I am bigger than this.
This is one of my favorite mantras. Mantras are tricky, of course, because what resonates with one person doesn’t with another. What means one thing to one person means something totally different to another person. I, personally, like this one because I certainly have a proclivity toward over-identifying with some not so useful things in life. For me, this often comes in the form of over-identification with other’s perspective on my loveability and worthiness and on what I do instead of who I am. To be clear, by over-identification I mean allowing this thing to get wrapped into who I am and/or my worthiness of love and belonging versus putting it in its rightful place (as simply someone’s opinion, for example). For others, it’s easy to over-identify with achievements/success, their emotions, or their intellect and thoughts. The reality is we’re all so much bigger than that. By bigger, I don’t mean a sense of prideful self-inflation. What I’m referencing is more like what Marianne Williamson describes in her poem “Our Deepest Fear.” I’ve posted the full poem here because I believe the whole poem is worth a read and perhaps a couple re-reads:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are born to manifest the glory that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in all of us.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson
I believe it was John Bradshaw who defined humility as “knowing your place and taking it.” Unfortunately, it seems we often mistakenly assume humility is a meek, one-down position, essentially playing small. However, I would argue that this is simply the other side of the pride coin, not humility. Bear with me on this one. Being an Enneagram 2 and studying some of that material really helped bring this home for me. To put it succinctly, the downfall of the type 2 is pride. What’s interesting is that the goal of most type 2’s- achieving interpersonal perfection (being all things to all people all the time)- usually results in a vacillation between feelings of self-aggrandizement and feelings of deep inadequacy. The pride, though, isn’t encompassed in either of these but lives instead in the belief underlying the goal itself. The problem here is the idea that it is even possible to be all things to all people. The downfall of perfectionism isn’t the striving; it’s the driving belief that perfection might actually be possible. That, my friends, is pride. At the root, that’s what is really getting us in trouble.
So, let me circle back around to how this connects to the mantra I mentioned at the beginning. Many of us get overwhelmed by whatever is bothering us because it feels bigger than us. It feels like it’s too big for us to handle or like it will never end. Sometimes it simply feels so important in the moment that we lose sight of ourselves. Sometimes, for a time, it can even eclipse us and our feelings of worthiness completely. But this simply isn’t true. I love how author Bonnie McCliss says it, “Getting loud and proud is the way you begin the boomerang process for your energy…Get louder than whatever is haunting you.” I’m bigger than that person’s judgments of me (and they’re bigger than mine while we’re at it!). I’m bigger than that promotion or this job. I’m bigger than this failure or that failure, than this mistake or that mistake, than this fear or that fear, than this imperfection or that imperfection. I’m bigger than this one rejection. I’m bigger than this diagnosis, than this struggle. It doesn’t mean that these things don’t hurt us or even that they don’t matter, per se; the important thing to remember is that I live beyond them. I exist beyond the space that those things can even reach and so do the people around me. When we take this stance, we don’t take things as personally, we take more responsibility for ourselves, and we also loosen the grip of the value we give our own judgments. We live in a place of true humility.
So, next time you find yourself in a shame spiral, give it a shot. Tell yourself that this one thing is not who I am because…
I am bigger than this.