I recently gave a talk at the Royal National Geographic Society to celebrate Cumbria University’s progressive Leadership and Sustainability department. I had 11 minutes to share my passion and mission.
Sustainability was the theme of the evening so it gave me the perfect window to express how I feel about the violent self-editing we have each been doing to ourselves since childhood to present what we think is a loveable or at least approval-centric version of ourselves to the public – how we live to avoid negative feedback, and how we’ve shrunk ourselves down to a 20% sized crippled brochure of our ‘nice parts’.
This is central to the manifesto of Creativity we experiment with on my workshops and in all the films and music too – that we have been trained into approval addicts…
…when our parents or carers were teaching us as infants how to use our hands and eat and poo and function in this human body, their method of training us involved giving us kisses and prizes when we ‘got it right‘ and when we didn’t perform correctly we’d receive, if not rebukes, certainly not the kisses and prizes of our successes. The problem with this training method is that while it succeeds in the functional training of the child it also turns the kid into an approval addict – constantly hanging out for the positive feedback, more love, more approval.
Ask a kid ‘why do I love you?’ and sadly most will answer something about being good.
What’s harder is that as children, every time one of these carers gave us a blast of negative feedback such as ‘naughty girl!’ or ‘that’s disgusting!’ or even the gentler ‘good boys don’t do that’ – we often decided to hide that quality away from everyone from now on incase it risked further rejection. In this way, as we grow up, we snip away and suppress living parts of ourselves. With each ‘bad boy!’ <snip> ‘naughty girl’ <suppress> violently editing ourselves bit by bit until we end up as adults, 20% sized, presenting a crippled brochure of our perceived ‘good’ bits or ‘safe’ bits to the world, all to be appropriate.
No Masterpiece ever came out of that place.
We’ve edited ourselves down to these 20% sized little versions of ourselves and are wasting a huge amount of our daily energy maintaining an appearance of confidence and fine-ness in public – especially at work where being ‘a winner’ and ‘on top of things’ is paramount. We exhaust ourselves keeping these masks in place while operating from this ‘squashed into 20%’ sized capacity…
…and that ladies and gentleman is not sustainable.
To me this is the most common sense, obvious and meet-able energy crisis on the planet so I was delighted to say it loud and proud with this room full of Environmentally sound people. What I said to them is simple maths to me, with no need for eastern philosophy or crystals, and yet I had some curious conversations with the Sustainability folks and Corporate responsibility folks from the audience after the talk and what left me the most puzzled and yet determined was one conversation with a potential collaborator who shakes things up in companies. He said that sometimes, in his work, they need to almost run a good cop bad cop thing with teams inside Companies to get past entrenched patterns, but working with me, he said, “I could bring you in and you’re like Crazy Cop, coming in and blowing everyone’s minds!”
After I had drunk his flattery deep, I was outraged that common sense has now become the new crazy! What times are these? This silent contract we all have to present an appropriate, confident version of ourselves and hide anything edgy or trigger or needy or…or….
This is the real energy crisis on the planet. If we can collectively drop this fake, self-prostituting, way of meeting each other, all to manipulate a better response from the other and hide being seen for who we really are, then the energy we will save will easily be enough to solve any global crisis.
Who’s with me?