My Dance with Competence
I am a competent person. And I would have said that I feel pretty much at peace with my basic competence.
Except for one thing: A few years back, when I was beginning to notice things with more awareness, I noticed a pattern that wasn’t serving me.
I noticed (after accusing someone else of this, and then using my judgment to look at myself – always a great way to find my own blindspots):
If I couldn’t be the best I wouldn’t play the game.
This of course is not part of the recipe for the fun and full life I wanted.
In this, I recognized a lifelong pattern of making sure that I am successful at what I do. To the extreme.
Here’s where the blind spot piece comes in: Interestingly enough, I was also carrying the story that I was not competitive.
Ha! It turns out, when I went deeper and found the story behind the story, that I was very competitive, indeed. What was true is that I would not compete if there was any chance that I would not win, be the best, most competent one. And what I found deep in that exploration is that I had attached a meaning to not being the best, which was:
I was a fool for trying, and it hurt. A lot.
And I had, obviously, built an ironclad rule I lived by, at all costs:
Do not allow that kind of pain. Do NOT be a fool.
This created a pattern of allowing myself one of two choices:
One, I would engage in such a way as to ensure that I would be the best, and in fact be so far ahead of everything that there was the illusion (for myself – it’s generally always only ourselves that we are fooling, right? That’s why they call these things blind spots) that there was no competition.
Or, two, I would not engage at all.
Once I brought this into my conscious awareness, of course, I have wanted to shift it. That’s always the dance, right – become aware of something, ask, is this serving, and if not, what would serve better?
So – now that I know that to change something means, as a first step, to embrace it, I asked myself, “Does this mean I have to be incompetent now?”
I did NOT like the feeling of that – all parts of me that have used competence as my basic definition of who I am in the world came to full attention and began to resist.
But I couldn’t deny the situation.
I used my usual three-part map to get clear about what needs to change, which is:
1. Where do I want to be?
2. Where am I now?
3. What inside me is in the way of me being there right now?
4. How do I shift that?
So – here was my assessment:
What I wanted: To be fully alive, open and free to do whatever I am inspired to do, without being held back by my own unconscious rules and limitations.
Where was I: Not allowing myself to do things unless I knew I’d be successful.
What was in the way: My ironclad, formerly unconscious rule: Don’t appear foolish. This rule was the root cause of that pattern.
How could I release that? Well, embrace looking foolish? Or embrace being incompetent? Back to the same question, do I really have to be incompetent to move through this? Argh, I didn’t like how that felt!!!
I really struggled with that. The part of me that was attached to competence has held on tight. And, as we know, it is very competent! It is going to keep itself in place! That’s what it does, right? LOL. What a double bind it was.
Little by little, having noticed this conversation inside, I used actions in the world to soften it up. I let myself laugh at myself, lovingly, when I messed something up. I began to let it be OK. I began to let myself be OK.
And finally, I realized that was the easy door to go through. What I needed to embrace was the full acceptance of myself as OK, just as I am. The understanding that I am fine, just as I am. I don’t have to be competent to be loved, to have a place in the world. That was MY requirement, not anyone else’s.
I’m not saying that everyone will now love me just as I am. Not at all.
I am saying that I am loveable just as I am. I don’t have to earn it, don’t have to prove it, it just is. People will love me or not – I don’t have to keep up an appearance around that. People will do what they do, and think what they think. They do anyway. Regardless with how much I do or do not keep up appearances.
The truth is that the more I put down any concern with appearances and just be myself, the more people actually love me.
The corollary to this is that it is impossible for someone to love me when I am keeping up appearances, because they can’t possibly know who I am. They can only know the persona I am presenting in that moment. And when they do think they love me, when I am not carrying a façade, they can love the real me, and the relationship can be real.
[Side bar] Which is why, if you are carrying a façade, and someone says they love you, you are able to deflect that so easily. Deep inside you know it’s not true. It can’t possible be true – you’ve set it up that way. They don’t see the real you to love, (because you’re not letting them) so they can’t really love you. This gives you the opportunity to unconsciously judge both them and yourself for this – but that is a whole other conversation]
The big gift is that this allows me to try things, to speak my mind, say what matters, and do the work that I know I am here to do, more and more. It has led to such clarity about what I really want. It allows me to be me, and to shine as I do, rather than hide behind something that’s just an appearance.
The truth is, I don’t need to appear any way at all. No offense, but what you think of me does not matter all that much – it certainly doesn’t run my life any more. (much…I am still a human being in progress!)
Live independent of the good or bad opinion of others
I now understand, viscerally, what it means to live my life independent of the good or bad opinion of others. It doesn’t mean I don’t ask for feedback, listen to it and factor it in. It doesn’t mean I lack compassion – in fact, I am able to be MORE compassionate, because I am being more real. It just means I am letting myself be OK. After all, I let other people be OK all the time – it’s about time I do myself the same favor!
There’s a cultural tendency, from our western religious heritage, to carry a secret fear or belief that if we let our real selves have free rein, we will find they are lazy good for nothing beings who will hurt others, grab everything for ourselves and run completely amok, and that’s why we need rules and restrictions and religions – I mean, how else will we know right from wrong, and act accordingly?
Well – I carry a completely different knowing on this subject.
We don’t need anyone or anything to tell us right from wrong and to “make” us act better.
When left to your true nature, you will find that your biggest self is a mighty fine being.
You are loving, compassionate, and giving. The more you let yourself be OK, and truly yourself, the more you will act from love and the more beautiful and engaged your actions will be in the world.
Case in point – In the middle of writing this, I took a call form a client who wanted a bit of a reminder about and reconnection to who she really is. As we completed our conversation, she said, “I just can’t believe how I feel! When we get done with these calls I feel so clear about who I am and how amazing the possibilities are, that I just want to run out the door and get going!”
That’s what happens when you love yourself enough to put down the appearances, and truly live as who you are. Independent of what anyone else thinks.
What do YOU think of yourself? That’s what matters.