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The Need for Approval | Ego | Your Self-Worth is a Settled Matter

self-worth
[Originally written in August 2008 and posted with the client's permission]
 
Many people have read this piece and encouraged me to post it publicly. So, by popular demand... It is an email I posted to a client near the end of their completion of the Personal Evolution Program, and in it I address a need for approval, ego development, the purpose and motivation for personal evolution...and the distinction between self-worth and value, and more... Your self-worth is a settled matter if you will accept it as such. Enjoy.

::: ::: :::

Now back to you.

I was thinking about the approval thing. But first--you have come a long way. So stop, take a deep breath, turn around towards the sunset and enjoy the vista. You deserve it. 
 
"The mountain we climb in Personal Evolution is a bit like a mirage while hiking/climbing a mountain. You could stop now and camp for the night--or say, "forget this", it and go back down the mountainside.
 
Buuuuutt, you can also see there is a reachable summit. So you choose to go further--yet...when you reach what you thought would be the summit, there is yet another summit that materializes out of the mists. And this goes on forever. There is no omega point except when you choose to simply stop and rest. Unless and until you decide you are done.
 
Each of us have that choice every day.
 
For some, we still consciously choose to continue to deepen our depths--and plumb just behind them. There is no end or bottom to the depth -- there are only unplumbed depths. For others, they have achieved a high enough peak, that there is no motivation--no real-life reason--to climb the next.  And there are others I will not list in the interests of time. I choose--consciously--to evolve further when I should or must--that is when my business or financial or relational results are inhibited by some aspect of myself. Otherwise, I am pretty darned content with where I am at-BUT I still need to have constant attention on where I need to be for others in the context in which I want to move with greater velocity--or frankly, sometimes, ANY velocity. 
 
I urge you to make the same or a similar real world criteria as you become more and more comfortable with you you are...and as you come to full acceptance of yourself, there is a pitfall of not caring what others think--and disregarding their feedback. Care what others think in practical terms--and care deeply--as it fosters results. However, do not care about their opinions and judgments of you as a personal matter. That is--think about the practical results and adjust based on feedback, but know that as an internally validated man, the matter of your self-worth is settled. The question of the value you bring to people and the world in this context or that context, well, that is never settled as it depends on too many variables [each individuals expectations and sensibilities, your skill and competence in the domain, your sensitivities/awareness when adjustments are needed, market forces, etc.]. But that is a separate practical matter. 
 
The personal: your self-worth, is a settled matter. It is...well, pick your preference/metaphor: it is good. It is priceless. It is worth-full. It is Spirit manifest. It is divine. 
 
As for the seeking of approval-that is obviously pretending as if your worth could be determined externally. It can not. Whether you realize it yet or not, you still have to accept the opinion of others--good, bad, right, wrong--to have their opinions matter. In other words, you have the ultimate choice still--even if you are not exercising it to as full a degree as you will enjoy in the future. 
 
But why even do this work? What does it make possible? Why spend the time, energy, and the--at times--grueling work of dis-identification, detachment, and internalizing validity when you notice it as external? Why forgo the feel good and the short term false ego pump of compliments? 
 
In a word: Freedom. Freedom from what? 
 
Freedom from the ebbs and flows of the opinions and judgments of others. Why is this important? So you can gather feedback, without the moral and emotional cloud of personal meaning. Here is the challenge with tying your valuation to another's opinions: you are not only cast about from one end to the other, AND the problem with that is that people react from and interpret through their stage of egoic, emotional, and values meme stage of development. There will be patterns and probabilities, and all feedback is valid for them, but there is only so much contorting you can engage in, and stay sane and centered, and more importantly, live authentically--true to yourself.
 
Additionally, believe me, as someone who has had people tell me I am a god [literally] on more than one occasion and at times, had people tell me I was an a**hole and the devil's spawn [literally] I came to realize that no matter what they say, the truth is somewhere in the middle, and their acknowledgments and their judgments are worth only one thing: getting specifics around those experiences [I did X Y and Z in A context and they felt B emotion as a result] for the purpose of adjusting my behavior for improved results. 
 
