This post is the second in a series about the ways we sabotage ourselves. Because self-sabotage so often lies in our blindspots, it is usually something we are unable to see in ourselves. The intent of these posts is to provide some insight into areas you may be letting yourself off the hook (read about the opposite of that approach here). You can read the first post here.
Today, our topic is about a lack of ownership in how we are showing up. What does it mean not to show up? There are two main flavours to this.
The first flavour is simply being unwilling to show up. The easiest way to see this is to compile a list of everything that you'd like to take on in your life, but that you "can't". Can't is a loophole word. It's a way top let ourselves off the hook. Inherent in the phrase is the implication that, even if we really really really wanted to take something on, we are unable to. It is simply outside of our control. Can'ts are fairly rare in reality. People might have told the Wright brothers that they can't fly, but it was by refusing to accept this that they developed the first working aircraft.
Can't is actually a way of covering up for something that we won't do.
Whenever you catch yourself saying you can't do something, you've got yourself an example of not showing up. Here are some flavours of not showing up. Notice that none of these actually use the word can't, but nevertheless, provide reasons why the speaker can't do what they would like to or have declared they will do.
- "Well, I said I was going to not drink for a week, but I really want to celebrate tonight";
- "I'd like to dress up for work, but people will make fun of me if I do"; and
- "I want to take on a new career path, but my wife would get upset with me".
These are all different ways of not owning who we are. We are not showing up as ourselves. In these situations, we attempt to cover up how we are feeling.
What ends up happening in these situations is that we develop ways of trying to sneak out how we really feel. We might express to our partner how bad our day was at work and how we wish it was better, and might hint that we'd like to leave. Our partner might detect warning signs and attempt to encourage us to stay on at work, and that it's really not that bad, which is inherently disempowering to how we really feel (what we really want is encouragement to leave, and reassurance that they will support our decision). As a result, we then get upset with our partner and fight with them. And so on and so on.
When we don't own everything that we are feeling, we ultimately disempower ourselves, and the people around us. It leads to feelings of resentment, anger, justification and judgment.
Further, not allowing and owning the way we feel costs us our energy. It requires that we maintain a persona on the outside that is different and inconsistent with what is happening on the inside. Every time there is something new that we will not own, we have to create a new mask - a new energy leak.
The second flavour of lacking ownership looks like victimhood. Rather than using the word can't to couch our own unwillingness to own something, we project things onto someone else. We are simply the victim of other people or circumstances beyond our control. Here are some ways this can show up:
- "I want a new job but no one is hiring right now";
- "I was going to talk to my husband about that this week, but there just wasn't any time. Plus, he'd had a really hard week"; and
- "I wanted to make those calls, but people would judge me for it".
In each of these scenarios, the power is taken away from yourself and bestowed upon someone or something external. In actuality, each of these situations is a reflection of the interpretations of the person making them.
In the first scenario, there is an interpretation that no one is hiring (this is almost never true). In the second, the interpretation is that they don't have control over their time, their husband won't be willing to listen to them should they make a request that he do so, and that there is a "perfect" time to bring something up with someone (there isn't, anymore than there being a perfect time to breakup with someone).
In the last instance, the interpretation is that people will judge them for calling them. Maybe people will judge the speaker for calling them. Maybe they won't. Maybe people will be thrilled to hear from them. Regardless of what other people may or may not judge you for, only you can give power to those judgments. If you simply own the fact that you are taking something on, their judgments are irrelevant. Ironically, the judgements that we are putting on other people are almost always our own judgments (we just don't own them that way).
The good news is that control is an illusion. We, somewhat tragically, believe that we can control how other people feel and think about us, and act so as to manipulate that, rather than simply in alignment with our being. We can no more control other people's thoughts and feelings than they can control ours. If you hold yourself out as a leader for anything (even something as benign as mozzarelle being better than cheddar), you are going to get judged.
So, own it. Own all of who you are. Own your judgments, your fears, and who you truly are. Start today by noticing when you have judgments, and outing yourself for those judgments. Start challenging the judgments and interpretations you are holding over other people. Do that thing they will judge you for, and then check in with them (if you must) and see how it landed. Quit sabotaging yourself, and instead, take ownership.