BEING ADEQUATE

One of the most sensitive areas of human adjustment can be loosely defined under the concept of "inadequacy". The fear of being seen as being inadequate in any of its many forms is perhaps the area that makes people vulnerable to the manipulation of others. Advertisers capitalize on your fears of having bad breath, body odor, non-shiny hair, etc., etc., to sell their products, car ads show you pictures of their cars in the presence of "adequate" people and much of the popular orientation of understanding "body language" and other dimensions of people's behavior focuses on recognizing expressions of inadequacy fears.

The fear of being seen by others as being something less than you are supposed to be is what keeps most of us oriented toward being "followers" as opposed to "leaders" on the social scene. We know that the qualities of leadership are not something that are inbred into particular individuals but are in fact present in all of us. In working with group therapy situations, researchers have found that one person will always assume the role of leader. If that person is removed, someone else takes that role over. If that person is removed, someone else, etc., etc. If we keep removing leaders and putting in new group members, virtually everybody takes over the role of being a leader at one time or another.

The quality of leadership that is the strongest in its attraction is the display of feelings of adequacy, being sure of oneself, displayed lack of fear of being criticized or evaluated by those around you. To emotionally latch on to such a person seems to be a way we attempt to cope with our own feelings of fear about being seen in a negative way by others.

The important thing to recognize here, I think, is that it is the "displayed" behavior, but not necessarily the actual existence of such feelings of comfort on the part of the leader. Or in other words, it makes no difference how much fear you may have of being seen by others in a negative manner but it makes a great deal of difference whether or not you display evidence of those fears. It is the display of confidence that is the leadership characteristic, not the actual feeling of confidence itself.

While we cannot truly control our feelings, we can indeed control our behavior. I remember in the play "The King and I," Anna, while attempting to soothe her son's fears as they approached Siam, sings a song entitled "Whenever I'm Afraid." The point of the song is that whenever she is afraid, she sings this happy song in order to act unafraid, and by doing so, she suddenly finds that she is no longer afraid. That is indeed the way the system works. Feelings will adjust themselves to fit behavior every time, even though the adjustment at any one point in time may not be total and complete, it does move in that direction. So, by displaying confidence we also become confident.

Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage. I am suggesting that at least sometimes it is very worthwhile to see yourself as an "actor" on the stage and play the role that represents who you wish to become.

Think about it.