Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Martin shows Mitch how not to "be small".

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.


Dick Richards said...


This post raises again a question that I have been thinking about adding to my "list of great questions" -- Is it OK to be me?

I'll probably do that soon. Thanks for the nudge!

Michelle said...

:) No worries Dick.

There was a little book out in the 70's I remember called "I am Lovable and Capable". I'm not sure if it still exists and I do not know the author. But it dealt with pieces of oneself being slowly taken away from ones self and the "way" in which to bring them back together again.

I remember being very much enamoured of that story! :) It was very much about "coherence" really and that same question you ask "Is it OK to be me?".

Intellectually we'd all say "Yes!" to that question I think. But do we really BELIEVE it deep inside? That is where the rubber really hits the road.

Am looking forward to your development of this theme.

Warm Regards

EM Sky said...

You know, in reading this post I was thinking about your list of people from whom to learn humility... and I think I might add Bill Gates to that list.

Gates is in the media all the time to tout his company or his non-profit initiatives, but not to tout himself. He knows what he can do, and he's out there doing it. Period.

He doesn't downplay himself, but he doesn't talk himself up either. As far as I can tell, he isn't focused on himself at all. He's just focused on what he's trying to achieve, which I think can maybe teach us something.

Michelle said...

Ahhh! For ONCE... someone who sticks up for the man! :)

Thanks em for your perspective on this.

I'm often guilty of bagging Mr Gates on occasion too, but deep down I know you're right about him. He has never made himself MORE than his mission. And we DO all owe him much really for revolutionising this net-connected world we now live in.

Crumbs! When I think about it...if it hadn't been for Mr Gates... I'd have not "met" Dick, Martin or yourself. :)


EM Sky said...

That's it! I couldn't put my finger on it, but that's it exactly: he's never made himself more than his mission.

People can have really BIG missions and still be HUMBLE.


Thanks! That's what my mind was getting at, but I couldn't quite get there. That's why I love dialog!

biren said...

have you ever considered why you HAVE to crouch and become small?
because you are not!
i have seen that we have the need to act small because we are afraid of our 'bigness'... of how it will affect others and so, ultimately, us and our peaceful co-existence.
if you were small, you wouldn't have to ACT small. iof you were not tall, you would not need to crouch.
and you may want to muse - why it is right for you to have crouched and acted small IN THAT (those) MOMENT(s).
just because you acted small or crouched in those moments doesnot make you small. it COULD have been humility - in whatever convoluted form we have learnt it to be.

understand humility better, and you will not have to change your 'habit' of acting small.
humility is in accepting that god expects a lot from you. it is in accepting that your greatness is far larger than your small body can hold. :-)

greatness, i think, becomes unbearable burden when it is not flowing. anything that flows becomes weightless because of its own momentum.

and... habits (those we think we need to change) are not in 'doing'. habits are in thoughts.

change a perspective and a thought dislodges, and with it comes loose a 'habit' - habitual way of seeing and reacting.

if this sounds simplistic, it is because i just wanted to share some perspectives. i know you will cohere the rest and the remaining.
you always do.
lots of love to you