Grandiosity is the Inner Enemy of Success

Dreams of glory.  Fantasies of discovery.

In our unbalanced culture, where a public school teacher may earn only $30,000 a year for impacting the lives of many children, and a famous actor can command $300,000 for a week’s worth of work on a sitcom, it’s no wonder so many people suffer from depression and feel like failures. In a country where money is equated with intrinsic value professionally, it takes great conscious effort to stay connected to what is truly meaningful about our work. We think–or rather try not to, how valuable can our work be when it lacks apparent value to anyone else (ie: nobody’s buying)?

I’ve come to believe that the collective unconscious in the West is driven by two powerful yet polar-opposite forces: Grandiosity and Shame.  This has produced a very dangerous situation. The current administration, born out of “only I can fix this” and “lock her up”, illustrates the fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Mistakes are seen as weakness. And apparently, so is introspection.

In a climate such as this, how is the creative entrepreneur or independent artist supposed to thrive? And yet, because of this situation, it is more imperative than ever that we do.  It is up to each of us to vigilantly manage our own grandiosity and shame.

For one thing, shame is a means of societal control. We no longer put people in the stocks of the village square, the ‘perp walk’ suffices. Have you ever tried to function productively in the grip of shame? The shame triggered by a bad review or angry remark is enough to shut many people down.

If we are to prevail at anything, we must learn to recognize shame for what it is: the inevitable pin that pops the balloon of our grandiosity.

In a world where only fame is viewed to constitute success, it is impossible not to take refuge in the fantasy of having it to assuage our deeper sense of inadequacy. The problem with this is that there are no mistakes in fantasy land. So, when driven by the promise of this fantasy we fall short of where we imagine we should be, it feels disproportionately intolerable. Better to just give up with the ‘knowing’ that, if anybody really knew how great we were, we’d have our own TV show right off the bat. (Rather than confront the reality that, try as we might, our purpose may lie elsewhere.)

This is why the secret of persistence is the abandonment of grandiosity. Grandiose fantasies generate perfectionism, and perfectionism creates paralysis.

Where in your life or career has grandiosity stopped you?

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