I’m growing. It’s uncomfortable. Advice welcome.
Publishing a book is a much bigger mountain than I expected when I started. Actually, it’s three mountains - writing, publishing and promoting – and it’s the promotion that’s got me twisted; forcing me to acknowledge a blind spot and develop new skills. Argh.
The polarity I’m wrestling with is humble :: bold. I like humility. I think of myself as humble. I think humility is great! I think everyone should be humble! Just like me! (Ok I’ll be quiet now. That felt too bold.)
When you look up “bold” in Wikipedia, there’s a picture of my sister. She covers bold for the both of us. Thanks to her, I don’t need to be bold. She fills a room with her presence. She drives a car that draws attention. She wears big cowboy hat while walking down the streets of Chicago. She kills it too. It’s just not me. I like being unseen.
The book writing process fits perfectly well with my humble preference. It’s intellectual, creative, quiet, solitary. Writing feels safe. I can delete anything I want.
The publishing process is more tactical, structured, deadline-driven. And safe. Deliciously safe. My publisher and I work in collaboration, partnering to execute the necessary tasks.
It’s the promotion process that requires boldness. It’s almost impossible for a book to sell itself. Even the famous authors must promote their books. And promotion necessitates boldness.
For example, now I blog, which feels very bold. Every time I hit “publish,” I feel a little sick. I can’t take it back. People might disagree. It might ruffle feathers. I might be wrong. 🥴. Like there -- I just used an emoji and I know people who judge “people who use emojis.” Blogging invites judgment from others. 😣
Here’s the polarity map I created to help me explore my relationship with humble and bold:
The Identity X-Ray
No surprise, I mapped perfectly with what I call the Identity X-ray diagnostic. I learned this from Kelly Lewis and Brian Emerson, authors of Navigating Polarities published in 2019. Here’s how it works:
Benefits of humble: How I want to be seen and what I want to be known for. Well yes, I want to be seen as someone who is grounded; pleasant to be around. Duh.
Overuses of humble: How others might view me; potential blind spots. Dang it. I run the risk of being a pushover or boring because people will assume I have little to say.
Benefits of bold: Missing qualities that impede my effectiveness or untapped skills. Oho! If I don’t stand for what I believe in, people will miss out on learning about polarity thinking. What a missed opportunity that would be.
Overuses of bold: Things I don’t want to be known for, and things I dislike in other people. I surely don’t want to be known for having a big ego, and I really want to be accepted, not judged. (Don’t we all?)
It’s that last bullet – the overuse of bold – that makes me cling to humility. As with all polarities, strong pole preferences come from an aversion to the overuses of the opposite pole. I don’t want people to think I’m too big for my britches, and most of all, I want to belong.
No Comfort in the Growth Zone
Polarity thinking helped me recognize an old tape in my head that used to be on auto-play. I thought I’d found my peace with it, but here it is again. It’s the tape that says that I’m supposed to be agreeable and not ruffle feathers – that being wrong is bad – that it’s safer to fit in than stand out. OOF! What a gut punch. I really thought I’d sorted that out. Of course, it’s ok to be wrong. Who cares if people don’t like me? It’s ok to stand out, and sometimes the world is better off when you ruffle feathers.
This “conform to the norm” tape got wired into me at a young age. My mother didn’t ruffle a single feather unless it was to tuck one back into place with one of her children. No wonder that tape is so deeply rooted. My mother would not approve of me being bold.
Now that this blind spot is visible, I can experiment with more boldness to gain its benefits and to guard against the overuses of humility. I will continue to blog, and hopefully I will feel less sick when I click “publish.” I’m also going to get on podcasts. See me being bold? I hope you don’t judge me for it, but it’s ok if you do. I can take it.
In one last act eating humble pie, I’m taking the advice I love to give to clients: “There’s no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.” Being bold won’t feel very good for a while. And then one day, as with all development, the discomfort will dissipate and I’ll look back at this day and smile while thinking, “Remember when I had such a hard time being bold? I’m glad I’m past that now.”
If you have any suggestions on how to get more comfortable with this bold thing, or if you are wrestling down your own polarity, I welcome your thoughts in the comment section below.
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