Updated: Nov 2, 2021
In the last month I have been having a relationship with competition, flaring up in a way that is quite breathtaking when it happens.
It seems to me that what triggers this inner dynamic of needing to be good enough, are a variety of experiences which may all have one thing in common. Our need for approval, and our feeling that we have sacrificed it, often unwittingly, by getting something wrong. Maybe it is also our need to feel that we are included, we belong, we have earned the right of membership to some “club”, and in our own minds we are in doubt about that. Up comes competition, driven by the anxiety that our membership is at stake, and all of a sudden we are not sure we even belonged in the first place.
I’ve never identified as a FOMO sufferer (fear of missing out for any reader that’s not yet encountered this symptom, driven by our digitally-over-connected-world!)
But I’ve watched what happens when I, or someone else, is experiencing that they are missing out, or being left out: that they have not quite made some grade (often one of their own imagining), and that now they have slipped off some tenuously held position in their own minds and feel relegated - projecting this out onto the world around them despite the fact that the relegation has been self-imposed!
Although this quote has been deemed falsely attributed to Buddha, the point it illustrates is a useful one for this month’s newsletter: a man asked Lord Buddha “I want happiness”. Lord Buddha said, first remove “I”, that’s ego. Then remove “want”, that’s desire. See, now you are left with only “happiness”.
Of course, that is easier said than done. We need our ego, just like you need the car, iron or top hat to get round the Monopoly board. Getting rid of it is slightly simplistic. Maybe it’s being able to own it that makes the difference?
I wrote an email in response to a request from a colleague for some shared experience I may have around an issue she was facing. Several others to whom her email was also addressed responded as well. On reading their responses my mind became filled with self-judgement! Theirs were much more eloquent than mine, theirs were oh so very much more intelligent than mine, and, to top it all, theirs commented on mine….. seeming (to me) to say mine was…… (and here you can imagine and fill in the gaps)…. infantile, over-simplified, inaccurate……….(drum roll) - WRONG!
It was astonishing to watch my mind hone in on this experience, and stay there, fretting, feeling mortified, and threatening to withdraw from my relationships with these beloved colleagues! Fortunately I knew, at the exact same time, that this was my own internal competitor, my inner critic, projecting madly onto people that were unlikely, in fact, to be judging and criticising me. It’s at times like this that having The Ten Components of a Thinking Environment can be such a healthy “checklist” to draw on for self-guidance as to a more sane response.
If I knew that seeing shortfalls in the way I respond to something is an opportunity, and not a threat, an invitation to growth and not a sentence to silence myself, what could I learn from this?