By Scott Westerman
“Our greatest fear is that we will be found out.”
The December evening was unusually warm. We were sitting at the best table at one of the best restaurants in downtown Chicago. My dinner companion is, by all definitions, one of the smartest, successful and compassionate people I know. When your with me, sooner or later, the conversation drifts toward discovering the essence of success and happiness. “How do you do it,” I asked. “How have you been so successful, yet maintain your wonderful capacity for kindness and humility.”
“I’ll tell you a secret,” she said. “I often feel like an imposter.”
How many times does a little voice at the back of your brain say, “You’re not really that good. Someday, somebody will figure it and tell the world”?
This is the voice of your Negative Ground of Being, that little slice of neurosis that lives in each of us. According to Barry Robertson, founder of the Stop at Nothing leadership development group, to some extent, we all harbor four Negative Grounds of Being.
Powerlessness – I have no control over my life
Worthlessness – I have nothing of value to offer
Unlovableness – I am only lovable if…
Undeservedness – I don’t deserve to be happy.
There is no way around these four obstacles. They are hardwired into our self image from and early age. Fighting their whispers can be a daily battle.
But the good news is this: You’re not alone. Look closely at the lives of high powered, high achievers and you’ll discover that many of them got to where they are with help from their Negative Ground of Being.
The two most compelling facts of life are these: Nobody’s perfect, and we can all become better people than we currently are.
Healthy behaviors can evolve out of understanding and lead to a productive pursuit of happiness. On the other hand, when we don’t understand what’s driving us, the opposite can also happen. We fell powerless, so we become control freaks. We over-achieve because deep down, we have low self esteem. We engage in multiple unhealthy relationships because we feel unloved or abandoned. And even as we succeed, we may feel like we didn’t deserve it and might lose it all in a nano-second.
Every one of us has these feelings. Problems arise when the unproductive actions they may precipitate reinforce them and cause un-necessary suffering.
“O, happy the soul that saw its own faults!” Mevlana Rumi’s words reassure us that understanding your Negative Ground of Being can be liberating, if you’re willing to do the hard work of figuring it out. It’s possible to learn to recognize when it’s talking to you, channel it for good or let it pass, and continue on with your quest for the happy life and the rewarding relationships you deserve.
This is part of what comes with being human.
One of the most often quoted book passages on the Internet comes from Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott’s “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules“. It’s a great book. Buy it. You’ll shake your head as you realize the the simple wisdom within her 14 Rules for being Human.
She writes, “When you were born, you didn’t come with an owner’s manual; these guidelines make life work better.
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s the only thing you are sure to keep for the rest of your life.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called “Life on Planet Earth”. Every person or incident is the Universal Teacher.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of experimentation. “Failures” are as much a part of the process as “success.”
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. It is presented to you in various forms until you learn it — then you can go on to the next lesson.
5. If you don’t learn easy lessons, they get harder. External problems are a precise reflection of your internal state. When you clear inner obstructions, your outside world changes. Pain is how the universe gets your attention.
6. You will know you’ve learned a lesson when your actions change. Wisdom is practice. A little of something is better than a lot of nothing.
7. “There” is no better than “here”. When your “there” becomes a “here” you will simply obtain another “there” that again looks better than “here.”
8. Others are only mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another unless it reflects something you love or hate in yourself.
9. Your life is up to you. Life provides the canvas; you do the painting. Take charge of your life — or someone else will.
10. You always get what you want. Your subconscious rightfully determines what energies, experiences, and people you attract — therefore, the only foolproof way to know what you want is to see what you have. There are no victims, only students.
11. There is no right or wrong, but there are consequences. Moralizing doesn’t help. Judgments only hold the patterns in place. Just do your best.
12. Your answers lie inside you. Children need guidance from others; as we mature, we trust our hearts, where the Laws of Spirit are written. You know more than you have heard or read or been told. All you need to do is to look, listen, and trust.
13. You will forget all this.
14. You can remember any time you wish.”
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