Their characterizations are worthless except as crude pointers to their stage of development because, again, we interpret through and react and respond from our stage of development And even then, I have to gauge how valuable it is -- determined solely by how large a percentage of people are at that stage and would react/interpret the same way. 
 
All feedback is valid--and everyone's emotional experience is valid as it is and to be left untouched unless requested otherwise. However, not all feedback is valuable
 
Now, what I can not say is where the line is between the idea that they are responsible for their own emotional experience--and you are not--and where you are responsible for your impact on others and the results you garner. That is a line I have yet to determine for myself after nearly a decade of inquiry. I do know that I tend to move more and more towards having room for the emotional reactions I create in others-sometimes by simply walking through the room, or making a benign comment about my schedule, or not noticing someone in a room I am in--having space for that and having them feel valid without my trying to adjust their experience is a skill I am still developing and only in the last year and a half feel fully competent at. And I get it right about 65% of the time. 
 
Circling back--the thing to remember is that you are already determining your own worth, by agreeing or disagreeing with those who assess you as good/bad or some variation. You still have to buy into their perspective. And since you are the ultimate decider, decide now, that irrespective of the value assessments they are making and the validity of the feedback, the matter of your self-worth is settled. 
 
We were told a lie as children--something about original sin. It is more accurate to say we were born with universal innocence. And imagine, the preciousness and the innocence of a blameless child. At your core...that is you irrespective of any behaviors that are not aligned--YOU, at your core, are precious and pure, and have a hologram of divinity that you are reflecting and projecting. 
 
To think otherwise is an error--a mistake--and nothing more. 
 
In Service and in Evolution, 
 
Jason
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The Cult of Classification

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We, as a people, seem to love classifications. As humans, it is what we do best: identification. It separates us from primates. We can identify and classify things into systems, genres, classes, subclasses, and so on.

This is a great skill; a skill that could even save your life someday as you classify “dangerous, not dangerous – deadly, not deadly”. The ability to identify (what is it?) and then extrapolate accurately (what does it mean?) is indeed a critical skill. A skill no less critical even as we get more and more civilized. In fact, it could be argued that the dangers get ever more complex and demanding of this skill the more complex our society becomes, and the more knowledgeable we become.

When this gets interesting is when we apply and over apply this skill to other human beings where physical safety is clearly not a concern. We have all sorts of categorizations and systems of classification. We have ethnicity, sexual preferences, and orientation, political party affiliation, zodiac sign, political orientation or leaning, class separation, high school cliques, enneagram number, etc., etc.

These are all tools we use to classify, to categorize, and to put people into some box or drawer. At first, it may seem like we use these tools to gain a better understanding of who they are, really.

Is that how we typically use them, in actuality? The way I have seen myself and others use them is as I described above. We put them into a box. We now think we “know” them, or at least that portion of them. They are a democrat or a republican and all of a sudden, we now “know them” politically. They are a 3 on the enneagram, and all of a sudden we “know” what to expect of their behaviors; their light and beautiful side and their darker patterns.

We put them into a box and we can then relax, or tense, or whatever, but some part of us relaxes. We know them; we can now relax and move on to putting another part of them into a box. Are they heterosexual or homosexual? Ah, they are bi-sexual. We can now relax (or tense [laugh]) because we now “know” who they are sexually.

But do we? (It is fascinating to see someone feed their ego when they think they have “nailed” someone’s zodiac sign or enneagram number by guessing at it; excited about putting someone in a box.)

Once we put someone into a box, we then stop relating to who they are as a unique and beautiful being -- we begin to relate to the box. We begin to fit all of their behaviors into that box or view their behaviors through the filter of said box.

Sure, we are more comfortable ourselves once we have classified them, but the real relating begins to die a slow (or rapid) death. We now stop relating to who they are in this moment, right now, and begin to relate to what we read about them in a book, or what we see about their “type” on TV, Etc. Then what began as a tool for greater understanding and deeper relating has ended up as a wall or a barrier to greater and truer understanding – a barrier to more intimate relating; a wall around the heart. A wall and a filter we are often not even aware of.

