Power Positions

Remember Stuart Smalley, Al Franken’s classic character from SNL?

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me,” Stuart would affirm into his mirror.

Why did Stuart do this?  It was because he knew he should believe that he was good enough, smart enough and liked, but somehow, he also knew he didn’t yet believe that.   He needed to put out his claim to the universe, to try and assert a power position for himself.

This is the fundamental belief of all positive thinking, that your beliefs about the world create the reality you take from your situation and therefore control your choices, so it is only by changing your beliefs that you can change your life.

In other words, changing your mind may not immediately change your situation, but changing your mind does give you the ground to change your choices and change your situation for the better.   Changing your perception and attitude towards the world is the way you can change your life.

As long as I believe that I am unknowable and unlovable because I am too whatever, believe that love and joy will escape me and all I will get is a demand to change to make me less challenging to others, my life will be defined by those beliefs.

It was important to me to create positions that leveraged what I believed to be my strengths.   Those strengths seemed to be monastic self-denial, wicked smarts and more empathy than any one person should have.   That’s how I created my concierge persona, a smart, funny and dedicated caregiver who impressed even the most hardened medical personnel.

The problem is that I know that was my lowest level of service to the world.   It supported the dreams and needs of others at a basic level.   It didn’t let me offer the best and the brightest gifts my mother in the sky gave to me.

My father knew that.  As he lay dying, he would tell me that I did a great job speaking for him and his wife, but now it was time that I spoke for me.  That was his last message to me, and he repeated it over and over, wondering where I was in the universe even as I sat next to him, holding his hand.

The problem, of course, is that those best and brightest gifts I was given are profoundly queer.   “In cultures where gender expression is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”  Lots of people think those gifts are actually sickness.

My life has been shaped by doubt, not by belief.  I have lived in the questions and not in the answers.   I am no Margaret Thatcher, so assured of the correctness of her own beliefs that I feel entitled to steamroller the rest of the world.

On one level, that’s good.  My shaman magic has always been the question that opens eyes and shows assumptions to be illusions, usually accompanied with a story or two that shows a broader, clearer, brighter or more encompassing view.

On another level, though, that’s bad.  Too much doubt can easily lead to analysis paralysis.

The question for me now, now that my service to my parents is done and dusted, is who the hell am I after the concierge has been retired?

When I look into the mirror, what do I say to myself as affirmation for making bigger, more personal and less sacrificial choices?

More than that, when I meet someone in the world, someone who I might want to work with, to share with, to trade with, to connect with, what do I show them about who I am?

It’s hard for me not to think about this challenge in marketing terms.  What is my Rosser Reeves Unique Selling Proposition?  What is my Ries & Trout brand position?  How do I oversimplify myself to make a space for a queer & challenging person like me in their mind?

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”   That may be Stuart’s affirmation, his attempt at changing his mind and his world, his claim at a power position, but it’s not mine.

I need a power position, though, to shape my thinking, my view of the world.   I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and affirm my knowledge when doubt comes to visit me and analysis paralysis seems ready to set in, pulling me back into my own contemplative and isolated introversion.   I need to be able to look at others and assure them of who I am, because, as someone said, they will believe it after I do.

Any position statement, like any mission statement, should be clear and sharp enough that you want to yell it out at people who miss the point.   Simple and strong, ready to refocus you in a blink.

I need that position because right now, I am deflated.  All the air has been knocked out of me and I have to re-inflate myself into whatever my new shape is, whatever my new position dictates.

“I’m   _______________, I’m ______________ and doggone it, people ___________ me.”

I am what I am, sure enough.   And moving forward will help me understand more of what can work for me and what cannot.

But I change my world by changing my belief of who I am, and when I believe in that, others will too.

Just not so clear right today.