How many of you know the story of the eagle and the turtle? Probably many, except for me. I only was told about it very recently. I love storytelling, but I am not going to tell you the whole story. Instead, I recommend you watch or read it on uncle Google’s site. What I will share with you is why this story is at the inspiration of this blog and how it made me aware about my confusion of identity with job-titles. My own summary and interpretation of this story in a nutshell:
The moral of the eagle vs turtle narrative goes as follows: the turtle is no longer fulfilled with his environment and wants to change. He sees the eagle flying and he wants to fly as well, despite the eagle telling him he has no wings. The turtle convinced he could fly if the eagle picks him up into the sky. So the eagle does just that.
While flying in the claws of the eagle, the turtle feels liberated and starts showing traits of arrogance and superiority when looking down on his fellow turtles. The eagle notices this and asks why he feels better than his own family and friends?
“Because I can fly, and they can’t. That is why I am better than them. And that is why the other turtles are jealous. To which the eagle responds: Oh, turtle, you have no wings. It is because of my claws and my wings you are in the sky. And why would you want others to be jealous of you? Is that your purpose, to have others envy you?
Then the eagle releases his claws, and the turtle drops into the ground. And it is because of his shell that he is protected and avoids death. And it is because of his friends and family he can turn around and start walking and living like a turtle again. He realizes that life as a turtle in his environment is not so bad at all.
So what did I take away from this story? One, my whole life I had this underlying belief that I should always be the eagle in the sky and anything less is a sign of weakness and inferiority. Second, I finally realized that the eagle is not without limits. For example, an eagle can’t swim like a turtle and does not have a resilience shield that protects him when falling.
The most important lesson though is that our identity is not what we do. Our identity is what we believe we are and what we think we can achieve and what not. And be perfectly fine with that.
You see, especially in a political-military environment, it is easy to be intimidated by stars, stripes and diplomatic suits of who some act like they are God’s gift to the organization. People who make you feel as little as possible so they can feel better about themselves, also have an identity problem. It is mostly their insecurity, not confidence, which fuels them.
Empathy and compassion, no matter how big the ego, will go along way in establishing healthy professional environments where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.
It is those that know who they are, who live their truth in alignment with who they are with grace, confidence, and humility, who know how to distinguish between a hierarchy of functions and identities.
You see, a CEO, a senior military leader, a president, a minister and so on- they are not better than the rest. They have different functions which give the perception they are in a category of superiority. But they too are human beings who go to the bathroom, who have the same human traits, emotions, habits like the rest of us human beings.
Respecting a hierarchy of functions is different than feeling inferior because of titles. No one can make you feel less worthy than you allow them.
Sounds cliche perhaps, but so powerful once we understand the process of the mind. How can you start reminding yourself and living a life in line with your identity? Well, this will require a whole book which I will write in due time. But for now, here are my top three actions you can start now.
Three ways to start owning your identity with pride, confidence, and humility.
1. Know who you are by continuously working on yourself first.
The most important relationship in life is with ourselves. Once we invest in ourselves, invest in unlocking our real potential, investing in learning confidence, investing in our intellectual capacity and hone our strengths; the world will be at your fingertips.
Because once you master your thought process, your emotions and your brand – you will become your CEO in life. And the most successful and beloved CEOs are those that have a high-level awareness of themselves and those around them. CEOs who own their identity with pride, confidence, and humility.
2. Let go of assumptions and judgment: everyone has a story, and often it is not about you
We love staying in our heads and get caught up in our thoughts of conspiracy that the whole world is against us and wants us to fail. When you are in this state of mind, remember the following.
First, people are inherently selfish human beings; they look more for what’s in it for them than for you.
Second, most people have actual lives, and it does not revolve around them devising strategies how to ruin or sabotage yours. There are the exceptions of social psychopaths, but give people the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, why would you spend any negative energy on what others may or may not think instead of using your power for bettering your life, for adding value and for living a life fulfilled without regrets based on your standards of success?
Once you get out of this negative spiral, you will leave room in your brain to see connections and opportunities and unleash your creative potential. And trust me, not only will it bring you freedom, it will feel so damn good!
3. In a world, you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind.
My dear colleague and friend, Candace, always reminds me in a world where everyone competes for their agenda and forget they are working with human beings; choose to be kind.
Neuroscience proves that when you decide to be kind your brain releases endorphins, hormones responsible for making you feel good. And when you feel good, and kindness prevails, you show others you are not a threat. And like magic, people will start opening up to you and will want to be around your positive energy and infectious smile, no matter what functions, title or position in the hierarchy they occupy.
In a world where technology is dictating our lifestyles, we often forget that people are human beings who crave social connections beyond the superficial.
Never allow your identity to be confused with your title. Your title reflects your functions. Your personality demonstrates your character. And in a world where real and genuine leadership is a scarcity, be the best and authentic version of yourself. And never let anyone make you feel you are not worthy of greatness.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for follow-on blogs! Don’t forget to comment or share and spread the inspirational vibes to others!