Posted on December 5, 2017
As human beings, you and I have exactly three choices for what we believe about ourselves and others:
1) I am better than others
2) I am less than others
3) I am equal to others.
I’m calling these the Three Self Belief States.
And what we believe about ourselves is also what we believe about the groups we identify with. Our group is better (the “haves”), less (the “have nots”), or equal (wait, what?).
Fact: being identified with our groups (religious, cultural, racial, socio-economic, vocational, avocational) causes self belief to become elevated for some and eroded for others. The consequences of this are very apparent today. The division between the elevated and the eroded is a self-fulfilling (ironic, I know) process with an outcome of more division, more polarized self beliefs (one way better, the other way less), and a loss of ability to sense our shared humanity.
Disclaimer: This won’t be easy to read. Read it anyway. It’s not that long – and therefore it is blunt. It is meant to shake you up, no matter the group you identify with. And maybe, shake you loose of some things that can stand to go.
I am going to start with the Self Belief State of being LESS. Trust me on this.
Self Belief State: LESS
In this belief state, I believe my group and I are less than others, don’t deserve what others have.
(This is what life is like for many who are in a marginalized group. And in our country now, more and more are being marginalized.)
With this belief I will either feel (a) eroded, (b) betrayed, or (c) awakening.
I see all of society’s proof that I am undeserving and I believe it. I have witnessed the “truth” of my situation from the eyes of the “haves,” those in power. My self belief is eroded. Hope is not on my radar.
I am eroded.
I see hope – but only through conformity, adopting the norms of the “haves” even when it goes against things that really matter to me. It requires me to betray myself. It is not true hope, but it is all I have.
I am betrayed.
I am not undeserving. I question the “truths” I had accepted. And hope starts to become true, belief in self starts to become true, and deservingness starts to become true.
I am on my way.
Where? To Self Belief State: EQUAL.*
(*Note that oppression can cause someone to flip to Self Belief State: BETTER as a temporary measure to overcome debilitating self beliefs. More on that in Self Belief State: Equal)
Self Belief State: BETTER
In this belief state, I believe my group and I are better than others, more deserving.
(We can see this clearly in many groups in our country now. Supremacism, nationalism, isolationism are happening.)
With this belief I will either feel (a) rightful, (b) conditionally caring, or (c) awakening.
I will rightfully base my decisions in the interests of me and mine, upholding us as the deserving ones. If my decisions hurt those not in the deserving group, so be it.
I am rightful.**
(**I originally had “self-righteous” here. Yeah. That’s a trigger. And it’s also a word, with a definition, that has an application, and this is that application. But I cut it. Oh, and I told you about it so I kinda didn’t.)
I will “help” others to become more deserving – coerce them to comply with my group’s norms, what my group professes as true, and abandon their own truths (i.e. “mission work”). I will care about others only if they elevate my truths above theirs.
I am conditionally caring.
I begin to realize my group’s deservingness is based in a paradigm that I have either been born into, or have had the privilege to be able to choose. I begin to consider other measures of deservingness on my way to doing away with the concept that some are more deserving than others altogether.
I am on my way.
Self Belief State: EQUAL is in sight.
Self Belief State: EQUAL
This one is the hardest. We have to fight to establish ourselves here, because ingrained biases and daily societal treatment tell us the opposite. At any given time we may feel better than or less than another. And we have to intervene when we do, look at what’s at work, why we feel what we do, and correct ourselves.
Yes. We must repeatedly correct ourselves – bring ourselves back to a place where we recognize the bias at play and see it for what it is: a lie. Bring ourselves back to a place of truth. A place where I am deserving, you are deserving – and the very concept of “deserving” can be eliminated.
The Self Belief States of Better and Less were never meant to be permanent human experiences. The irony is that people get stuck in them so deeply that even the idea of a state where there are no “haves” or “have nots” is inconceivable. We choose to live permanently in states that are meant to be temporary – states we should only have to be in long enough to get woke enough to move out of them. And while we stay in these states, we are choosing to uphold biases, untruths.
Getting out of the Self Belief States of Better and Less requires taking hard steps to move into the only truly sustainable, truly permanent, state of truth: unity. All who are in this are equal. All are one. We are the same.
The only true, enduring belief about yourself, then, is that you are equal.
So I fooled you. There is really only one Self Belief State. And it includes every single self on the planet. Can you establish yourself there? It is where you belong, it is where I belong, and it is the only place where everyone belongs.