15 Minutes

Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.

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Overcoming Self (Not Your Self Their Self)

catpadI’ve been addressing various factors over the last couple weeks that prevent people from performing acts of service, things that keep us from having a giving attitude.

One obvious one that I never mentioned is selfishness.

Sure there are some people that are genuinely selfish who wouldn’t lift a finger to help someone in need because they just don’t care about their fellow man. I believe those people are rare; and sociopaths. But there are some lesser degrees of selfish with a lower case “s” that may apply to quite a few folks.

For example, what about people suffering from extreme shyness? We tend to sympathize with those people. At least I do because I was painfully shy growing up. But if it becomes paralyzing to the point that you are too shy to ask the person next to you if they would like to share your umbrella, then you no longer have any sympathy from me. Your shyness is now causing hardship on people around you. If you are too soft-spoken and self-conscious that you can’t get someone’s attention and tell them they are standing in the wrong line, are waiting at the wrong bus stop, or are about to inject themselves with something that is not their insulin, that’s a problem.

The problem with self-consciousness is you are focusing all your attention on your self. So yes, being shy is a form of selfishness.

Another common form of selfishness is just utter obliviousness. A few months ago I was filming an episode of Hawaii 5-0 (it was Billy’s funeral, look for me at the wake during the reruns). When working as a background actor, you spend about 90% of your time waiting. So with about fifty of us all crammed into a holding area a friendly red-headed actress sat down next to me and said, “So, you’re not on your phone, what would you like to talk about?” I laughed because… well, everyone was staring at their phones.

Society has been focusing more and more inwards. Last week I made a brief list of things that fill up our lives. It’s a vaguely generational list where the baby boomers had their clubs and sports leagues, generation x had their TV, and generation Y has their internet games and smartphones. Notice how each generation has gotten less and less social? Your parents probably ate meals together and had conversations. My generation sat in front of the television during meals and talked during commercials. Today kids have their own individual screens and communicate primarily in chat windows.

It’s not that younger generations are less kindhearted, they are just less trained to look up and out. Most young people would gladly help someone out if they could do it by tweet.

I believe that people are good and kind. I believe that people will perform acts of kindness and service more often if we can shake them out of their iSelf.

So that is the goal of our non-profit organization when we launch. Create a culture of giving and serving by helping people to overcome their fear of lack of reciprocity, their reluctance to receive a blessing because they can’t reciprocate back, their laziness, and their self-centeredness. That seems like a pretty full plate.

How would you tackle some of these issues?

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Don’t Bury Your Self Under Your Self-Consciousness

masksAs an introvert, I can talk about this topic with authority. Growing up as an extremely shy child, I’m more of an expert really.

Timidity, nervousness and shyness are all synonymous with self-consciousness. Speaking as a kid who grew up painfully shy: we become overly-concerned about being embarrassed, about saying something wrong, or about appearing foolish. Because of this, we police our speech and our actions. We keep quiet. We remain passive. We don’t speak our mind.

The problem with living that way is that when we are inhibiting ourselves in this fashion, we are not being genuine. And nobody likes a person who is not genuine. We love babies because they are genuine. Babies have no hint of deception or falseness. We love dogs because they can’t conceal ulterior motives; their tails give them away.

When we are not being genuine, we are not being ourselves. We erect barriers between ourselves and others. Being painfully shy hurts not just you, but those that would benefit from knowing your true self. All of us are beautiful. All of us are wonderful creations of a God that loves us. All of us are important. All of us are also unique.

When we inhibit our inner selves because of self-consciousness, we are detracting from our personality not adding to it.

When we are not being ourselves, we are trying to fit in; to conform. It’s less about  inhibition, and more like imitation. If you are not being you, you are trying to be someone else by default.

“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else” Judy Garland

If I’m describing you right now, then here’s a quick and simple truth to help you overcome nervousness around strangers.

While you are spending all your time worried about what a stranger thinks of you, the truth is they are not thinking about you. They are thinking about what you are thinking of them.

Here’s proof for that statement. If you take a group photo, who is the first person that you look for when you see the picture? You. And your friend Billy looks for? That’s right, Billy. Your entire judgement of whether or not the photo is good or bad depends on how you look in it.

So don’t focus on how self-conscious you are. Focus on how self-conscious they are. When you realize that they are concerned about making a good impression on you, it helps you to empathize with them.

If it helps, pretend you are interviewing them for a job, and they are a scared candidate trying to make a good impression and you need to coax them out of their nervousness. Pretend they want to ask you out on a date and you’re the homecoming queen. Pretend you are the adult and they are the child. Pretend you are the celebrity and they are your biggest fan.

Too much focus on your behavior and your words, restrains you. If it becomes out of control, it’s more than just inhibition, it’s dishonesty.

Be you.

What is the best advice you have heard for overcoming self-consciousness, timidity, or outright fear?