I first learned of the term self-importance while reading Carlos Castañeda many moons ago. Carlos’ teacher, Don Juan, referred to self-importance as one of the biggest hindrances in achieving any sort of spiritual growth. In modern parlance we might call this poison, egotism, arrogance, or narcissism.
I get it.
Thinking that I’m the best or the only will most certainly impact my career and relationship success, let alone my spiritual development.
But contending with this force is not always easy.
Self-knowledge is integral to living a successful life on every level — and self-knowledge automatically implies a certain amount of self-absorption. So the poison of self-importance is not located in the self-absorption that shows up in service to self-knowledge — what I often call being wisely selfish — but rather in that quality of personality that surfaces when the scale tips into a sense of better than.
In fact, I’m writing about this topic today because I’ve recently uncovered another layer of my self-important self. Ugh. Some days this self feels insurmountable. It’s so humbling to face her — but, if I’m not careful, I could spiral into shame or embarrassment.
Here’s the truth.
I’m generally a fairly confident and competent person. And, generally, I don’t carry much self-importance around a lot of what I do. I just do things. But when it comes to defining and prescribing how to live a meaningful life, I’ve not been able to keep my self-importance out of the mix.
I know this self intimately. She’s been around for most of my life, and I’m not rid of her. As if I ever will be.
Still, I have learned …
The best antidote to her poison is to show her the light of day.
I just finished writing my second book — about Selfistry — and sent the completed manuscript for a final edit to my editor on Friday. Sunday was when the awareness of fresh poison surfaced. I felt a sense of liberation not consummate with simply finishing the writing of a book — which is its own relief, for sure.
When I stood back and witnessed myself, I could see that a lot of what I’ve been carrying in my delivery of Selfistry via this book was not only confidence and competence but also a share of self-righteous self-importance. Though I intellectually know that Selfistry is not for everyone — that it is simply one way to help people reorient how they are knowing themselves, growing themselves, and expressing themselves — I’ve been including in my delivery of the system an additional dose of how great I think it is.
I share this with you for two reasons.
One, I feel I owe you an apology.
I apologize for any way that my self-importance may have imposed itself on you or conveyed any flavor of you are not good enough or what you are doing for your development is not good enough. This is not the truth of my heart or my understanding.
Second, I share this with you in order to help myself.
Selfistry is impacting my own growth by helping me see myself objectively. By sharing this self-important self with you and allowing her to be seen, I disarm her — in a healthy way. I am not making her wrong. Or bad. I am merely seeing her as who she is — a self inside of me who feels that the only safety she will have in life is to be right. She learned this early on and it served her well for many formative years. But, now, she mostly just gets in the way.
It’s risky being vulnerable here.
But it’s far riskier to keep this self hidden. For it is in the hiding where she will have a tendency to strengthen, dominate, or sabotage my life.
I have advised my editor to watch for any self-importance that may have leaked into the manuscript unawares. I’d prefer to keep the confident and competent tone, but to release the self-importance into the great beyond.
Thank you for helping me do so, by bearing witness.