In these steep economic times, with recession threatening, survival as a freelancer depends on ones ability to sell oneself well. However, in order to present oneself and market oneself, it is essential to have a strong sense of self and to believe in the value of one’s offerings. It is especially challenging to sell oneself when one’s personal self- worth is low. It is a vicious cycle. We all know.
I realize that this may sound very negative, it is not the sort of thing people like to think about, but I am trying to get to the bottom of what holds us back from standing in our power and speaking our truth. (I am speaking from my own experience.) I have learned to hide my magnificence for fear of threatening others with it, perhaps due to past trauma. I recently realized the depth of this.
For centuries, women standing in their power have been punished for being strong. There is a shadow, which takes the form of jealousy. It is a competitive edge, which comes out in people -both men and women when one steps up into the spotlight. This is not something I wish to dwell on, but simply to acknowledge. It can be dangerous when others are threatened and so one learns to keep it passive and low key.
Besides one’s personal history there is the long history of mankind and womankind that has to lead us to this place of low self-value.
It may sound as if I am identifying as a victim, but this understanding has come from being bullied and isolated for being different. I am sure that I am not alone in this. Many of us have been bullied by family, by peers and even teachers at school. It is a familiar pattern- call it human nature. I am talking about that group habit of making an example of someone who dares to be different and to identify outside of the norm. Someone who is allowing their true colours to shine freely. The one being in true colours is blamed or shamed for being outside of the norm, they are either jeered at or bullied by the ring leaders and others join in. The others do it out of fear of the same thing happening to them.
That shadow side of human nature described so well by William Golding in the story of “The Lord of The Flies.” (In which a bunch of British children were stranded on an island during World War 2. There were no adults and the children had to fend for themselves. One evening, Simon -the sensitive, loner child in the group was turned on by the rest of the children. They had been whipped into a frenzy while hunting a wild boar on the Island. In their bloodthirsty state, they turned on Simon and killed him in a moment of group madness.)
This same mentality of pointing one out and turning on them for being “other” was used for centuries during the Witch-hunting inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the strong women, the healers, the leaders who were prepared to stand up for what was right, were turned on and betrayed by their own family members. They were made a public example of and tortured into madness and then burnt publicly on a stake in front of their family and community. (Surprisingly, Witch-hunting continues in Africa today in some tribal communities.)
We don’t want to hear about those things, but this is part of our history and the nature of man. The forces behind the witch-hunts are similar to the forces ruling the world today. They are shadow forces which embody greed and capitalism by ruthlessly colonizing the common land for personal gain. Unless we see them for what they are, we cannot shine the light on them.
In the 16th century inquisition, the intent of the force was to undermine the security of those who lived according to natural laws and intuitive ways. They were trying to undermine the security of the people who lived close to the earth, sharing natural resources. These people were free of the system because they could survive independently from the land. They were not landowners, but gypsies and villagers who survived from the Commons. The Commons were places where the villagers grazed their livestock, or the woodlands, rivers, lakes, oceans and mountainsides, where they went hunting and gathering for food and medicine. This “Commonage” belonged to everyone. It was managed by common sense and common decency. In those days, there was a matriarchal society, which had a very strong understanding of the lore’s of nature, many of which had Pagan roots. The church and other forces wanted to lay claim to this land and take ownership of it. What they did, in essence, was put a fence around the tree of life, and made people pay them to access it.
Between the 16th and 17th century, in what was known as the “Burning Times,” approximately 60 000 people were put to death in Europe, (according to a BBC News article.) However, I have heard figures of up to 9 million deaths over the three centuries. Who knows what the actual figure is, but it was a terrible number of people who died horribly in front of their own communities. It was done by naming and shaming and blaming and turning on the ones they chose to pick on. Often it was women turning on women. It destroyed the fabric of common decency and respect which had previously held them together and kept them strong.
After that frenzy of betrayal, women found themselves living passively in an accepted state of dependency and oppression. Interestingly the church was behind the movement. They did all this in the name of God and people believed it. The Burning Times came in the aftermath of the Reformation when the split in the Christian faith caused great turmoil.
“As Robert W Thurston puts it in his book Witch, Wicce, Mother Goose, the witch persecutions were to do with “a profound shaking of people’s confidence that their world could survive”. Writes Bob Chaundy in an article published on the BBC World website.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8334055.st
It is now generally accepted that the whole tragic, brutal and barbaric exercise was actually a way of bullying people into submission so that they could take away their power. Women were kept as “chattel”- a similar word to cattle, because the meaning is so close, women became men’s possessions to be used as they pleased, even losing their names to their husbands, doing unpaid work, while being kept financially dependent and used for breeding and cleaning and status. Being anyone else’s possession other than one’s own is a sure-fire recipe for losing one’s self-esteem. It has gone on for centuries. Both sexes have accepted it as normal. We are only slowly waking up now, but it still affects our psyche’s. It helps to acknowledge these things.
The Slave trade, a historical trauma, which destroyed communities and caused people to betray each other, was yet another tragic event which resulted from the similar forces. It undermined the self- worth of over 3 million people who were shipped from Africa to the “new world.” To this day, the slave trade remains a deep scar on the psyche of too many displaced people, who lost touch with their ancestors and whose communities were torn apart by the event.