And what are human Beings anyway? They are manifestations of the divine.

Can we really classify that?

Human Beings at their best and most inspirational are creative, spontaneous, dances of improvisation, which is completely unpredictable, and if we get too caught up in who we think they are, we may miss a glimpse of God as it dances right before us, right within our grasp. While these tools for classification are useful to a certain point, they are only useful to a certain point, where if we want true relating, true intimacy, they must then be cast aside. If we truly desire peace on this planet, it will take something like this, from all sides, from all perspectives, from all lands.

From the heart, guided by the head, enveloped in Spirit.

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Evolutionary Relating | Introduction to the Book

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This is from the introduction to the forthcoming book. You can find additional excerpts here.

-----

It’s the one thing that unites and connects us all.

We are not united by national origin, gender, politics, ethnicity, and the like. Not universally. The one thing that universally unites us is this:

Love

It's the one thing every human has in common.

Any poem about love in any language still transmits the same experience regardless of the language we translate it into. Sufi mystic Rumi and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda were separated by several centuries yet both their poetry still translates to this:

Love

Love. Love and a clear reverence for the women they loved without losing any of their masculine centers. It's almost become a lost art.

But it does not matter where your lover came from or whether you have the same birth language - or even speak the same language. Or what color they are. We can fall in love with anyone from any place - from any religion or cultural background - at any time.

We’ve all experienced some version of it. 

Perhaps it was the rush of the chemical attraction--they touched your hand and the electricity was unforgettable. Or maybe it wasn’t the chemistry, maybe it was the feeling of finally being home. Or a kind of comfort and safety you felt almost immediately. Or maybe it was a feeling of familiarity--as if you've known someone for years even though you just met them.

Then at some point when those feelings (many of which we discover are Illusions and projections) are dispelled, and the person begins to behave in ways that disappoint, confound or even anger us, we may begin to question the connection that we have with them and at times, perhaps, even our own judgment. 

Inevitably, we come face-to-face with how many assumptions we've made. How we have built our entire relationship and levels of trust, as well as our fantasies about the future, on these assumptions. And in our pain and confusion, we often make grave errors that only make matters worse and tragically make our future in that relationship - or the next - even worse still.

Sucks, right?

But you know what? 

Virtually all of that is avoidable.

Most of us do not know how to set ourselves up for success in the beginning - we start dating based on chemistry and attraction or availability - not on aligned values. We do not know how to have the conversations to set a baseline for what we will agree on - what our agreed foundation is - heck, some people wait so long to have these conversations that they are not even sure if they are monogamous or both dating other people months into dating (!)


These are conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. And some people know that, but they don’t know how to have those conversations.

Or worse, they are simply too scared to have them.

Then when conflict arises,  we lack the tools to navigate the situation in a way that feels good, let alone connective and satisfying to both of you.  

Or when the relationship stalls we don't know how to keep it alive, sexy, and have it continue to inspire and uplift - to bring out the best in us.

Then when it ends we have no constructive way to deal with the grief, the self-doubt, the anger, and no capacity to deal with feelings of betrayal or loss or confusion. 

At that point, some of us immerse ourselves so deeply into the process and feelings of loss that we may even think that we are destined to repeat the cycles - and perhaps some of you have - that do not work and lack fundamental workability.

This book strives to solve most of the avoidable challenges and problems that arise in all three stages of relationships and provides structures and tools to assist you in working through the unpredictable - and in some cases unforeseeable - problems that arise. 

In the beginning: how to avoid unwarranted bliss and the inevitable crash - disappointment and even, how to avoid mediocrity in the middle or simply being in a habit rather than in a relationship, how to deal with anger fear jealousy all those things that can arise and create conflict in that middle stage. And of course, the confusion, anger, and grief that can arise when it ends if it ends and how to set yourself up for Success without vilifying the other person and how to reclaim your power if you've lost yourself in the relationship. 

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | Agreement 3: If We Are Upset, We Make a Request

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Agreement 3: If we are upset and we would like a new rule or new agreement, we make a request. 

