I am blessed to have amazing teachers, mentors and colleagues in my life.
Shira Block, a writer, consultant and all around powerhouse, has at one time or another been all three to me.
She once said something to me I will never forget.
But first a little background: If you’re new around here on the BG blog, or don’t know much about my past, I started on the path of personal development at a young age. I spent more than a year in my twenties living in an ashram, devoting my life to spiritual practice, waking in the pre-dawn hours to sit for meditation, sway in daily 90 minute chants and perform various acts of service to keep the place running for others who were visiting.
It was during this time, that I thought I wanted to be a monk. Luckily, I grew out of that phase pretty fast — asceticism is not my thing and red is really not my color — but not completely.
So in this session, we were talking about god knows what, when Shira said to me, flat out:
“You know, you’re not a saint.”
It is beyond embarrassing to admit that until she said it, I didn’t really know it.
I mean, okay, I knew I wasn’t a SAINT — like a stigmata, miracle-making kind of Saint — and I certainly didn’t feel pious or Holy.
Shira’s words, bravely and simply spoken, pierced right into the heart of my inflated self-image, and at once the hot air started seeping out.
I got that I didn’t have to work so hard to be loved.
I got to see more of who and where I really was, and that I was not feeling so great about certain parts of me and my life. And I got to really address and redress some of those things here.
And mostly, it got me thinking about the difference between grandiosity and self-esteem.
Grandiosity is a cover, an attempt to divorce yourself from pain through self-elevation. Self-esteem is an acceptance of your pain, your strengths and weaknesses, because you understand the incredible value of your very Being.
With grandiosity, you pursue your vision to the exclusion and detriment of your dear self and others. With high self-esteem, you cultivate your dream and garner the resources to make it happen.
Grandiosity makes you feel special, and separates you from others. Self-esteem connects you to others through your humanity.
A grandiose brag is designed to impress, but merely turns others off. A high self-esteem brag is a celebration of one’s gifts.
Success does not discriminate between the two. But true Leadership does. You will be recognized, followed and deeply appreciated as a leader if you embody a healthy self-esteem. You will be occasionally respected, often reviled and at best tolerated if you lead with your grandiosity.
Are you willing to look at yourself and know the difference? Again and again? It takes a fair degree of self-esteem to be willing to look. To love and lead well, and be of true service, you need to have your self-esteem intact, and keep the perils of grandiosity at bay. Everyone around you will thank you for it.