My Dark Secret Around Self-Worth

For years, I was the helpless victim of a fear: the fear of not being enough. From my teenage years all the way to not very long ago, I was afraid of not being good enough, not being qualified enough, not being knowledgeable enough, not being witty enough, not being competent enough… This fuelled my desire to do well and succeed throughout my studies as well as in my professional life. From the outside, what I achieved looked like plain and simple success. From the inside, my experience was fuelled by a deep-rooted insecurity around my own worth.

I got into one of the best business schools in Europe, ranking in the top 2% of candidates. Four years later, I graduated from this same business school Summa Cum Laude. I got a job in investment banking where I frenetically read everything I could to broaden my knowledge. I was considered one of the high potentials; my boss made sure I knew that before I quit. I turned to personal development, and I restlessly engaged into various courses and trainings: Clinical hypnotherapy, Conversational hypnosis, Neuro-linguistic programming, emotional intelligence, personal performance coaching, etc…

All of this was the external result of an unspoken internal drive, a deep dark secret that only I knew… I am not enough.

And then a few months ago, working with my own coach John P Morgan, I reached the boundaries of this make-believe world I had created. I realised how limited my experience of life was. Limited by this chronic unsatisfaction that fuelled me to get all the qualifications I could. This need to be competent, knowledgeable, good enough: that was my edge. Through exploring my beliefs, I discovered that theory and deep knowing were a world apart. I saw how getting the degree / certification / diploma in all these topics did not make me actually qualified.

When I joined investment banking, nearly everything I learnt in business school proved to be useless. Not wrong; just not relevant. I learnt most of the critical skills I needed on the job.

When I qualified in hypnotherapy, I was technically, theoretically knowledgeable, but I did not feel like I was ready to practice and create the impact that I wanted with people. This only came after starting to do the work. Inevitably, my view on the theoretical knowledge I had learned changed with experience.

When I qualified in NLP, I became present to the fact that unless I practiced these techniques over and over again, I was no more a competent practitioner than someone having read a bunch of books on the topic.

When I took part in my first coaching training, I saw that most people who were there would qualify with a whole bunch of ideas which would lead them to “play at being the coach”, but wouldn’t have a real clue about how to co-create change with someone.

These disillusions and wake-up calls ended up shattering my long-held fear. I realised that Theory vs. Deep Knowing is a thing. One can study everything in the world and still have no idea how to make a difference to people.

The reason for that is that there are two very different kinds of knowing.

There is Eidein, which is the encyclopedic knowing, the one that our Western societies crave. It is the knowing of the rational mind, the intellectual knowing, the one acquired by our cerebral cortex with logic and reason to come to theoretical and at times practical results, through a scientific process. This is the knowledge, the competence that degrees and qualifications give you.

And then there is Gnosis, which is the knowledge of personal experience. This is a deeper knowing, a knowing that isn’t scientific, a knowing that feeds from our internalised superconscious experiences, our intuition, our gut feeling. This is a knowledge that lies within you, developed by feeling and experiencing. This is the knowledge that we forgot to be in touch with, yet no qualification or certification will ever give it you.

When I started tuning into this deeper knowing, when I decided to let go of my need for qualifications – which were, for me, a strategy to prove my worth externally -,  when I began to rely more on the wisdom that lies within, I became free from my fear. I put my diplomas away, understanding how toxic I had let their presence become for me, and ever since my sense of confidence and self-worth has grown exponentially.

I am not saying this experience and relationship with qualifications is the same for everyone. This was merely my experience around and relationship with knowledge.

But from what I continuously see around me; from my many conversations with people, whether they be university students or business leaders; from the fears and doubts expressed by my clients; I know this theme of not being educated / competent / knowledgeable enough is a nasty thorn in the thigh for many of us.

Which is why I wanted to share my experience of waking up to this truth.

By all means, acquire diplomas if such is your wish. Society – rightly or wrongly – values them. Just don’t forget that there are different ways of knowing, and that deep impact takes more than a piece of paper with your name on it.

3 responses to “My Dark Secret Around Self-Worth”

  1. […] to educational and intellectual achievements secretly damaged my self-esteem for years (you can read the article here). Although I proudly displayed success on the outside, I felt unworthy on the inside. And worse, I […]

  2. Thank you Shai. It took me a while to come to this realisation, but the freedom was worth all the time in the world.

  3. Insightful and inspirational. Thanks for sharing Ben.

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