"Sounds like you have a "Special" Problem", said my handsome therapist.
"Oooooh! What's that?! I feel special already!"
"Yea, that's the problem part", he chuckled as he rubbed his eyes for a moment, like he was about to break some earth-shattering news to me. My eyes widened and for a moment I felt excited about my new label, my brand-spankin-new neurosis, my next thing I'd get to blog about. (Good Lord, I really do need therapy.)
Over the past couple weeks I've come to terms with my resistance and my general distaste for sharing and being a "team player", for which I blame my parents, of course; instead of having more children and staying married, they got divorced, gave me my own bedroom and bathroom at both houses, where I had my own toys and never had to bang on a door to go pee or wait to use the computer, or negotiate the time I spent watching my Lifetime movies....in my own room...on my own t.v. If they had given me a sibling or a pet or a few house plants to take care of, I'm sure I'd enjoy a thing or two about being a team player. But they didn't. So, I don't.
However, despite not being a fan or a willing participant of sharing my stuff and working on a team, I've somehow built an entire career that is dependent upon my ability to do just that. First of all, I educate people how to use essential oils and a HUGE part of that business is sharing my oils with people, be that providing Lavender to a gaggle of high-strung Yoga Teachers, giving samples left & right, and putting Lemon oil in everyone's water while in India. As an Eating Psychology Counselor and Yoga teacher, I share my time and my resources in favor of helping people feel more alive, nurtured and comfortable in their body and their relationships. I love what I do, and I wouldn't choose to do anything else. But here's where my "Special" Problem lies...and yours, too, if this resonates with you, which is great, because I can help you...
While my job requires me to share my "toys", it doesn't usually require me to share the credit or the accolades with anyone, for a job well done. Somehow I've managed to stay just under the radar when it comes to collaborating with people on a project, where I'm not the only incredible genius behind the operation, until now...
My friend, Tracy, and I have been asked to run a "Creative Writing & Yoga" workshop next month, because we're both writers and we're both counselors and we both deeply care about the work we do. While I know the workshop is going to be an amazing one-of-a-kind adventure for our students, it will also require me to share the warm, gooey, fluffy praise and the You-Did-a-Heck-of-a-Job hugs with her, which is difficult for me, because there's a running story in my head that says, You know they're gonna like her more, right? You know they're gonna trust her more and look up to her more, and want to work with her more, right? It's a harsh and dangerous world in my head sometimes, my friends.
So where did this story come from? As my handsome Therapist puts it;
You always had all the stuff you wanted; the bedrooms, the toys, the time to watch Lifetime Movies...but that doesn't necessarily mean you were given what you needed; quality time, lots of praise, undivided attention, all the things a child in a typical narcissism stage really does need. So as you developed, you looked to other people's praise, feedback, attention etc. not just to make you feel good in general, but to actually fill you up, to validate you and prove your value and make you feel special. (And why would you ever want to share that with someone else?) But when you rely only on how other people value you and view you, for you sense of self-worth, it doesn't keep you full, because you can't or won't or don't do that for yourself. So, here you have a sense of entitlement...mixed with a specific kind of need to feel special...and that creates a -say it with me- "Special" Problem.
When I peeled my ego-bruised self off the couch after an entirely-too-short fifty minutes, the only solution to this problem I could think of, apart from getting the f*ck over it because I'm a 29 year-old grown ass woman who ought to know how to share and not be so greedy for accolades, was to tell my friend Tracy about my "Special" Problem; how I'm not as jazzed as I could and should be to teach a Creative Writing & Yoga Workshop together. I told her how I'm afraid that people are going to like her more than me, and how I'd look like a fool and that I'm not as helpful to people as I think I am. I told her I might feel jealous. That I do feel jealous already. I told her all those things and she replied:
"Well, that's funny, because I've been so worried that people are going to like you more than me because I'm no 'Erica Jacobs'".
"Oh, so we're afraid of the same things?"
"Okay, cool. So, do you just wanna know that the workshop is better off being done together? Do you wanna just do the thing?"
"Great. Good game." *High Five*
If there's one thing I've learned from walking through such intense grief when my Dad passed away, and the process of healing from an eating disorder, it is the importance of being direct and telling people how I feel. The more vulnerable I've made myself, the stronger my relationships have become...if they're the right relationships for me to begin with. So while I am not someone who has always been direct and outspoken about what I feel (ESPECIALLY to the person I have feelings toward), I've seen the benefit and the rewards of being blunt and sincere in my adult life.
So, the bottom line is this: It's fine to have feelings. As long as we're human, equip with an ego, we're going to have feelings of entitlement and neediness from time to time. We've all experienced that "Special" Problem and it can be used to our advantage when we're willing to recognize it and be honest about it. Being able to say what we truly feel, preferably to the actual people we feel them with/from/because of, no matter how embarrassing, how selfish, how conceited...is what being "authentic" is all about. (We, in the Yoga world, are obsessed with "being authentic", so I had to throw that word in here.) And the truth is, while it is ideal for us to be able to fill our own Self-Worth Bucket, it's not "bad" if/when we need other people to fill us up. It's okay. It's normal.
So, speak up, my friends. Say the things. Stay humble. It's good for your friendships, it's good for your job and...it's the best for your soul.
Isn't that Special? ;-)