I started a group coaching program last week. During the session our couch asked us a question.

“What are you extraordinary at? World class?”

We were invited to share our answer with everyone.

I’m English. We don’t like to talk about such things. It’s not polite.

But I jumped in. And found myself saying that I am an extraordinary writer. It was uncomfortable to say. I hadn’t said it out loud before.

I remember a couple of summers ago sitting around in the garden one evening drinking wine with a group of close friends. We were with our sifu – our kung fu teacher – and he and I spontaneously invented a game for us all to play.

We each had to stand up, and tell each other what we were truly great at – what we were better at than any other person we’d ever met.

I have never seen a group of smart, conscious people get so twitchy. We were literally squirming in our chairs and laughing weirdly. We all felt extraordinarily awkward.

What is it about speaking of our own extraordinariness that can feel so nauseating?

I’m not the only one suffering from the affliction. I see it in my friends, my coaching clients, my facebook feed.

We’re suffering from a virus of equality

It’s an epidemic. The symptoms?

Chronic modesty. Cold sweats at the thought of boasting. Severe aversion to the prospect of arrogance. Unremitting reserve.

It was a wonderful thing when it first infected the populous. It changed people’s minds. It had them see the inherent value and beauty in every single human being, regardless of gender, race, social status or sexual persuasion.

But somewhere along the way, we lost our right to boast. Or maybe the rules just changed.

I feel my own aversion when I see someone proclaim their greatness while their heart is closed. Instead of their greatness, I simply see their insecurity, propped up by a proclamation they don’t really feel.

I feel my own fear, when faced with the prospect of claiming my own extraordinary qualities.

My friends at school used to call me ‘Mr. Modest’. I wasn’t actually modest, I was just scared of claiming a standard I could fall beneath.

We like to cut down great people. Find their faults. Condemn their shadow. Discount their brilliance. The higher they reach, the more eagerly we hack at their pedestal.

But can you feel that tender spot?

The one underneath the crusty criticism and condemnation? The one where you know all that judgment is just your own un-owned ambition?

It’s more vulnerable than pain and suffering

I remember sitting in a circle at a workshop.

People were telling me I was extraordinary. They told me I looked like Jesus. They wanted to kiss my feet.

I was in severe pain. Telling them I didn’t want it. That I didn’t ask for it. I was angry. And upset.

Mostly I was afraid.

We don’t ask for it do we?

God doesn’t check with us before giving us phenomenal, world class greatness. We have to live with it. And we have to use it, or get sick, in weird ways.

I know how incredibly vulnerable it has been, and continues to be, when I admit my extraordinariness. It makes me quake, and squirm, and rebel.

It feels more vulnerable than owning my shadows and wounds.

I got a great education in loving my weakness. Loving my greatness?

I’m still afraid of that one.

Mostly.

You’re extraordinary. Let’s celebrate it.

I know you’re extraordinary. I know you know it too. How much false modesty are you carrying?

Let’s play a game…

What are you extraordinary at? Seriously, ask yourself. Take a moment…

Does it come immediately? Does it surprise you? Excite you? Scare you?

What are you better at, than everyone you know? Something that when you say it out loud, the stink of your boasting makes your eyes water.

You’ve got to go audaciously at it. We’re so adhered to modesty, it needs a bit of bending the other way.

It’s time to boast.

Ready?

I’ll go first.

4 Things I’m extraordinary at

  1. Writing – I’m seriously fucking good at writing. Despite my superego telling me every single time I sit down to write that I’m not. Most people can’t write like I do. I’ve made a lot of people cry with my writing. I move people, inspire people and amaze people with my writing. A dear friend told me once I wrote like Rilke. Not many people can boast that.
  2. Listening to depth – I’m an extraordinary listener. I can listen with deep presence, the kind of space where people share things they’ve never shared before. And, I’m exceptionally good at listening to what is not said. Sooner or later, I’ll pick out the answer to the pattern before anyone else has even realized there’s a question.
  3. Seeing ideal futures – I’m a master at seeing what’s possible. My mind just sees it as a vision, vividly. I can look at something, and use my imagination to repair all the dysfunctions I see, unblock the flow in the system, add time, and describe what it would look like in the future as a result. Like, I’m shit hot at that. And scarily accurate most of the time.
  4. Marketing – I didn’t want to write this one. Because I have an exceptionally ambivalent relationship to marketing. But I have skills. You know what I’m sayin’? My super-charged strategic mind can map out master plans, and my writing and charisma craft compelling stories. My marketing talents have made a lot of money for myself and others the last few years.

OK, your turn

Put on your boasting socks, and strut your stuff.

The more it makes you squirm the truer it is (probably).

Own it, and it won’t own you.

Speak it, and it will speak through you.

You’re incredible. I know it. You know. So proclaim it.

What are you truly extraordinary at?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ewan Townhead

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you're interested further in my work, you can find out more about me here, and my coaching here.

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  1. Avatar

    Aaah, love it Ewan 🙂 Refreshing!

    Things I’m extraordinary at:

    1 – Writing. Yes, me too. People tell me my writing has changed their lives (particularly readers of masculinity-movies.com). Plus most of my writing is not even in my native tongue. I’m glad my English is so good.
    2 – Communicating. Yup, I really think I’m way better at this than the average Joe. It doesn’t mean that I don’t trigger people, but it means that I’m authentic and I bring myself and that having just a normal conversation with me is outside of the frame of reference that most people are used to.
    3 – Creating unique, impactful material. My Inner Throne work is profound and it looks set to change many people’s lives in 2015. It’s a whole body of work that I’ve more or less developed myself. Most people can’t say that.
    4 – Seeing people. I get people *fast*. One woman in my life recently shared with me that I understand what is going on with her before she does herself and I do so consistently. Which freaks her out a bit.

    (I wanted to put “making love” in there too, but I could only do 4 😉

    Thanks for the opportunity, Ewan. And yes, you do write friggin’ well! I don’t want to kiss your feet though 😉

    Eivind

    Reply
    • Ewan

      Dude, fucking love it. I feel like I just got to know you better through reading those things. Smiling. And I almost considered a 5th that was a sub-component of making love, but confess I bottled it.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    This is seriously hard. Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, wanting to vomit kind of hard. The kind of hard that makes you type and then erase erase erase because you know that if you admit that you dare to think you might be just a tiny bit good at something, what you are actually doing is putting everyone down. And you know this not just because you thought that up but because you had it ‘bashed’ ( no physical bashing involved) into you as a school kid that that is what you were doing.

    So deep breath ……
    Aparently, so I am told I am …….

    See there I go, thats not owning it either is it!

    So 4 things I am extraordinarly good other than avoiding answering this question.

    1 Creating a safe place for people where they feel heard and seen.

    2 Taking action, jumping in, learning by doing, as I go. Embracing challenges by doing things just a little differently.

    3 Writing. Didnt want to add that one as it seems so ‘me too’ but its what I love doing.

    4 Speaking. To be fair I dont really own this one yet. Its more aspirational. Im not yet convinced people arent just being nice. But Im certainly 100% present in my speaking from the heart.

    Reply
    • Ewan

      Lynn.

      I love, Love, LOVE what you say.

      Those are some extraordinary things that you’re extraordinary at 🙂

      The next level of challenge is telling these 4 things to people around you directly 😉

      Reply

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