I’ve decided to stop self-improving. I know that this may seem counter to what we teach here at Rockwood, but there’s a difference. There is growing and changing based on a sense of positive self-worth and there’s trying to make ourselves “better” based on an internalized sense of lack or unworthiness. While I’m sure I’ll continue to grow and learn (since I am a human organism engaged in a constantly changing ecosystem), I’m not going to push my own river by thinking that I’m not fine just as I currently am.
For many years, I thought that if I strived long and hard enough, got enough degrees or acclaim, if I struggled until I dropped, then I would somehow prove my worthiness. I found that I saw myself always in terms of deficit, disparaging what I’d done, and often only seeing fault in myself and others. It wasn’t very satisfying, and I’m sure I wasted a lot of energy and time. Now I’m determined to move from a place of already enough.
When I really think about it, I realize that most of my “lacks” are based on internalized oppression. “That I’m not ___ enough because I am a woman,” or “I’m not ____ enough because that’s how African-Americans are.” You can fill in the blanks. Each of us struggles with the voices that are based on lies we’ve have been told in order to keep us in our “places” and generally unhappy. These are not the internal impulses that authentically remind us of our true needs for growth, and it is important that we as leaders, discern the difference between the two.
These voices are created by and serve the many "isms" of our present U.S. political system. This system is largely based on notions of competition and comparison – this organization has more than that one, and so they are better. She is smarter than he is and is therefore more worthy. Our nation has a greater capacity to destroy the world, and is, as a result, on the right side of god. Nonsense!
This is the path of madness. It is why so many of us struggle to love ourselves and by extension, each other. It is hard to sustain social movements that are filled with little voices in the background whispering “their politics aren’t as pure as ours” or “who is she to take the lead on this” or “they didn’t deserve that grant/recognition/access…”
This is not to say that we shouldn’t hold ourselves to high standards. We need high standards for our work, but we can’t use them to judge our own and each other’s worth. I want to do excellent work (which is quite different from perfect work) and sometimes I will not hit the mark of excellence. This does not mean that I am wrong, bad or unworthy. It means that I still have much to learn and plenty of room in which to evolve.
September is the time when many of us go back to school, to hopefully learn and grow. Even though I’m no longer in school, I still feel the pull toward change and growth. This year, rather than make a list of everything I need to “improve,” I’m going to meditate on my strengths and build on them, rather than parse out my weaknesses and only concentrate there.
Imagine how your leadership might be different if you were to assume that you’re just fine as you are, and go from there. Imagine assuming that you are enough for this moment, and then getting on with your authentic business of growing in your leadership capacities.
I’m entranced by the idea of movements of satisfied and happy leaders who are clear about their inherent worth, and who are working hard to uphold themselves and each other. I’m dreaming about us cheerfully and lovingly giving each other feedback that is only meant to co-power and support each other. Feedback that may be challenging to hear, but is never about our worth as humans being.
I know that we’re all good enough, and worthy. And that we’ll continue to learn and garner more skills and strengths. Glad we’re in this together.
From my heart to yours,