This could be as simple as, “my request is you open doors for me on a date” or “my request is that you call if you are going to me 5 or more minutes late”, or “my request is that on our dates you turn your phone off - or silence it” so you are fully present.

Or it could be something with more gravity and/or more impact:  “if you are dating other people, my request is that you let me know that”, or “my request is that we be monogamous”.

This is how to have clean communication, to get what you want, and to get back into connection as cleanly and as quickly as possible.

All too often I have seen proponents of so-called “conscious” communication manipulating (or attempting to manipulate) the other person through simply expressing displeasure and then being upset that they did not pick up on it.

All too often women in so-called “conscious” or “transformational” communities talk about how the man should get better at hearing “feminine” communication.

There is certainly some truth to that - men need to pay attention to minimal cues more and can develop more subtle awareness both linguistically and -  but it also codifies implicit communication 0- and can lead to passive-aggressive tendencies that leads to the ickiest (that is a technical term) kind of control where one person is controlling the other person through their lack of emotional facility - often intentionally.

And once you allow this to work, and this dynamic seeps into your relating, it can be one heckuva downward spiral that gains momentum.

And then you have devolution, not evolution.

Let’s explore what you may be upset by.

It could be a trigger (something unresolved from your past that is stacked on top of other similar events and therefore disproportionate).  It could be a boundary that was crossed (you may or may not have been aware of it being a boundary but your upset can bring that into the foreground). It could be a broken agreement with the person you are in a relationship with.

First, reflect on whether or not you are holding them accountable to an agreement they have not made. 

Next, explore whether or not it is triggering something from your past: the disproportionate nature of it will point to that. Relate to this as an opportunity to heal that. It’s a gift they just handed you, really, without knowing it. 

If they broke an agreement you had made with them, there are several steps:

First, ask, “it is my understanding we had __________ agreement. Is that your understanding?”

It is my experience - and my observation - that most people simply forgot. So all it takes it to bring the agreement back into awareness.

Obviously, if it is a larger transgression, like that breaking an agreement around dating or sex, that would be nearly impossible to forget, like “we agreed to be monogamous” then the next step is to offer incredible grace.

For example: is there anything I have done to create the conditions for you to [most likely] not tell the truth about what was happening.

Some of you may be protesting right now, but remember two critical things:

  1. Communication skills are physical skills. So take every opportunity to get as much practice as you can
  2. We take responsibility for our part in things - despite the fact that it will give them grace. And we do it for healthy selfish reasons: to build self-esteem and to increase our capacity for spaciousness and depth.

“Grace” in this context is defined as “unmerited mercy”. But again, that is just fine, because we do it for us - for our own personal evolution - not for them.

--

This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipGenesis section.

To be Guided by Jason - whether you are currently in a relationship and want to transform it, or you are single and want to “do the next one right” - check out the Evolutionary Relationships offering.

Or just schedule a complimentary initial conversation here to get the process started.

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Agreements for Healthy Relating | Agreement 1: Truth Over Comfort

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The Four Agreements

From Chance to Wisdom 

In my experience, there are four agreements that are necessary as foundations for any healthy relationship regardless of the context - meaning it doesn't matter if it's a professional context, if it's friendship, or if it's sexual, intimate, and romantic.

In fact the more intimate it is the more important I think these agreements are, but unfortunately - and paradoxically - the less likely someone is to actually be willing to have the conversation that’s required. That's for many reasons, most of them self-esteem issues are at their source and fear-based.

Let me explain: If we are attached to the hope that someone will like us, to the degree that it becomes a need for their approval and therefore induces fear in ourselves, and/or we have scarcity around whether or not we will actually find somebody who is a fit, or whether or not we can find someone else if a relationship does not work out, we have a tendency to overlook things that we know are important to address because if the person doesn't like us then we may take that personally in the case of a self-esteem issue, or we don't want to set up any barriers to them liking us or connecting with us.

But in doing so, we skip over critical foundational steps - and virtually assure we end up with someone who is not a fit or find ourselves in a conflict without the agreement reality as to how we find our way out of it and get back into connection.

