What is the Meaning of This?

Canary Island

Photo by E. Rachel Thompson

In my last post, the purpose was to create a distinction between the two words, pride and arrogance. All too often, “pride” is associated with the negative connotations of arrogance and this unclarity may lead some to shortchange themselves with their own confidence and abilities. Discerning when pride is a positive emotion can be quite beneficial to our healing and empowerment. (Click here to read that post).

After reading some of the responses, I began to ask myself, “What makes me a Discerner of Words or a Sovereign of Meaning Making”? I have no Ph.D. in Etymology nor am I a Philologist. Is it arrogant of me to believe I have an ability to arbitrarily affix meanings to any words?

So I began to ponder further about what language really is and why it came to fruition? How did the combination of air vibrating vocal chords, combined with tongue, teeth, and lip movement, develop into a complex communication system? It must have started by someone first giving meaning to these vocally emitted sounds but in order to be an actual communication, others needed to concur with those definitions. Come forward a few dozen millennia and that is still the case. Each individual must accept for him or herself what they believe the definition of every word is.  We decide for ourselves – wrongly or rightly – its meaning.

As a child, I recall observing an adult who had a few too many glasses of wine and when questioned about it, that person exclaimed, “I’m still sober”. For years after that, I believed the definition of sober was a little tipsy but not quite to the point of being drunk. Not confirming its meaning with the dictionary, it took several years before I realized my error.

No doubt it behooves us to understand the generally accepted meanings of words. It helps us communicate with everyone speaking that language. But not only do we give meaning to each word, we also give it power through that meaning. The phrase, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, is frequently cited and also not very true. In theory it would be great however many have been hurt or damaged by the uttering of certain words. The hurt came from the power which was given to it based on what the individual believed its meaning was. If we have ever been hurt by someone calling us stupid, it’s because of how we understood its meaning and gave it the power by believing what was said.

Words do have power; but only to the extent of which each person allows that power to influence their lives. The same dynamic speech may create a frenzy of inspiration in one while another gives it a passive yawn. It is our personal responsibility to decide what those meanings are and how it relates to us on a daily basis. Just as I have carefully selected particular words to convey my thoughts in this post, it is now up to each reader to apply them to their own circumstances.

Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful picture. I encourage you to find out more about her here. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The Building Blocks of Arrogance

Fog on rocks

Photo by E. Rachel Thompson

If there is one thing that looks unbecoming on anybody it would have to be arrogance. It is always too loud, too forceful, and comes across as the most important thing in the room. The overbearing cloak of smugness exudes a feeling of superiority to all who behold it and it is usually seated in the most conspicuous location for everyone to see.  However, the underlying urge to wear this shroud may actually be brought on by  completely different reasons.

The Webster’s Dictionary defines arrogance as “An attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions”. It is not simply the idea of self-importance but also the bold and brash way in which it’s displayed. Typically, it is accompanied by overinflated descriptions with the intention of putting themselves in higher regards towards others. The irony is that quite often it repulses those for whom it was intended.

At times the word “pride” has been associated with arrogance but I believe it has been given a bad wrap for far too long. Being proud is a positive emotion and one which feels good to the soul. However, pride, when being associated to oneself, is where the association with conceit creeps in. This is where I strenuously object. When we are proud of someone else we want others to know and there is no association to self-importance. Unfortunately many factors in our lives influence us to equate self-pride with arrogance. The distinction should be this: when we are proud of who we are, it is not necessary to proclaim it to every passerby. Self-pride includes an assurance and awareness which needs no proclamation. It is the difference between confidence and overconfidence. In many ways, pride is displayed by our countenance more than in our brash words.

At what point does pride cross the line and become arrogance? What is the key factor which separates the two; necessitating one while desperately avoiding the other? The answer is hidden in the distinction. The main reason for arrogance is the need to make others think we are better or more accomplished than what we believe others perceive us to be.  It is also likely that the greater the display of self-importance, the lower the point of self-esteem. Arrogance can be attributed to the belief that down deep inside, we don’t want people to really know how we feel about ourselves. The best way to hide those feelings was for that individual to mask them through displaying a false sense of self-worth. Unfortunately developing this “skill” only increased the frequency of the conceited demeanor and multiplied a fabricated idea of self-value.

There are, however, times when we may need to “sell” ourselves and market our skills. During a job interview or a sales pitch would not be the most opportune time to play the humility card. Overstating your situation is one thing but once it stumbles over the boundary into arrogance, it becomes easily recognizable.

