Leaving The Shadows
My recent article on footprints has stimulated some emotional responses and insightful feedback.
I shared that we are faced with the footprints of those who have gone ahead of us and that their footprints continue to influence our behaviour.
Some of us seek to emulate a predecessor - family member, successful leader, sports or entertainment icon.
Others seek to distance themselves from the behaviour and the actions of a predecessor. Still others set about life with the intention to create new paths.
The issue that seemed to resonate most and to stir up emotions was the thought that many are spending their lives in the shadow of others. Constant comparisons or reminders overwhelm them and they are seemingly unable to feel comfortable in their own identity.
This could be a young man who is still living in the parental home and is struggling to find gainful employment. His parents are examples of self-made success stories. He fears he is not measuring up, and self-doubt limits his capacity to determine what unique and self-defining footprints he will create.
Another manifestation is the new manager who faces a challenge implementing anything different from what her predecessor did. New initiatives are stillborn.
Consider the spouse or sibling who is identified as an appendage to his/her companion or older sibling, respectively.
Your shadow could be a disturbing comment that haunts you.
HOW TO LEAVE THE SHADOW OF YOUR PREDECESSOR
Step 1: Reflection
The first step is to do some self-evaluation. Jot down or make a mental note of what comes to mind when you describe yourself. Next, examine each one carefully. Spell out how you think others view you on each point. Then, go through what you think is true about yourself on each issue. Try to be objective and honest. This time of reflection is critical in moving forward.
Step 2: Gap analysis
Review your reflections. Assign actions to each issue as follows:
- True and good - work to reinforce!
- True and undesirable - work to remove!
- Untrue - work to deny or ignore!
Step 3: Change the yardsticks
This may be controversial, but for me it is an important step if you are to move out from under someone's shadow.
I advocate that you bring yourself to the place where you apply a grading system that is more favourable to you. You cannot live in a fool's paradise and use a yardstick that has only 24 inches to the yard. You have to function in a real world with real standards.
However, you can choose not to participate in the body beautiful competition if you are not suitably built. Or, you can work to define yourself not in terms of how well liked you are by the staff, but by your capacity to solve problems.
Stop being frustrated because you are not the next in the line of excellent scholars. You may choose instead to focus on nurturing your gift for empathy and kindness.
The key here is to appreciate that what you hold to be true becomes real in your life. It is critical that you rewrite the script that you have been acting out if you want to move out of the shadow.
Stop measuring yourself in areas and with measures that are not in your best interest. Get to a place of peace with yourself by focusing on what you have to offer and what is important to you.
Remember that we do not need to be world-beaters to be comfortable with ourselves. We can establish relevant goals and work to achieve them.
The amazing result is that when we identify who we truly are and get comfortable about the footprints that we want to create, we are able to expand our boundaries.
The shadow stifles our capacity for growth. Remove limitations imposed by others and unlock new possibilities.
Footnote: If you are casting a shadow on someone, help them to move out from it. Make room for their footprints.
- Trevor E.S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy, home of the revolutionary FinxS Platform from Extended DISC. Hire smart with FinxS behavioural assessments. Conduct employee satisfaction surveys, 360 performance evaluations and team reports using logistics-friendly technology. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org