No Gurus Please

The term “self-help guru” gets thrown around a lot, and it typically is used with negative connotations. I know that I’m just starting out and probably all of zero people regard me as an authority on anything, but this is a title I simply don’t want to have.

Superiority, Inferiority, and Separation

It’s not that I don’t want to be a respected voice on personal development- or on anything. It’s the idea of separating myself from others, with a Me expert, you student dichotomy that repels me. Part of this may be due to my chronic sense of a me/them distinction my whole life, which says, I’m different/better/worse than all these people in that…

It’s not bad to acknowledge how you’re different than others, but it’s useless and quite miserable to obsess over it. If you do think about consistently, chances are that you have some potent shame or insecurity around your supposed difference.

In addition, you probably aren’t quite as different, superior, or inferior as you think you are. I know that in myself a sense of superiority and a sense of inferiority have always coincided for the most part. Sometimes I get pure inferiority, but- and this was especially true in the past- sometimes when that’s on top superiority underlies that, which ultimately rests upon inferiority/a sense of inadequacy.

So it’s a superiority sandwich on inferiority bread. Mmm, so… repulsive. Reminds me of bologna on white bread. Mustard is tentative.

I’m wondering if people can feel such a marked sense of separation from others without there being some sense of inferiority and/or superiority being involved. For myself I think these are almost always present in separation thinking.

If I’m thinking in terms of what I have to do to survive that is obviously separation-thinking, and at least on the surface it may not require superiority/inferiority to be present. Usually those come in at some point though, such as, “I will be the best in the slave/job market,” or, “If we all had to live outside all of a sudden I’d be waaay better at it than everyone else.”

It sounds so silly, doesn’t it? I know this isn’t just me being weird (at least, not entirely). I’d say that the majority of people- especially in individualistic cultures, such as that of America- approach life largely in terms of separation-thinking. Just look at how scared we are to approach one another to ask a question, or the emphasis schools place on individual achievement, or even the fact that people are always taking goddamn selfies. But not Kim, because she’s awesome. And yes, I am using separation-thinking here. ;)

Of course, I am on your side to an extent. Some aspects of collectivist culture repel me also, particularly how people tend to keep quiet about problems for the sake of maintaining harmony. Been there, done that my whole life. It does no good. It’s miserable.

Sure, when you live in a culture where constant complaint is the norm that may sound kind of nice, but to me that sort of public denial really just separates people even more. How can people not relate to each other through fake smiles and false identities in that kind of atmosphere? It’s just as bad as being self-absorbed. Then again, I am riding on ignorance here, so feel free to shoot me on it if you wish.

In short I don’t want to feel separate from my community, whatever that may in time turn out to look like. Sure, I want to be a leader, but I don’t want to be some all-knowing ruler, whether that’s from a cave or a golden throne. Nor do I want to disappear into the shadows and pile weighty humility on top of myself. I definitely want some of that, but not to the point where I have no identity. I don’t think that will serve us well either.

Of course, I think I have no need to worry about either of those. People love me, but not too much, right? ;)

Seeking Authentic Connection

I’m not sure that I want to get so big that I’m unreachable by my audience, but, perhaps more potently, I don’t want to play too small. I’m guilty enough of that. I know that for now that is apt to take a lot of courage (or belief elimination!) to sidestep, but I know that it is better to make myself vulnerable and fail than it is to stay trapped in a cocoon of doubts my whole life. Though comfy in theory, the latter would be far more painful. I’ve experienced it enough to know.

I want you to know that if any time you want to reach out to me, feel free to do so. I am no magic pie in the sky (I’d probably be more like a vegetable anyway), nor am I a timid mouse who will dash from the computer at first sight of an e-mail. Really, I just want to be myself around people. I think I want that more than anything else right now.

And yes, that does entail more than you might think. It does entail, for instance, that I write these articles and help people to become their best selves, in the ways that I can do so. It does entail that I express care for you. This may be a message that I overemphasize, yet I’m not sure that I can stress it enough-- at least, not to myself.

I think this concern arises from me believing that I’m not worthy of connection beyond intellect. Foresight, of course, tells me otherwise, but the belief takes hold of me nevertheless. Maybe as a result I feel I need to drive home the emotional aspect to balance things out- or, perhaps, that is simply the kind of connection I want to experience more of.

Whatever the case, to me emotional connection and the expression of care are far more important than people give them credit for, and this is saddening.

However, I know the first step is to change this in myself. This is always the first step, and likely the most important. It is, of course, where I hold the most power.