No matter how it appears, arrogance never looks good on anyone. An overinflated sense of being is at the least, repulsive and it only increases strife and contention. But when we are truly confident our demeanor will reflect that and others will feel it on a more genuine yet subtle level which speaks at a much higher volume than our own voice ever could.

Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your thoughts.

Taking a Gander at Inspiration

Red night

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

In the last post, the expression “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” was challenged and upon further examination that phrase would make more sense if the second half were to read “not always good for the gander.” (click here to read the last post) However, there was a more specific point which alluded to those whose job it is to inspire others. Just because their success came in a particular manner doesn’t mean it should work the same way for everyone. No matter how simple the approach or easy the method may be, we all have our own individuality as well as peculiarities which make each journey unique.

So what is the right way to inspire others and what should those looking for inspiration be keenly aware of? The answer, of course, it’s stated in the original premise.  No single method of inspiration works for everyone and all of us won’t be motivated by the same technique. Several years ago I coached a baseball team of 10 and 11-year olds. There were two boys for whom I needed to use completely different approaches. When my second baseman made an error I would look at him and assure him everything would be okay. On the other hand, there was a pitcher that when he began to loose focus, I would raise my voice nearly demanding that he do better. Had that technique been used on the second baseman, it would have destroyed his self-confidence and his performance would have reflected it.

When we inspire others it often comes from personal experiences. But we must be vigilant not to allow our journey to be the measuring stick and only means by which the success of others is evaluated. I regularly use personal anecdotes to illustrate points and then follow up with the reasoning behind those decisions. The hope is to challenge the reader and examine closely what was read and glean from it that which best suits the individual’s circumstances.  Every journey is distinct and although we may enlist the aid of a therapist, coach, or clergy, we must remember that they are there as a guide and not the one to dredge the path for us.

Someday in the near future, I will be standing in front of an audience sharing my story; not simply to inspire them but also help them heal from past difficulties. Even though by my own admission and as stated in this post, no matter how inspiring, dynamic, or passionate I’ll be, not every single audience member will be touched or influenced. So how does one move forward knowing some efforts might be futile? What ideals should be the benchmark for the words which are to be spoken? I believe it is truly about the intention and integrity of what we say. Although we draw from personal events, reaching an audience requires a genuineness and sincerity. It demands openness and an honesty which demonstrates that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness but rather an indication of a greater understanding who we are while hoping, praying, and believing that the same can happen for them.

One of the comments from the last post stated, “even if only one person from the audience is helped by what is said then all that effort will be worth it”.  How true. It should never be about the one doing the speaking. Although a good speaker utilizes effective techniques to keep those in attendance engaged, the goal is to change lives and that sometimes depends on forces bigger than ourselves.

Inspiration happens in countless ways and for those whose career it is to inspire others, I hope you are forever grateful. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel blessed to have the opportunity to speak, write, or teach. It is a gift from  the Creator of this Universe and one for which I am eternally thankful.

I want to again thank E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful picture. More information can be found about her on LinkedIn here. She has hundreds of pictures highlighting her unique photography in nature. Please feel free to leave your comments. I look forward to them.


What’s Good for the Goose…..



Photo by E. Rachel Thompson 

The phrase, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” has several meanings and one of those can be interpreted as, what is works for one person will work for everyone.  During my journey, I had a one of these experiences. My “aha moment” was so profound that I expected everyone could – or even should – have the same kind of enlightened moment.

February 22, 2013, the day to which I fondly refer as my own Independence Day, was when it finally became absolutely clear that shame – the negative things I learned to believe who I was – controlled my life in ways that I never wanted to see. It was actually causing me to make choices which were harmful, hurtful, and even sabotaging my life and now I could no longer look to blame anything or anyone else for those decisions. The insight I gained from this understanding was immediate and I had an overwhelming feeling of FREEDOM! It was one which I wanted all to experience.

However, this zealous approach to my new-found freedom was off-putting to some. There was nothing wrong with wanting others to have their own feeling of freedom and if I could discover how shame controlled my life then certainly they could discover the same. But my passionate attempts were sometimes viewed more as criticism which created walls rather than opening up lines of communication. Through my benevolent ignorance, I ended up alienating those whom I desperately wanted to help.


Sometimes I get the feeling that many coaches, motivators and inspirational speakers use the same theory. They will have a major breakthrough which catapults them onto a successful career path and because it worked for them, then it should work for everyone else as well. On top of that, they’ll trying coming up with some unique way of motivation which causes a reverse effect. Then they cap it off by urging people to never give up and if they do, they’ll be a “loser”.

