and worthy of ALL that is as any of us my Sister. Whatever it is getting in the way may it easily go. Because like Noa and I and all of us here we have work to do!I am a hugger, and you have just been very hugged. Love kristyne
I think that Kristyne meant that she agrees with Wendy, or maybe she was intuitively anticipating that I would echo Wendy's sentiments. Your wisdom and compassion has inspired me countless numbers of times, Trish.
Years ago, when I was coming out of an abusive marriage, I felt like my self-esteem was below ground level. I had no support system, so I had to learn how to be my own best friend. In those days, I used to drink in every kind word from other people like a sponge. At first, when I received a compliment, I would have to resist the urge to minimize it with words like, "It's nothing" or "You mean, this old dress?" Instead, I made myself adopt the habit of just saying, "Thank you" without explaining anything. In my meditiations, I would concentrate on feeling the love grow and expand from my heart space. I believe these practices healed my heart and restored my self-worth.
Ultimately, though, self-esteem comes from you; no one can give it to you. You might try giving yourself some special reward each day. It could be time to yourself to read a favorite book or take a bubble bath. Buy your favorite food and allow yourself to savor each bite. Leave yourself love notes in your pocket or put them where you'll see them. Give yourself permission to love yourself. Try being your own best friend for a week and see what happens.
Remember these words because they are absolutely true: you add so much value to the world, Trish, just by being you, because you are very, very special.
I love who you are... and somewhere inside you do, too.
Thank you Kristyne, Wendy, and Noa for your wonderful words of encouragement. I'm very thankful for you!
I understand how it would be hard for people at the G-spot to see the aspects of me that have low self-esteem, because the G-spot is one of the few places where I allow 'my true self' to shine through. Even still, I sometimes hold back from sharing my voice, either in comments or new posts. I don't mean that as a self-condemnation, just an observation.
In my personal life, I have habits and anti-habits that are self-destructive, chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, and a tendency to suppress my voice and "go with the flow" at work and at home, sometimes compromising my values or diminishing myself for the sake of safety and to avoid conflict. I have been slowly taking on healthier habits, like quitting caffeine, leaving Facebook, eating healthier, and taking more quiet moments.
Recently I've been focusing more on mindfulness podcasts and learning to observe and detach from my experience. My mini-breakthrough was to see a pattern in my thoughts, emotions, attitude, and actions and see that much of it is tied up in a self-concept of who I think I am and how I feel about these ideas that I think I am. The thing is, I see that this self-concept and my feelings about it is completely illusory.
So I don't need to try to increase positive feelings about this self-image or do things to be proud of to bolster it; rather, I've come to a clearer intuitive understanding of who or what I really am, which isn't a person at all. There's no need to try to contain it with a description, in fact it's trying to define it that created the idea of a personality to begin with.
What I am cannot ever be touched and is never affected by any actions, feelings, or thoughts. It can be covered up by clouds of thought but never truly diminished. It is / I am pure shining life force, impersonal and yet brimming with a unique 'flavour' in expression through this body.
What I really am is intrinsically full of worth, love, fulfillment, peace, wisdom, and grace, and it is always so, ageless and eternal - I call this 'my true self'. I agree with you, Kristyne, that Spirit does work through us and for us always, and also that it *is* us.
So my whole perspective of what self-esteem is has changed - now it seems to me that it is the degree to which I honour and acknowledge my true Self in each moment and do the same with others. I can see where my learned habits over the years caused me to compromise and silence the urgings of 'my true self' to act with compassion, to speak truth even when inconvenient or uncomfortable, and to nurture and honour this body and this life experience.
If it makes sense, it's like as though the glove has been reversed for me. Self-love, innate health, and well-being is the ground of my being - and my life's work is to honour and express that and acknowledge it in all life. The only way that low self-esteem can build up to cover that is through the idea that I am something else that is unworthy and through actions and inactions that invalidate Spirit. Like you say, Kristyne, they are just thoughts and habits that can be observed and released. They can feel so solid and real, but patient awareness reveals them for what they are.
By the way, Noa, I did treat myself to a 'me' day on Saturday; I went to a mindful meditation class, chatted with some people over gingerbread cookies, ate some Korean food while reading a book, and then went to a Green party gathering at someone's house to socialize and plan for the upcoming election. It's been a long time since I had such a day and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Love, peace, and fulfillment to all of you!
Again, what a great post!
Isn't this just Life? I just assumed we all did this. As I get older, I'm slowly but surely getting better at speaking my truth. At this point I'm pretty good at it at home and at church but at work? Maybe someday I could speak my truth at work too but in the meantime, I like the convenience of keeping my job!
Thanks for that posting, Trish. I have been wrestling with these issues, as well. I won't get into specifics, but our lives have pretty much been turned upside down and inside out since we chose to embark upon the greater adventure this summer. Lately, even more so. But it all points in the same direction as what this article relates. I'm currently looking into possible shamanic healing workshops or suchness. The seasons make any outdoor excursions more challenging at this time... and this time of the year always brings up a slew of mixed emotions.
