There’s humility and then there’s self-sabotage.
Martin Spernau and I had an interesting chat conversation the other day. We were talking about speaking in front of large groups. I mentioned that I thought it was something he could easily do but something I couldn’t. He of course asked why! And instinctively I said:
“Because I’m too self-concious”
He mused on that for only a second before telling me that I thought myself “small”.
Well! Talk about hit a nerve! Ack!
“You make yourself soooo small Mitch!” were his words.
His next were, “There is a difference between humble and self-sabotage!”
Well of course I disputed this impression I thought he had of me most vociferously! I mean me? Self-sabotage? Never?
And not long after that I HAD to admit that yes – indeed I do. Always have!
Martin is a good coach – he sees things and notices stuff others would not notice. He’s a good friend to have in things like this – in ones personal development journey. He’s open to encouraging change but never confrontational about it. :)
When I was a wee girl, I was bullied a lot. I am a soft person, not given to bravado and aggressive stances – it’s just not hard-wired into me. However, in order to survive, I learned this “trick” of perverted humility called “Self-sabotage”. [Some might call it Self-deprecation but more on the subtle differences between these two concepts another time perhaps. :)]
My self-sabotage was/is a bullying de-fuser. Basically, if I set myself up to be “smaller” than another person initially and give over some of my personal power to them, then this “protects” me by virtue of my “gracious condescension” and “humility” and I therefore receive feedback in the form of gratitude and good humour from the person I have “elevated” above myself. IOW - I circumvent the possibility of any potential bullying occurring from someone else by bullying myself first! Does that make sense?
It’s very “ape-like” of me really. I do that whole crouch low and grovel stuff in front of the status member of the pack like in chimpanzee society. It’s a way of helping me ingratiate myself into the "alpha" male/female's “good books” and therefore survive - feed even - on the flow down effect of their gratitude! It is a form of "constructing" I do for that coherence that I crave with people.
It’s perverse and very manipulative really without intending to be so consciously. I never intend/ed to give any of my personal power over to others but it’s become such an ingrained habit/survival strategy that I just don’t notice doing it anymore. It’s no wonder I get confused when people refuse to accept my self-abnegation and sabotage because they just “don’t like me" anyway!
Intellectually, I know all about self confidence and humility. I know that one can be humble but still as equal to or even more externally successful than another! I understand all that stuff – intellectually. But deep down, it’s a whole other ball-game! Emotionally and Spiritually, I just do not accept that I am equal to others at all. I believe myself unworthy of so much – and not just because that puts the power into the other person’s territory, but because my inherited Judeo-Christian Ethic is completely screwed by a deeply flawed understanding of that whole Humility thing!
So what IS being humble without giving away pieces of ones self?
Jesus, Buddha, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa! All these people embody a humility that is not about self-sabotage but Grace. They were content to BE themselves and choose consciously their own right to be who they are and what they did. They did not kow-tow or balk in the face of potential humiliation but rather courageously and almost defiantly stood their ground.
And yet, out of this confidence they had in themselves they graciously and non-violently assisted others to be themselves too, never hoping to receive any rewards or gratification for doing so. They were not interested in personal survival or feedback of the kind I seek in my self-sabotage. Instead, they gave of themselves willingly because they genuinely cared that other people should know the same Grace and confidence they also experienced.
So what have I learned that I need to change? That being assertive and confident is not inherently violent or aggressive. That I can be happy that I am as I am. That I do not NEED to make myself “small” to receive protection or any other faulty feedback. That my survival as an emotional, intellectual and spiritual being, is not dependant on other peoples valuations and assumptions of me - that that validation comes from God alone. That I can find positive feedback from my own sense of value in what I am and what I do.
I need to seek a state of Grace in this that asserts that I am just as able to lead or be lead as anyone else; that my skills, talents, knowledge and abilities are just as valuable as anothers. That I am a person of merit and value, and that when the push comes – I do have what it takes to be there to meet the challenge and give the best I can to make it happen! This isn't about arrogance or pride at all. It's about CONFIDENCE and BELIEF in who one is and what one does. It is not about "me" its about just BEING me for the benefit of my God and the world around me. :)
Now to actually practise that? :) Let me work on it - it takes time to change bad habits but I get there in the end for the most part. :)
:) So…? Anyone need a coach? I happen to know someone who’s not too bad at it – at all! You’ll find him here.