- Mental Health
Take A Stand For Your Own Greatness
Stand Up For Your Greatness!
Stand Up For the Greatness That Is In You!
"To be loved for what one is, is the greatest exception. The great majority love in others only what they lend him, their own selves, their version of him. " -- Goethe
22 years ago, I didn't even know what my "greatness" looked or felt like. I hadn't given it any thought. Then, I took part in an instructor’s course designed to teach me how to help people create what truly mattered to them.
At the beginning of the course, I was shy. I hung back. I wondering what this event was going to be like. I feared I might have to do things that embarassed me. But, despite my shyness and lack of experience in such situations, I found greatness in the course, and greatness in myself.
During th 5-day course, we worked late into the evenings. Then we bounced up early the next morning to start work again. We crafted clear visions. We assessed Current Reality. We held vision and current reality in mind, together, to set up creative tension. We learned to use creative tension as a container for creating, for guiding actions, and learning from experience.
The workshop was intense. We watched Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream!” speech on video, and John F. Kennedy's "moon" speech. We watched Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol. It helped us see that people could change, and transcend their past. And that all of us can transcend our past. We too, can change, as we stretch for a those things we'd truly love to create.
During the workshop, we spent time coaching each other in the skills and structure of creating. As we got better at working with the framework, we got clearer about what mattered to us—in life, work, relationships, and whatever.
I loved it all—except for one exercise.
The Dreaded Taking A Stand for Your Own Greatness Exercise
As day two wound down, our workshop leader Kallenn asked us to stand and state, “I take a stand for my own greatness.” As he passed the mic to a woman in front, my sphincter tightened, and my gut tried to tie itself into a knot.
The woman popped up, turned around, and proudly proclaimed to us how great she was. But, six rows back, I felt like bolting for the door. I didn't understand why I didn’t want to do it. I just knew that I did not want to stand up and say those words. When my turn came, I reluctantly hauled myself off my chair, and garbled the words into the mic. When I sat down, I felt that I was a stranger to soul, a traitor to my own heart.
Rather than go for dinner with my new-found friends, I sat, alone, on a bluff overlooking a lake. As I jotted notes in my journal, I felt confused and conflicted. I didn't know what personal greatness was. Nor was I convinced I had any to stand up for.
As I dug deeper into thinking, I discovered that I was angry at myself for not practicing what I preached. An ex-professor and leadership coach, I’d run a mountaineering and leadership school in the Canadian Rockies for six years. However, I'd overstayed my welcome. I’d drifted through my last two years there. Unable to take the school in the direction I wanted it to go, I failed to put my all into the direction The Board wanted the school wanted to go.
Finally, I left, dispirited, and down. I drifted through life until I got this opportunity to become a "creating" teacher. As I recapped that time, I realized that the reason I didn’t feel greatness was because I’d let myself down. I hadn't focused on what truly mattered to me. I let my spirit’s flame burn too low.
Now, I realized, I wanted to do something big again, something great. I wanted feel greatness. But, I also feared admitting it. If i did, I thought, then I might have to stretch for something too big, something out of reach for me. Besides, I thought, who was I to proclaim greatness?
Accepting and Owning My Own Greatness
I sat, watched the lake, and pondered my questions for over an hour. And, when I went back to the workshop, something had shifted in me. I still was aware of my contradictions, but somehow, now, I was at ease with them.
I immersed myself in the creating work. I applied my learning with vigor. I struggled to change, and grow. Slowly, I felt the shift deepen. Something opened up in me. I caught a quick glimpse of myself in what Maslow calls our "most perfect moments." And liked it! As a vision for my life and work came into focus, I felt my inner flame sputter back to life.
At the course closing, Kallenn asked each of us to make a final remark. This time I felt eager to speak, empowered by what I'd learned. Still, when I stood and faced the group, I felt nervous, edgy, yet excited.
“A couple of days ago,” I told the 60 others in the class, “I told you that I took a stand for my own greatness. That wasn't true. I lied. I didn’t feel any greatness then. I just said the words. But, in the days since, I’ve discovered that greatness is not about my ego, or my power over others.
Greatness, I see, now, is about my capacity to create what matters—to bring into the world what I truly want to create. Greatness, I see now, is in us all. And, if we don't acknowledge, and own it, it dies. Realizing this, I can now say honestly, “I do take a stand for my own greatness.”
As I sat down, I finally felt like I owned my own heart. My soul shone.
Helping Others Accept And Own Thier Greatness
Since that workshop, I’ve helped thousands learn to create what matters to them. And because I also work at expressing my personal greatness through and writing, I know why it is so difficult, at times, to do so.
Often, we fail to acknowledge our greatness for fear of what others might say about us. Denying our deepest feelings, we invest our energy in lesser things. We withdraw from our own power. But, I've come to see that not offering our gifts to the world is riskier than putting them out there.
Marianne Williamson once said, “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, talent, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
By accepting our greatness, we live into our authentic power.
By creating what we love, we give the gifts only we can give to the world. By contributing to our community, our lives become more meaningful. By bringing our greatness into the world, we leave our planet better for having been here.
Relighting My Spirt's Flame
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening,” Martha Graham told a young dancer, “that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost."
It is not our business to judge how great our gifts are. It is not our business to judge how useful they are to others. It is not for us to compare our greatness to other's greatness. They are different, unique. It is our business to let life's vitality flow through us freely, and into the world. Our challenge is to keep the flame of our creative spirit bright.
I haven’t always been successful at keeping my flame brilliant. But when it flickers, I stop and think back. I remember how empowered I felt that day I took a stand for my own greatness. I recall how vital I feel when I create what truly matters to me, and give my gifts to the world.
Doing so opens me, again, to the possibility that lies. undiscovered, all around me. If I’m tempted to hold back, to ignore my greatness, I recall Goethe’s famous couplet: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. / Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Remembering that my own greatness is unique, I choose to create and give my gifts to the world, and let whatever happens happen."
More about Bruce here.