Anyway, thanks for your presence and realness and more power to your Self and Being.
You think we're teaching you something Trish, yet each post you send out teaches us as well -something my 'classroom' of Sunday meditation folks taught me (I never 'feel' like the 'teacher' and yet they have 'chosen' me, which is so humbling to me).
To Noa, you must have been speaking to me from 'beyond' when I replied to the initial post from Wendy!
To Chris, without specifics, let me say all of our lives have pretty much been turned upside down and inside out and not to diminish your statement, 'cause it can seem really real in the center of it, you've already summed it up with when 'we chose to embark upon the greater adventure'. Seen as that, the turning is just the unfolding of the journey-how exciting and so much opportunity for growth.
The time of year, the shortness of days, the nature of Winter/North/darkness is exactly the time we unearth things long buried or too busy to be dealt with during other more active seasons. I'm at a point in my life where I really enjoy the time the winter solstice brings. The break from planting seeds-both literally and figuratively, reaping the harvest. It's the time to snuggle in, rekindle the fire, honour family, lessons learned the past year(s) and the Holy-days no matter how your traditions celebrate them.
To the 'mixed emotions', it's a time of that for many of us. For me, I'm not one of the 'kids' at Christmas anymore. I remember when there were 5 generations alive in my family. Now I'm almost the Matriarch of our extended family and with that comes a sense of loss and remembering as well as a feeling of great responsibility to both the 'children' and myself in honouring my ancestry.
For me, emotions are the water element moving through and washing us clean, making us ready, showing us our visionary intuition so that when Spirit speaks softly showing us the direction of our own Divinity we're ready to flow with it instead of fighting the tides with our rational minds.
Be well and happy all of you. Walk in Peace and Love to the World and Light in Be-ing as a wee babe was in his waking to this cold dark world so long ago. The Light of the World shines through, with and upon you. kristyne
For sure, for sure. Had a nice sweat lodge up above Ridgway, CO on Saturday. I got to help keep the fire and it was beautiful the way the day changed from sunny and warm to snowing while we entered and were in the lodge. Came out to snow covering all with its purity and power of renewal. Alas, I could not stay for the feast which followed, as I had to maneuver back through the blizzard to my waiting wife. She's currently about ten weeks pregnant with a bicornuate uterus (also retro-verted) and broke her ankle a couple weeks ago. So I am on demand for her needs... Our first pregnancy in the ten years we've been together. And now the challenge of finding a home and work. Flew from the homestead when all of this happened and staying at friend's condo in Ouray while we figure it out. One day at a time! Love you all
Blessings to you both Chris, and wishes for good health for your wife and precious soul she's carrying. I've heard sometimes the uterus will correct itself during the 12th week or so...the ankle break may be a way to slow her down as her body changes and the baby grows. Not that the ankle break is a good thing, but maybe it's for reasons beyond our understanding is my suggestion. If she is open to distance healing and prayer will do-but I always ask permission of those involved.
My sister lived in Ouray for some time, it's very beautiful there. She's near Montrose now. One of my favorite areas was Pagosa Springs/Durango but it's been years since we've been there.
Nonetheless, will see your home and work manifesting, your wife healing, your child growing safe and strong and will send positive thoughts your way.
Thanks, Kristyne. That's a froggy smile, btw. From one of our favorite books- City Dog, Country Frog. A book for all ages. Of course Penelope and I are open to your love and healing energy. Thank you for asking and offering. And yes, we feel the same. Tricky part about growth and healing. Once you open up to it more, things shift more to allow for the inevitable change it brings. Just means the universe wants to make "better" use of us! Might not go smoothly or easily, but we may awaken and engage gifts we (did) didn't know we had, and (hopefully) become of better service to ALL through and beyond the healing process. At-one-ment, wholeness...
Thanks again and blessings to you as well through the seasons and holidays.
In answer to your question, yes, I think it is a large part of most peoples' lives to compromise or diminish themselves in some way; to fit in, to avoid making waves, to stay employed, to feel safe. And most of the time our experience is what we think it is, layers and layers of lenses and filters over raw perception to build meaning and a sense of continuity.
It's funny, shortly after making my inspirational speech, I'm back in the "muck" of being very busy, stressed about my commute and my work, and worried that even though we're doing the best we can, we appear to be slowly sinking financially. I can clearly see that the "ground" of my being is free from all this worry, and that I am creating within myself this sense of being too busy, of work wearing me down, of putting in so much but finding only increasing scarcity. Despite seeing that the only source of this state of mind is the innocent misuse of the divine gift of thought, I continue to persist in it; it seems so silly when I look at the big picture. Maybe it's because I feel responsible for my family, and some formula in my head says that I am maintaining some sort of safety for everyone by continuing in this way. It tells me that continuing in this sense of sacrifice is one of the most caring things I can do, and that in time my loyalty and perseverence will pay off - but in reality I'm worn out, not always emotionally available, not taking care of my physical and mental health, and sometimes overly harsh from stress and anxiety. I'm looking forward to two weeks of holidays coming up starting this weekend, but I'm already scared that it won't be enough.