So we ignore wisdom in favor of the immediacy of false connection - so as to not "rock the boat". At its worst, of course, this borders on codependency and external validation and that a path that if you continue down that road leads to frustration, heartache, and worse.

However if we have an abundance mindset - a certainty that there are plenty of people out there who might be a fit for us - and fit is more important than not being alone - we understand that it's easier to find somebody who's a fit that it is to deal with the frustration and challenges and eventual heartbreak of someone who is not a fit, and we are internally validated in terms of our esteem for ourselves, then we choose wisdom over chance.

The reality is we are actually choosing wisdom and communication over something much worse than chance: predictably negative results.

When do I lay out these agreements?  On the first date.

Some people may fret at this moment - and they are worried it is too late - they already skipped over these agreements and find themselves in the quagmire of shoulds and implicit agreements and unstated yet clear expectations you never agreed to. That can be an icky and frustrating place.

But don’t fret: you can transform any relationship - or “reboot” or - or start over from scratch and begin to date someone again - you can use the agreements as a way to transform friendships - I have. I have used the agreements and the conversation around them to bring years-long friendships back to life.

We’ll talk about skillful means - how most effectively to do that - after we lay out the agreements and flesh them out fully.


The Agreements

Four Foundational Agreements For Healthy Relating

  1. We tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort
  2. We do not hold anyone accountable to agreements they have not made
  3. If we are upset, we make a request (for a new agreement)
  4. We accept that we are responsible for our own experience and our own emotions.
    1. Make no assumptions
    2. Don’t make anything up

Let’s examine each of these agreements fully.

Agreement 1:  Truth Over Comfort

The first agreement is that we tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort. 

The “comfort” might be our own, or it may be the comfort of others.

Here is an excellent standard: if we are afraid to say it - or afraid that somebody can’t hear it or might take it personally - that’s probably the very thing that should be said. 

And as I am sure you have experienced, the longer we delay the telling of that truth, the bigger it becomes in our mind and the worse it will be when we tell them - for the relating, for our internal anxiousness around sharing it, and for them when they find out how long we delayed; telling the truth brings relief for all without delay. There may be broken agreements to clean up - something we will address later on in this book, but that aside, telling the truth should increase intimacy and connection. 

Hearing the truth - if done openly and spaciously - always will.

Telling the truth is not an excuse to be a jerk.

There is a popular theme in some circles where someone is a jerk (that is a technical term) and they finish it off (or begin it) with “I am just speaking my truth”.

That is not in alignment with the spirit of this rule - because most often “speaking your truth”  is just being self-indulgent. The spirit of this rule is to increase intimacy and to increase connection. Thus, we want to tell the truth with skillful means - meaning in a way that honors both ourselves, yet delivered in a way the other person is best able to receive it.  As well as caring for the relating or the relationship - the 3rd entity that is created by the synergy of the two of you.

Why is this so important?  Relationships begin to die in the unsaid.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence; the grass is always greener where it is tended to, cared for, and nurtured.

If there is enough unsaid in the relationship, you are not even relating to the human in front of you anymore - you are relating to all the stuff you have not said, or do not think you can say - and that shows up as being distracted, shut down, simply not present, or simply being silent. So instead of relating to the dynamic and vibrant human in front of you, you are simply in your head about … all the things. 

That build-up - that residue - kills true intimacy.

And yet, telling the truth and hearing the truth are - at the very least - very different sets of capacities. 

That can not be overstated - and as I have said over and over again, communication skills are physical skills that take practice - and these component skills definitely take a lot of practice.

To start with, telling the truth can take a lot of courage. Hearing the truth takes openness and, at times, a willingness to hear feedback and truths that are difficult to hear. 

And the list goes on - on both sides.

But imagine telling the truth about something - something you are scared to share about yourself - and having your partner thank you, express gratitude for trusting them to share it with them, and acknowledge you for the courage that it took and to express that they trust you even more now - and to do it without judgment - with love and acceptance. 

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