I recently had a startling revelation about myself and my subconscious self-preservation tendencies. Something that dates back to childhood behavior that I’ve never really processed until now (shocker). 

Growing up, I used to be bullied. And this was a very traumatic and defining period of my life. I had never felt so isolated, alone, embarrassed, and ashamed. And of course as a child, I didn’t have the tools (i.e., a fully developed brain) to process all of this productively. 

One year when I was 10, I decided to say enough is enough. I promised myself that I would never be a victim again. And I had a “brilliant” idea for how to go about doing so: I would assert my dominance over others. I had to become so feared that others wouldn’t dare mess with me. I had to be seen as the alpha or so crazy that no one would bother me. 

Now at the time, this made a ton of sense because I was watching a lot of Animal Planet. I mean, this is how the toughest animals handled their business. I thought, “If it works for lions, why not for me too?” And then what’s even more unfortunate is that it actually did work in the human world too — so much so that I internalized a new belief system: you should attack what you fear the most. 

In adulthood, it showed up a little differently. I was afraid of being passed over / ignored / disrespected in a “man’s world” (which is where I had initially planned to build my career as a lawyer). And subconsciously, a program kicked in that said “attack or be attacked.” 

I told myself that if I was able to assert my dominance over men, they would know not to mess with me, and I would garner their respect. Animal Planet all over again. 

And it’s only recently that I realized what was really going on. What I was actually doing was putting men down and making them feel the exact way that I wanted to avoid feeling myself. Classic projection. In return, they responded with hostility and disrespect in an effort to defend themselves. It became ego versus ego.  

At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was protect myself, and all I got was my worst fear thrown at me. Yet it was my approach to the situation that perpetuated that reality. It didn’t exist without the action I took in response to that story. The irony, am I right?

So now that I’m aware of this, I’m actually able to change the story and act from a place of self-respect (instead of fear). Because at the heart of this was my subconscious belief that I would never be good enough to get the respect by just being myself. And I know that’s fundamentally not true. 

So the philosophical question I leave you with is this: have you ever acted from a place of fear and created the very thing you fear the most?  

P.S. 

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