Being truly present is the foundation of all communication, so there is (at least) one more really important thought on the subject.
Haven’t we all noticed an epidemic of comparison in our culture. In the case of young women – wait who are we kidding, all women – who are constantly bombarded by images of unrealistic versions of femininity. In the case of clients who desperately need to develop relationships but are paralyzed by self doubt rooted in comparing themselves to colleagues. Some forms of shyness are simply a sense of overwhelm brought on by a terror of not ‘measuring up’ to a perceived standard, often embodied by someone specific.
But I recently struck by a novel (to me) form of toxic comparison. A client who is a CEO in one the hardest hit industry’s has been comparing his current self – exhausted, worried, scared and confused – to his previous self. He had become accustomed over the course of a steady and stellar rise to being energized, decisive, clear and confident. And now he is blaming himself for not feeling like the person he had gotten used to being. On top of everything else, here is a brilliant, kind, creative and hard working guy beating himself for having trouble getting out of bed in the morning after 3 rounds of layoffs and fruitless meetings with bankers.
Angeles Arrien has some very wise things to say about comparisons:
“Many indigenous societies believe that we all possess ‘original medicine’: personal power, duplicated nowhere else on the planet. No two individuals carry the same combination of talents or challenges; therefore, when we compare ourselves to others, native peoples see this as a sign that we do not believe that we have original medicine.”
Angeles Arrien; The Four-Fold Way; Harper San Francisco, 1993
Original Medicine indeed – isn’t that a marvelous way of describing each individuals’ unique combination of gifts? So the questions for a leader are:
- Where are you comparing yourself to someone else, or even a previous version of yourself that no longer exists?
- What is your ‘original medicine’ that cannot be diluted (except by comparison)?