I don’t know about you, but I grew up with little encouragement or practice in acknowledging and appreciating myself and my contribution. In fact there was a pretty significant set of instructions around the danger in doing this of getting a ‘swelled head’. And I get the concern – it’s not fun to be around people who are puffed up, or are trying to convince themselves or others of their value.
Something else became clearer for us here too – the power of symbols in anchoring our intentions more deeply. It was wonderful to have my daughters join in the fun. Rachael created the original KOABD tiara (seen in the photo below). Then for Mothers Day, Pamela gave me a do-it-yourself sceptre to go along with the tiara!
But life was busy, and I clearly wasn’t ready for the next level of evolution of KOABD in me. So for months the kit sat untouched on my desk – until my birthday a couple weeks ago.
My dear friend Susie Weller had told me she’d included a little surprise with my birthday card – “I found it about six months ago, and have been saving it for now” she’d said. After reading the card, I opened the package and found this key chain tag. While it was fun to see the KOABD meme showing up again, I wasn’t prepared for the clutching at my gut when I read the words printed on it.
Over the last year I’d become accustomed to the idea that what I brought to the world was KOABD. But adding the “I’m” to that – really naming and claiming this – standing in that place for myself? That was something else. The grounded and more logical part of me that knows and takes seriously the reality that owning my KOABD-ness is a crucial part of being able to serve those who don’t yet know about the work I do, and also loved the lightness that Susie was inviting me into here. But the clutching in my gut told me other parts weren’t so sure and were feeling nervous.
I knew I needed some time with me to listen, soothe and begin to mentor those parts of me anxious about the consequences of ‘disobeying’ those imperatives drilled into me as a child. I wanted to encourage them to realize that it was safe to both acknowledge the effectiveness and value of what flows through me into my life and work – take it seriously – and do so with a light touch.
As I was in the midst of this lightness of playing and creating, a story came to mind that pointed me back to a valuable reminder. It’s about a Rabbi who carried with him a powerful symbol – a slip of paper in each pocket. On one was written “for my sake the world was created”, on the other “I am but dust and ashes.” When he could feel things in his life were out of balance, this wise Rabbi made a practice of taking out and reflecting on whichever reminder he most needed.
Being out of balance in either direction (either puffing ourselves up, or diminishing our value) can be problematic, but here my focus is on those like me who have had an underdeveloped sense of the value of what we bring to the world. To the extent that we don’t own our true value, our ‘voice’ is likely to be more muted. When that’s the case everyone loses. We don’t have the joy of fuller self-expression, and others miss our contribution. It’s like an orchestra with several of the members missing. You can still make out the melody, but the sound isn’t as rich.
Like so many things in our lives it’s not an either/or … it’s a both/and. Not just heavy and serious, or fun and lightness. Not always minimizing our contribution or falsely puffing ourselves up. It’s an ongoing dance in our relationship with ourselves. Like the Rabbi, it’s a balancing – a practice of noticing in any given moment which note in our pocket we’re being called to pay attention to.
I’ve shared here some of my recent experience with this dance. I’d love to hear yours! How are you with the idea of you and your unique contribution being KOABD? And is there any difference for you in claiming this for yourself – I’m KOABD? What about the balance between lightness and seriousness? How fluid are you in that dance? As always, there’s no right or wrong here. The invitation is always simply to notice wherever you find yourself in this moment, allow it to be what it is, and take the next step in nurturing yourself right here. If you’re willing to share your experience, if you’ve got questions, or if you think there’s a way I can support you in this journey, I’d love to hear from you.