Focusing on Inner Strength Does Not Make You Selfish!

Does all this focusing on inner strength make you selfish?

Ahh, such a good question! A friend recently confided in me that in reading my posts, it seemed that everything was very "me" centric. I appreciated his candor and it inspired me to elaborate here.

“I get it,’ he said, “you want your clients to realize their full potential–but they don't exist in a vacuum. Especially now with the world losing its balance, don't you think you also need to put some focus on how we all interact with each other and our society? Otherwise–and I'm being perfectly blunt here–it seems you’re counseling how to be selfish.”

He added that he might be the only one who thought this, and I told him that surely he was not.

First of all, LOVE the honesty! AND, he delivered his message in a way that showed curiosity, respect, and yes, a very strong opinion. Good thing I wasn’t sitting in my defensiveness box when I read it, right?!?

We all exist within multiple systems–our country, our jobs, our families, our relationships. There is a big conversation about how we can align goals (not necessarily agree), eliminate relationship toxins, and collaborate in a way that is respectful, authentic, and productive. Note to Self: that’s a whole lot of inspiration for future posts.

Back to self-love, I believe that it is truly the place to start in order to make all the rest possible.

When we dissect relationship challenges, it turns out that every issue we have actually comes back to ourselves. That’s certainly not to say that nobody else has their own set of problems, but the way other people’s problems impact us is where our personal learning begins.

As for others, if someone is a bully, judgmental, a bad team player, a yes man, or anything else that leads to ineffective leadership or relationships, there is always a deeper issue, often something like "I'm not good enough” or "I need external affirmation to feel whole and loved." So ironically, if everyone truly loved themselves, they wouldn't need to act like egomaniacs or be so bothered by others who misbehave. They could skip right to the “let’s do something about this” phase without wasting precious energy on being angry, insulting the opposition, or judging others.

Radical self-acceptance–loving ourselves for all that we are, including the good, the bad and the ugly–dramatically increases confidence and self-esteem. This is very different from bragging or being arrogant. To quote Marianne Williamson, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” We can accept that we have gifts and strengths and own them without talking about how great we are.

In terms of leadership, as well as overall happiness, coming from a peaceful heart that includes self-acceptance allows us to get out of the “me vs. them” perspective and treat everyone more respectfully. If we are not under the impression that our job titles, salaries, or “what the neighbors think” define us, we can become more curious about and supportive of others, in both our personal and professional lives.

Robert Kegan, Harvard-based developmental psychologist, talks about different stages of adult consciousness. The self-transformed mind, at a higher level of development, is able to hold the world and self in a more complex fashion and realize that WE can decide what we want and put it forth into the world, versus allowing the current societal structures to dictate how we define ourselves and determine our worth. Leadership models have proven that this sort of inside-out management leads both to more effective leadership and increased business results. Coming from the heart and living your truth will actually allow you to play better with others and achieve more.

Conversely, long-held reactive tendencies based on beliefs like "I need to be liked," "I need to prove I am smart," and "I need to be right" hinder leadership effectiveness.

Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said that when the best leader’s work is done, the people say “we did it ourselves.” This leader does not need to take all the credit because he already knows he is good enough. Hello, love of self!

Ironically, you become less arrogant if you can look in the mirror and say aloud (and mean it!) "I love you! I am so lucky to be you! You are amazing!" because you no longer have anything to prove. This exercise is quite challenging for many people. It took me weeks of work and coaching before I could finally look in the mirror, wink at myself, and say “I love you, girl, you’re totally AWESOME!” And mean it.

I’m not a psychologist, but I do know that there are clinical sociopaths and those with narcissistic personality disorder out there (use your imagination); I do not speak of those people here.

If anyone else has questions about any of my posts, I’m happy to discuss.