People Who Set Your Value Suck
With a busy schedule of public speaking and celebrity endorsements, I haven’t had time to take a lot of appointments from clients. However, the other day, a client walked in that I hadn’t seen in a while. He’s the one that I call Freddle, and since I was making up names for him, I thought it appropriate to give him some more, so you may remember him better as Freddle Dolly-Parton McMannohaggonbaum, which, let’s be honest, is far more interesting than his real name, which I’m actually starting to forget.
Anyway, Freddle is a fickle sort, it seems. Probably the biggest issue he’s struggled with has been one of confidence, mostly because he always manages to blame someone else for his lack of it, first his ex-wife, then his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.
This time, halfway through our session, he started in on me. “Dr. Matt, why haven’t you been available? I really thought I was starting to make progress, and then you took off. I really needed you.”
“Freddle,” I said, “in my professional opinion, your progress leaves much to be desired.”
“What do you mean?” he said. “I’ve done what you told me. I’ve done my best to remove barriers to confidence. I’ve gone out there and gone on lots of dates. I approach people more, I speak my mind. I’m not so afraid to tell people what I want, and I’m not willing to take abuse from people anymore.”
“Frankly,” said Freddle, “I think I’ve done quite well, and I just think you’re defensive because I called you out on not being around.”
I rubbed my mustache for a moment. “You’re right, I’ve made a mistake,” I said.
“Thank you,” said Freddle.
“Don’t thank me yet,” I said. “You see, my mistake is that I thought you understood that confidence has to do with your feeling of self-worth, of which you apparently still have very little.”
Freddle frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Confidence is not the act of going around and demonstrating how confident you are. You’ve taken your lack of self-worth and instead of it keeping you timid around other people, you’ve swung the pendulum the other way to the place where you’re trying to demonstrate your worth at every turn.”
Freddle didn’t like this at all. “Dr. Matt, I feel like nothing I do is going to get your approval.”
“Well, now we’re getting somewhere,” I said. “You’re right, nothing you do is going to get my approval, because it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you shape up.”
This surprised Mr. Dolly-Parton McMannohaggonbaum. “What?” he said. “What do you mean? If you don’t help people, then it means you’re not very good.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble,” I said, “but since you’re the one who’s responsible for your own life, then if you don’t stop your stupid behavior, it’s you who’s not doing very good, not me.” Freddle didn’t know what to say to that, so I figured I might as well keep talking to pass the time. “Listen, the only person I’m responsible to in this room is me. If I did only what I thought you wanted, then I would just tell you what you wanted to hear. But what if what you want to hear isn’t what you need? In that case, all my jaw-flapping is only going to reinforce the problem, or in your case, problems.”
I continued: “I’m not in your head so I can’t tell you what you need. I can only tell you what I know. You have to decide what to hear.”
“I don’t get it,” Freddle finally said. “Don’t you say in your book Just Stop Having Problems, Stupid!, that if I want to be more confident, then I should just act more confident?”
“Well, first, thank you for reading my book,” I said, “and I should mention that it’s only two dollars and 99 cents on the Amazon.com, but anyway, what we call one thing is sometimes something else all dressed up in fancy clothes. If it were just shyness, then that approach would work. But for you, as I said, the problem is self-worth, so if you used that approach, then you need to start treating yourself with self-worth. And that means that you seek to get your sense of worth from yourself, not from others. In fact, avoid getting it from others. Trust me, they’re just going to suck at it. The reason is that most people don’t know their own worth, so how can they legitimately recognize yours?”
“Here’s the other thing,” I said. “You’re so worried about proving your worth. That’s a bunch of bull-honky. Babies have worth, don’t they?”
“I guess,” he said, confused.
“Sure they do,” I said. “Trust me, if you try to adopt one, they’re expensive! So, they don’t have to add their worth. But as they grow up, their worth might be challenged by others, others who couldn’t recognize worth if it slapped them in the face like something at a male strip club. So, you don’t have to prove anything. Someone should have to prove that you don’t have worth, which they never will, so their arguments will be as sound as an Alaska governor’s.”
I felt I was dangerously close to referencing a metaphor, so I wrapped things up. As Freddle was getting up, I said, “So you liked my book?”
Freddle shrugged. “It was pretty good, but kinda short.”
“Well,” I said, “I could have made it longer. In fact, my editor said that a longer book would be much more valuable. I think what she really meant was that it would be a lot more sellable. But why try to please everyone else, when one only has to look within the pages to know that it’s absolutely perfect just the way it is?”
Freddle cocked his head. “Are you trying to tell me something, Dr. Matt?”
I grabbed my notebook, and voiced what I was thinking: “Absolutely. It just reminded me that my next book needs to be a lot longer.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll be sure to place you on the pre-order list.”
“But I–” he started.
“No need to thank me,” I said, “Just pay my secretary on the way out.”
He left, and I knew I’d once again helped Freddle. Not by telling him what he needed to hear, but by placing him on my book pre-order list. And if that’s not a statement of his worth, I don’t know what is.
Just My Thoughts,