I don’t believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or Prince Charming any more. Happy endings only happen if you create them.
I also don’t believe in lazy people, mean people, stupid people, people who don’t care or who want to be negative, trouble makers and other miscreants.
This is not to say I don’t believe in anything. I do believe that climate change exists, that we should reduce our national and personal debt, that everyone is inherently lovable, worthy of respect and full of talent.
I’ve frequently written in this blog about perfectionism and not being able to say No. To me, it’s really easy to understand that emotional and psychological approach to dealing with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy, as I’m a recovering perfectionist/control freak myself. Those that choose to view us compassionately see us as being driven by needing to prove ourselves repeatedly, despite our achievements and talents, and only focusing on how we are not quite good enough. We’re also easy enough to deal with (in my opinion) – just get out of the way and let us take care of everything. You have to admit, it has its advantages.
What about the opposite extreme? Lazy, sad, unmotivated, dysfunctional, rebellious ne’er do wells. They have some inherent character flaw that makes them this way, right? Or maybe they don’t want to change?
This question came up in the Inspired2ignite blog. Denise Hisey talks about Kurt Cobain’s pain and depression driving his creativity. She also asks the thought-provoking question: Would he have wanted it to be different? What a great question. Thank you Denise!
It had me thinking about the people I know who might be considered lazy, depressed, selfish screw-ups and so forth. I often hear those accusations that this is “just how they are” and “they like being that way.” I do agree, that this is how they are. I mean, if they weren’t that way, they’d be something else. There’s a level of acceptance implicit in that statement that belies our lack of control over most of our lives and especially someone else’s.
I don’t like that statement, however, because it implies resignation that we cannot influence or guide others, or that the other cannot or does not want to change. This may also be true since the readiness to change happens on a unique, individualized timeline, and they may or may not ever reach that point where they are ready. But I believe that everyone wants to be happy, optimistic, productive and successful.
What stands in the way of people being happy, optimistic, productive and successful?
I suspect these folks are stuck in dysfunction/underfunction for the same reason I was stuck in overfunction/enabling: it’s how they deal with their self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Let me explain.
I work hard to prove I’m competent and needed; they may avoid tasks to avoid demonstrating their incompetence.
I try anticipate what people need and problems before they occur so that I can believe that I’m a good person; they may avoid initiating activities to avoid feeling like they made the wrong choice.
I was a good student because I wanted to believe I was smart; they may avoid working hard in school because if they failed it would prove that they’re dumb, not indifferent.
I was always the good girl because I wanted approval; they may avoid conformity because they want to avoid rejection for who they really are.
The other hard lesson I’ve learned over the years is that we overfunctioners are often unwittingly reinforcing these underfunctioning behaviors. For example, my need to prove myself constantly then makes it hard for the underfunctioner to step up. I mean, why would he take a chance if I will do everything and he doesn’t have to risk making a mistake? It’s a win-win. I can prove how competent and worthy I am, and he doesn’t have to stick his neck out. I can say he‘s lazy and he can say I’m uptight. We’re both invested in this dysfunctional dance while pointing the finger at the other.
A classic family or group dynamic is the Problem Child scenario. It’s so tempting to blame our problems and unhappiness on someone who is causing trouble, like the Problem Child. But that Problem Child behavior is often reinforced by the family because it provides a convenient distraction and decoy to avoid tackling the real issue, whether it is abusive behavior, addiction, mental or physical illness, financial issues, etc. Problem Children are also often expressing the emotions that the group is unwilling to confront. For example, the Problem Child may be having difficulty adjusting after a family catastrophe, but is merely expressing the anger/fear/grief/sadness that the individual family members are trying to suppress. Their failure to acknowledge the problem and feel the emotion is preventing the PC from working through her feelings. Ironically, the family reinforces PC behavior because it allows them to stay in denial.
If you’ve read to this point I hope you can see that perhaps I’m not completely in Denial-Land myself, that there are things I DO believe in. What I believe is that everyone, regardless of how they assuage their self-doubt, wants to be happy and live their life to their fullest potential. We each have unique ways of expressing our fear, sadness and doubt, and that just because we may not understand each other, does not mean we have to judge one another. Rather, by using forgiveness and compassion and looking at ourselves to see how we are contributing to the problem, perhaps we can help both ourselves others – both over- and under-functioners – find that peace and self-actualization we all deserve.
That being said, you under-achievers are not off the hook. You have to find the courage to step-up just as much as we over-functioners have to find the courage to let go. Remember, these are all self-fulfilling prophecies. If you fear on some level that you are incompetent, your actions will subconsciously control you until you have proved to others that it is so. (Note to all:) Caving to your unconscious script/story is worse than any failure you might experience by taking a risk.
“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.” – Sven Goran Eriksson
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.” – H. Stanley Judd