It feels good letting that out; I hear you Chris on the mixed emotions this time of year; it's often a very mixed bag for me.
Back on the topic of expressing my true self at work; one of the things I've discovered is that in order to start reversing this trend of thought I've built up about work, it's imperative that I start sharing more of my true self there. I already am to a certain degree, but I am starting to feel that I need to address the areas where I usually 'go with the flow', because it is hurting me mentally and physically to do so.
At my company, I've been starting to go through training with VitalSmarts, and although the training can be a bit cheesy at times, it makes a lot of sense and it's been helping me see how I can approach difficult conversations in a way that allows me to speak up, share my perspective, and maintain a positive relationship at the same time. Usually, I don't speak up about tough issues, or I downplay them, or I just complain about them to my co-workers and then tension stews. But now I'm learning how to express myself how I really want to be - caring, conscientious, honest, yet upholding my values and holding people accountable.
The Influencer training course showed me how behaviour is often mistakenly assumed to be motivational (e.g. he/she just doesn't care enough to do a good job), when there are actually six or more possible sources of influence. I've found for myself that even if I'm not holding a position of authority in a company, I can make a huge impact in positively influencing people around me to shift their attitudes and work together more collaboratively.
Through the Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability books, I've been learning how to approach difficult conversations in a way that promotes respect, safety, and shared mutual purpose. I've been seeing how the company that I'm currently working at as a consultant doesn't have a great system for setting clear expectations for people or holding anyone accountable. I can see how that has created uncertainty, resentment between groups as people think that the other team is dropping the ball with something, when in fact it has just never been defined whose 'ball' it is, and a reactive management style. So in the position that I'm in, even though I'm not at the top, I can start having conversations with my team and deciding amongst ourselves that we're going to clearly define our expectations for each other and the steps we're going to take to help hold each other accountable to them. And if this is successful, we can share how it's worked for us with people in other teams, and hope that it will spread from there.
Just last week at my company's meeting I was listening to the president speaking and something that he said didn't sit right with me. On the way back to work I saw that my co-workers didn't take it well either, and that they didn't feel safe asking him questions after that. I decided to send an email to him about it, and using the skills I learned, approached the issue in a way that shared the facts and my reaction to those facts, and invited him to meet and talk more about it. We met yesterday, and it turned into a good conversation. He got feedback about how something he said was misunderstood and how it diminished safety for some people, and I learned what he was *really* trying to say and got to share my ideas about the root causes of the problems and how to address them. Now I can share that with my co-workers and positively influence them to try contacting him directly themselves.
I don't know why, I just wanted to share that and maybe send out some hope that you can speak your truth at work and not only avoid getting in trouble for it, but possibly spark some positve tranformational changes. :-)
That was very helpful. I think you are very lucky to be taking that training, it looks very useful. Maybe I will invest in one of the books.
Something that popped up for me while reading your last post was my memories of attending Quaker meetings while living on Long Island. Friends (quakers) make decisions by consensus and there was never any shortage of those willing to speak an unpopular opinion against the majority. Frequently one person would change the entire decision of the group. I highly recommend attending a few quaker meetings if there are any in your area. It is particularly interesting to attend their meetings for business, where decisions are made - you can really see the consensus process at work there. It was very empowering to me to see people who were not afraid to speak out against a large majority. In the end, I know that this culture, which is encouraged in the Quaker meetings is what made their decisions so right in the end. Allowing diversity of opinion and all opinions heard and respected allowed the meeting to always choose the best course of action. It sounds like maybe corporate America is learning that this works well in the business world as well. Umm, how interesting...
Since first learning about decision by consensus, I have wondered how exactly it works. All I know is that it differs from Democracy, which is decision by the majority. I can't imagine how people come to an agreement without some people being overrulled by the majority.
Maybe you can start a new thread on this subject, Wendy. I'd love to know more.
All juries make decision by consensus.
When you imagine a typical diverse group of people you might find on a city bus I can understand how you might think it would be impossible. It is actually much easier in a religeous community that has stated common goals and values. Quakers also have a bag of tools that make it easier as well. Silent meditation encourages minimalization of ego attachment to one's own ideas vs that of anothers. Quakers also practice waing and contemplating inbetween statements, which gives time for emotions to be released without getting in the way and things being stated that people might later regret.
There's lots of good fiction depicting decisions by consensus.
There's a great sci-fi book called Penterra by Judith Moffit.
It's a hoaky movie but I still liked the 1956 film Friendly Persuasion. There's also 12 Angry Men.
Here is a pretty good video on the topic.
Thanks for that.