It is an illusion that only some people are great. All of us have greatness within us. As a teacher, I have always felt surrounded by greatness, whether I was in a school classroom or a workshop for adults. It has always been easy to see the potential people carry within themselves. It has been more difficult to see greatness within myself.
Often my explorations inward did not result in discoveries of greatness, but of unworthiness and lack. Like many, I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. I saw the world as a fearful place where I had to earn my way to acceptance. I hoped that others wouldn’t discover the lack in me that seemed so evident. Feeling fearful and lacking, I pushed forward anyway.
I was thankful for blessed moments. These were moments when I temporarily stepped out of my fearful identity and looked into my heart. I made life changing decisions based on what my heart told me. I went away to college and paid my own way when I was told I’d never make it. I chose to become a teacher when my father thought I should be an engineer. I became a conscientious objector when others thought I should go fight. In these defining moments I touched greatness, but I still felt a sense of lack in myself.
Over the years I wrestled with this feeling. I felt the fear and did it anyway. I married, fathered children, found success in my work, earned college degrees, traveled, and had lots of friends. None of these externals seemed to relieve the inner tension. Later I divorced, left my career, wandered aimlessly for a time, and dug myself into a hole. As I looked around at the mess I had created, all that I feared about myself seemed to be true. I really was lacking. I really was unworthy. With Divine help, I dug myself out.
That was many years ago. I have since rebuilt a whole new life. I have a happy marriage and family, a home, a career, and many accomplishments. I have learned that spiritual growing is much more than belonging to the right religion, saying the right affirmations, or being positive. It is about getting to know and accept yourself. It is about learning to love self, others, and the Creative Intelligence. For me, it is about dispelling this illusion of inner lack and seeing and living the greatness that is within.
Although I suspected greatness might be present, my inner sense of lack became a way of living. I carried the feeling with me almost all of the time. I associated success at work, success in relationships, and the acquisition of money with my sense of worth. If I was making a lot of money, I felt valuable. If I was a success in my work and people liked me, I felt valuable. If my relationships were going well, I felt valuable. On the flip side, when those parts of my life were not working I would feel this inner feeling of lack.
Emotional and financial challenges, for me, brought up issues of self worth. Neither emotional or financial problems have been the problem. They have been symptoms. Uncomfortable and painful situations have served as catalysts for feelings of lack, guilt, self disappointment, resentment, or unworthiness. Just as physical pain tells us something is out of alignment in the body, emotional pain is a signal we are out of alignment with our greatness.
An uncomfortable or painful feeling is an opportunity. I can react to the situation and struggle for money or approval, pray for my needs to be met, or affirm success. These strategies will bring me limited success. My discomfort is an opportunity to follow the feeling inward, face it, and see the Truth. Recently I felt a reoccurrence of feelings of lack.
I was teaching an adult class. Several people talked about how valuable the class was to them personally and professionally. Two people didn’t say anything. I interpreted their silence as disapproval. I found myself wanting some kind of reassurance from them. I focused my emotional energy on the two people who said nothing and forgot about the several who said much. I felt uncomfortable and inadequate.
Later I reflected on what I was doing to myself. I reflected on what I might have done differently to include the two people in the class. I acknowledged that maybe they just wanted to be quiet. I disconnected my self worth from their reaction. I reminded myself that it is not my teaching that is of greatest importance; it is their learning. I reminded myself of the several people who expressed appreciation. I reminded myself that I was creating this feeling. This inner conversation helped me to see the insanity of attaching self worth to what happens around us. I realized that by focusing on only what I thought was not working I had set myself up to experience this feeling. As I shared this with my wife, the feeling dispersed and I felt lighter. This is what happens when we bring our inner darkness into the light.
Why do we set ourselves up to experience lack, or disappointment, or bitterness? There is a payoff. To be in a place of lack is uncomfortably comfortable. It’s misery, but it is the misery I know. These feelings are a part of me, and by letting them go I may lose a part of myself. My situation and my negative feelings become excuses for not expressing greatness. The payoff is the feeling of safety I find in staying stuck.
When I am expressing greatness and abundance I am in a place where no excuses are accepted. No one feels sorry for a great person surrounded by abundance. We expect only greatness from great people. If my excuses (situations of lack) are taken away what do I have? A part of me thinks I will have unrealistic expectations which I will never be able to meet. I will be a target for blame and criticism. Another part of me knows that if I face my feelings and let go of the excuses my greatness will flow forth, and I will be free.
About The Author William Frank Diedrich is an executive coach, speaker, and the author of three books, including The Road Home: The Journey Beyond The Spiritual Quick Fix, found at transformative press.