by Pamela Slim
I had a friend from college named Javier who was convinced that Walt Disney had it in for him. I don’t remember the particular conspiracy, only that it involved subliminal messages, Mickey Mouse and lots and lots of oppression.
Walt Disney was not the only tyrant in his life, there were many more:
• The U.S. Government
• The IRS
• The CIA
I am sure I am only scratching the surface.
The funny thing is, none of these monolithic institutions held a candle to the sabotage Javier did to himself. He had tormented love affairs. He would lose school papers on his computer just as he was about to finish them. His promising internships always ended in a fight with a boss or co-worker. His sharp intellect and gigantic heart were prisoners behind a curtain of anger, hurt and bitterness. All he knew was that Everybody was out to get him.
Martha explains this phenomenon in Finding Your Own North Star:
“In fact, everybody’s Everybody is composed of just a few key people. Our social nature makes us long to fit in with a larger group, but it’s difficult to hold the tastes and opinions of more than five or six individuals in your mind. So the resourceful social self creates a kind of shorthand: it picks up a few people’s attitudes, emblazons them on your brain, and extrapolates this image until it covers the entire known universe. The vague compilation of folks, you call Everybody is what psychologists term ‘the generalized other.”
Looking at the world through an Everybody perspective leads to statements like:
- I would be more successful in my career, but The Company is holding me back
- More people would read my blog if the A Listers weren’t so selfish
- I would start a business but no one from my background ever succeeds
- I would be in a relationship if Men were not such dogs
- I would be better at handling my money if Schools didn’t discriminate against girls in Math
Such broad generalizations keep you stuck and powerless. By believing them, you hand your creativity and motivation directly to the force you think is oppressing you.
To get a handle on who your Everybody is, try a couple of these exercises from Finding Your Own North Star, (page 63):
Everybody on Deck
Step 1: Finish the following sentences by writing down whatever comes from your gut, no matter how silly it may seem to your brain.
1) People judge me because:
2) Everyone loves it when:
3) When I do well, people feel:
4) Nobody will let me:
5) Everybody always tells me to:
6) People just can’t accept the fact that I:
7) When I fail, everyone thinks:
8) Nobody cares when I:
9) Society keeps telling me I have to:
10) Everyone expects me to:
Step 2: For each statement above, write the names of six people you know who actually, verifiably hold the opinions you’ve ascribed to Everybody. You can use the same names for every question if that’s what pops up.
If you are like most people, you may be able to generate two, maybe three people for each item.
This list of people generally includes people you love and people you hate. Most likely, it is not everyone in the known universe, or even in your suburban cul-de-sac.
Create an alternate Everybody
Do you have a sense that your Everybody is either people you don’t care about or who don’t have your best interest at heart? Since Everybodys usually come from family, media culture, ideological camps, school, peers or organizations, their influence is strong. But are they really the right people to support you? If not, you are ready to create an alternate Everybody using another exercise from Finding Your Own North Star (page 84).
Alternate Voices Exercise:
Step 1: For each of these statements, make two columns: in the left, people that have told you this statement is not true, and in the right, people who have told you this statement is true. Fill in as many blanks as you can. You don’t have to fill in all of them, and it’s fine if the same names come up in response to different statements. Bother only with the statements you do not believe, and remember, no generalizing.
- I’m a natural born winner: always was, always will be.
- The world is full of people who would love to be my friends.
- I’ll always have plenty of money.
- I deserve a life of joy and fulfillment
- I’m physically beautiful, and I always will be.
- I can be wildly successful at my chosen career.
- I have an amazingly capable brain.
- I’m perfectly lovable exactly as I am.
- I’m highly creative by nature.
- My dreams are in the process of coming true.
Here is an example of the worksheet:
Step 2: Look over the columns of names you’ve written down in the previous exercise, and answer the following questions:
- Whom do you like more? (People on left/People on right)
- Whom do you respect more? (People on left/People on right)
- Which people have the happier, more fulfilling lives? (People on left/People on right)
- Which people have more stable, intimate relationships? (People on left/People on right)
- If you had a baby and were forced to leave your child to be raised by other people, whom would you choose? (People on left/People on right)
- Which individuals most deserve to have their opinions ignored, belittled and discounted? (People on left/People on right)
- Why in the name of all that’s holy would you give any credence to the people on the left?
Redefining your Everybody may feel uncomfortable since some of you, like Javier, have felt a giant boot in your neck for many years.
Changing perspectives does not mean that some people are not out to get you. Nor does it aim to minimize hurt inflicted on you by real people.
As an example, just yesterday, an Anglo business colleague said to my husband (who is Navajo), while looking at his long beautiful hair, “Good thing General Custer is not alive, he sure would have loved scalping you!”
Whether you chalk this up to racism or good old-fashioned stupidity, it is apparent that The Man’s spirit is alive and well in today’s society.
But this I know for sure: if you dig deep and redefine your Everybody, you just might find there is a nurturing, supportive conspiracy to lift you up.
Trust me, Everybody knows I’m right.