(One does not really want to think about this, but human trafficking is the new form of slavery and combines both the undermining and objectification of women and young girls and the pillaging of naïve and innocent people from vulnerable places of poverty, so these forces are still at work.)
Both the witch- hunts and the slave trade took place over three centuries and resulted in uncountable deaths. In the holocaust, 6 million Jews, gypsies and homosexuals were murdered over a four- year period in Germany. Again, the same bullying dark force was at work. Yet the inquisition and the slave trade are not usually compared with the holocaust because both of these genocides took place in a way which was somehow seen as acceptable (and a means to an end) to the indoctrinated society at the time.
Society allowed the slave trade to continue until eventually the resistance rose up enough to make it illegal. One wonders why it took 300 years for good people to put a stop to it.
Those who were captured and held prisoner by these forces and regimes were left with nothing but their inner resources to survive. Their true individual value was so completely undermined that they became nothing but pawns in the hands of those who were playing the chess game. How did they cope? They found inner resilience and inner resources. Some sang, played music, prayed and held each other up. They supported each other if they could. They found ways to comfort themselves. Those put in quarantine had less chance of survival, but there were those who dug deep to find the light. Nelson Mandela wrote his memoir, “Long Road to Freedom”- in solitary confinement, and smuggled it out, bit by bit over his 27-year imprisonment.
An observation I heard from a survivor of the holocaust, was that in the concentration camps, those who kept up their dignity, their pride in their physical appearance, mended their clothes, brushed their hair, did what they could to feel okay about themselves, were more likely to survive than the ones who just gave up on all that.
So, going back to the subject of having to present oneself as a valuable commodity as a freelancer in the global market and in these tricky economic times. It is essential to find the resilience and strength of spirit to keep believing in one’s worth. Keep finding things that feed the spirit. Keep meditating on the source of ones magnificence. That works on a personal level. It is authentic. But on the other hand, when one has to sell oneself as a commodity in a global market, it is important to understand what that market is looking for.
I recently met Natsuno. She grew up in a small town in Japan, having come from a traditional cultural background. (She has just spent 5 years as a consultant for small- scale entrepreneurs in Dakar, Senegal, where she worked for an NGO, supporting people coming out of extreme poverty in restoring their dignity through small businesses.)
Her response to my question about the importance of self-worth was, “Self worth is one thing, but understanding the market is another.” She has personally found that when she is trying to present herself in a market whose values are different from her own cultural values, it is much harder to work out how to present oneself than if she was presenting herself in Japan.
“The global market, dominated by American corporate culture does not value the way I was taught to package or present myself.” She said. “It is tough because, beyond the quality of work I am presenting to them, I also have to show them a package that they can relate to. They are not even aware of the cultural gap because for them, this is the norm.” Natsuno explains, “So it is hard to show them beyond the superficial, what value I am adding in a way that they can understand.” She points out that this is challenging when one is competing with others who are already coming from the dominating culture because they don’t understand the challenges. For example for me to do something, I have to make 10 000 times more effort than someone coming from the dominating culture who might be competing in the same market, because they already know how to package themselves in a way the market understands and are speaking the same language.”
Since the barbaric days of the burning times and the legal slave trade, there is more freedom of thought than ever before. Yet globalization has created a monoculture, which becomes as bland and grey as a business suit and an airport lounge anywhere in the world.
Yet, the key universal ingredient in selling one’s wares is dignity. When I asked Natsuno what the bottom line was for supporting people coming out of war and famine in Senegal in setting up their small businesses, she said the key ingredients were to help them restore their dignity. And secondly to find their places as change-makers in society, as opposed to seeing themselves as victims needing a handout.
I believe that true value comes from showing one’s true colours. When people have all their basic needs fulfilled, they search for deeper value- soul purpose. Life is short and it’s getting shorter by the minute. The time we have left to evolve is running out much quicker than we think. We can not afford to fool around with trivialities, while governments and the corporate forces to decimate what is left of the commons. These last pieces of nature are the only real value we have left. We cannot stand by while they continue mining the earth, fracking for gas, trawling the oceans for the last stocks of fish, burning the forests to make way for agriculture, not to mention laying dodgy pipelines filled with crude oil under natural rivers lakes. These forces are disrespecting common sense and common decency. The power addicted forces of greed are decimating what is left of the global commons at such an alarming rate that it is even more important to be brave and strong and stand up for what is right now, than any other time in history.
Just as general society turned a blind eye to the Burning Times, and the slave trade and the holocaust (perhaps out of fear of becoming the next victim) we have been very slow to take action. We are living through the 6th extinction known to man. Uncountable species of birds, animals, plants, amphibians, insects and fish have been wiped off the planet forever due to man’s activities. (This is a scientific fact.) And more are being lost every day, yet the masses would rather be taking selfies and posting them on Instagram, to validate their self-worth, than thinking about all the species being wiped out for the sake of fools gold.
Taking a stand and speaking one’s truth against the grey tide of complacency is easier said than done, but that is what brings true value back. That is where the real gold is. I always go back to that profound poem by Marion Williamson, which Nelson Mandela quoted in his inaugural speech when he became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”