While there is much benefit to be had from teachers, mentors, and coaches, we cannot simply mirror what they did and expect the same results. The story of actor Duane “The Rock” Johnson is certainly an inspirational one but we all can’t quit our jobs and focus on becoming a professional wrestler then parlaying that into an acting career.  Retired shortstop Derek Jeter was a once-in-a-generation athlete. His hard work and dedication made him one of the most recognizable athletes of his time. But if we were all as nearly talented as he, no one would have paid to go see him. One of the biggest names in motivational speaking is Tony Robbins. He has influenced and created new paths of opportunities for thousands of people. No doubt he is the benchmark for many life coaches but if we were all as inspiring as he, no one would feel the need to come to our seminars.

So what is the answer? Where is the mix between inspiration, “hype”, and even sometimes anti-motivation? Share your thoughts in the comments and in the next post, I’ll continue with mine. In the meantime, when you see a post that includes an inspirational quote, don’t just accept it at face value. Think about it what it’s saying and how it is useful in your own life. Accepting everything you hear, even from those who have stellar reputations, might be the gander accepting what’s good for the goose.

Thanks again to E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful picture. Find her on LinkedIn by clicking her name. I look forward to your comments.




The Distinction Part II

Tree & light

Photo By E. Rachel Thompson

When it came to my own journey, understanding the difference between shame and guilt was vital to the start of my healing. While there are many possible answers and different scenarios for both shame and guilt, this description was crucial in turning the light on for me and sparked the healing process which allowed  me to get a better understanding of who I was. Insight on how these emotions played a crucial role, also helped me unblock some of the past difficulties which began in childhood and plagued me well into adulthood.

In an article in Psychology Today from May 30, 2013, Dr. Joseph Burgo states it this way: “shame reflects how we feel about ourselves and guilt involves an awareness that our actions have injured someone else.” Perhaps using this example will add clarity to the distinction.  Let’s say you just finished excessively yelling at someone. Guilt might suggest to us that the other person didn’t deserve our unrestrained response and now we feel badly about our actions. These guilty feelings will help us remember next time to exude a bit more self-control. Shame, on the other hand, tells us that we yelled at them because we are a bad person. We are rotten and can’t help ourselves and there is nothing we can do to change that. Shame exacerbates the problem because we now think even more poorly about ourselves. We perpetuate that idea that we are bad and continue a negative spiral that many times is worse than the original deed which was committed. Guilt, however, can actually help us change future behavior. Although we don’t enjoy feeling guilty, it can act as a social conscience and create boundaries which ultimately define a sense of right and wrong or good an evil.

The reason so many people confuse the difference between the two is because we process them physically and emotionally in similar ways. For me, I get a “butterflies” in my stomach and my reaction is to want to go to sleep (definitely a flight not fight response). The way I have learned to distinguish those feelings – and how I also work with my clients to do the same – is to deal with it as a mental process. When I want to beat myself up, I tell myself that it was a bad choice; not because of some intrinsic and underlying evil. We should remind ourselves that we are trying to do our best and that we didn’t plot or conspire to bring harm but unfortunately our choice didn’t bring the result we wanted. It takes practice – especially for those who have had low self-esteem most of their lives. It is similar to working on a math problem and missing a step that resulted in the wrong answer. We simply made a mistake; now focus on what steps can be taken in the future that will help us not make the same mistake.

Throughout my journey, I was not only aware of how shame was showing up in my life but also observed it in others as well. I didn’t do this to shove it in anyone’s face but rather to see if it was causing the same effects on others. Thankfully, this technique helped spark a new direction in my life and inspired me to write a book and opened up a whole new passion in my life. It has allowed me to help others overcome shame in their lives and inspired me to meld this into a whole new career.

Shame can be extremely difficult for many to overcome and the best way to defeat it is to see it in ourselves and understand how these negative beliefs that we have come to believe who we are, have created negative choices in our lives. If you want to find out more, please check out my book, “Shame On Me – Healing a Life of Shame-Based Thinking. Although I’ll cover more in future posts, perhaps you may not want to wait. Understanding shame is vital but it is even more crucial that we learn to heal.

My book can be found on the Amazon US site (click on the link) or in the US, you can purchase it from my website at www.gcegroup.net. As always I want to thank E. Rachel Thompson for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.