Somebody constantly needs to remind me of what a great network of coffee bars he’s building. Even if he says something negative about himself, he’s actually flaunting his success.
Like: ‘Am very impatient with my kids, but that’s why I can open two new bars every year’
Or: ‘My wife is often mad at me, because am so direct, but that’s why I’m so succesful in business’.
When he runs into trouble, he doesn’t want to relinquish the attitude that’s made him succesful in one area of life.
This success in that one area is like his shield. It’s his proof that he’s enough. It’s what he clings to. It’s his way of trying to be enough. And he doesn’t want to change, even though he genuinely wants to have a better relationship with his wife and kids. I think even there his problem is that his success is not enough for his wife and kids, they don’t really care how many more bars he’s going to open. They want to have real contact, real communication, they do not need to be reminded of his achievements in one area of life. And he’s frustrated because he assumed showing how many bars he can open, will be the perfect proof that he is enough.
He’s not alone in this. Almost everybody I meet is like this, including myself.
A teacher who needs to prove he can grade 250 essays in one weekend.
An other teacher who can’t take on any more courses, and has an internal war going on every time he has no other option but to reject a business offer. Oh, the nagging cramps this gives him!
A lawyer who fails one small test at work and feels stupid for weeks.
An administrative worker claims she doesn’t need to be praised for her job, especially not by her boss who she says is crazy and incompetent, but the day her boss praises her, she is in seventh heaven, giddy with happiness, and tells everybody about it.
A physician who is depressed because she works about one hour less per week than her colleagues. Meaning 62 instead of 63… Totally beating herself up because of this. And she has a valid reason for working that one hour less…
A succesful businessman who doesn’t dare mention his brother is ‘just’ a factory worker operating an assembly line. Why? Because he knows or fears he’s making his brother feel like he is not enough…
A copywriter for a big furniture store who keeps reminding everyone he used to be the personal assistent of a senator…
A writer who has to write a blog post every single day in between making a specific amount of money, or he feels he’s failing. (That last one is me).
There’s no way around it. We all feel like we are not enough. That we need to be more, bigger, more efficient, prettier, more handsome, smarter, more eloquent. And we may hide that need, and we may pretend that we do feel like we are good enough, but it’s then that it becomes most obvious. We slip our perceived accomplishments into conversations, we have studied little speeches we always say when we meet new people to let them know in the shortest possible time how much we have accomplished (my best friend is an expert at this), and we hunt titles, even though we know these titles are usually just a thank you for kissing the right people’s asses, and we try to have a shiny car, and if we are very narcissistic we want to have a trophy wife (see Donald Trump).
The smartest and most honest people in the room don’t try to hide it and just tell you: I fear am not enough, so I do this and this and this to compensate for my feeling of low value. Jeffrey Kottler does this in his book ‘On being a therapist’, he confesses he likes being a therapist because it makes him feel important, and he says he writes so many books to compensate. What’s good about this, it’s that it’s the road to real modesty.
Jeffrey Kottler also describes that once three of his therapy sessions were filmed. Only one was succesful and he tells the director he wants to broadcast the worst one, to show people how therapy really unfolds. The director disagrees and it becomes clear that all the other therapists that were filmed only wanted the best session to be seen… How many people do you know who would choose to show the world their worst performance so that people could draw lessons from it? How many?
This attitude doesn’t serve you, it keeps the fear going. If you fail, let it be known. You’re human, if you recognize that you do all sorts of things to prove your worth, almost desperately, then you have a chance to free yourself from the fear and become more real. That way you have the freedom to do what you genuinely want to do and not just to mask this most nagging of all fears.
If we are kind in all our interactions today (with ourselves as well), then, we are enough.