Authority Neurosis

This weekend, I was talking to someone for whom I have great understanding–someone with an bit of an attitude about authority. Maybe even an authority neurosis. Someone who doesn’t like being told what to do or how to do it. I know this feeling. What we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves. What we admire in others are our own good qualities. And that gives us a hinge to authority troubles.

DSC_0457Authority figures show us our own unclaimed power. The part of us that didn’t make it to the top of the heap, the part of us that, our Inner Critic tells us, just doesn’t quite cut it. And we become angry at those  in leadership who are not as bright, talented, disciplined as we are, but who made it to the top anyway. They got discovered. They had mentors.  And since they don’t deserve respect, we don’t give respect. And that’s where thinking trips over its own shoelaces.

DSC_0454No one is going to come up and ask to mentor you. No one is waiting to hand you the Crown of Retribution and congratulate you for your leadership. See that cape on the ironing board? The magic is not in the cape. It’s in the story you tell yourself about the cape.

Some people believe what authority figures tell them to believe. A few more believe what their friends tell them. But everyone believes their own story—the one they tell themselves. And once you believe it, you tell it to others and they believe your story, too. The one where you never got the breaks. About being overlooked and under-appreciated. And then others don’t give you breaks, overlook you and under-appreciate you. Because you told them to.

Tell yourself that cape is yours,. Then iron it and put it on. It’s time for you to step up and re-claim the powerful bits of yourself you storied away, hoping people would disagree with you.  Being a leader doesn’t mean being given power. It means working with people who believe in you.

Be the person people can believe in, and you’ll have your power. If you believe in it yourself.

—Quinn McDonald is a believer. In herself and in others.

Images from: A Pretty Cool


23 thoughts on “Authority Neurosis

  1. The first paragraph brought up a couple of childhood (does the word teenhood exist?) stories.
    The first: my dad, who was a shrink, told me what you said about hating in others what he hate in ourselves (he really said that we get upset seeing what we try to supress in us “out there”). He took all the fun out of ranting and moaning! *sigh*
    The second: my mom going on and on about how smart a female journalist was. “Of course you think she is smart mom! She thinks like you do!” Took her by surprise. 😀
    From time to time I get jealous of those “who made it” I don´t think they were discovered without doing their part but dared to do what I don´t dare doing. They dared putting their (sometimes flimpsy) product out in the open for others to see/buy.
    “Be the person people can believe in” <– I´ll be humming that while I work. 😉

    • I think jealousy is a good thing–in small doses. It makes us aware of what’s out there, what we can accomplish, what we can’t accomplish, and how much work it will take to get there. Not bad at all.

  2. Right on Quinn, often it’s confidence . . . would that self doubt could just wash off in the shower. For me it’s just that I know longer wish to work that hard and have more responsibility than I do now. I take full responsibility for my happiness and I can be a handful at times!

    When I find myself griping about someone in authority, in my work life that is, I stop and remind my self why it’s not me there . . . I’ve taken a step back and no longer live to work. To carry responsibility in any sphere is damned hard work. I’ve been asked to apply for those same positions but I chose not to as I just don’t want to pour my energy in that direction any more . . . feathers soothed I go back to the lovely life choices I had the courage to make, and leave them to get on with theirs (although I’m happy to help when invited)!

    Take courage and be all you can!

  3. It seems to me that the moment “deserve” gets attached to the idea of respect it engenders the idea that some people get more and others get less. Something about that doesn’t sit right. I have enormous respect for things people have done or tried or contributed to, but people themselves get respect just because we’re all in this together, and because treating people with respect just works better.

    A baker may be an authority on cake and a scholar on Milton, but nobody has “authority” about everything, and authority is not the kind of thing that can be generalized. I’m not sure I agree that there is a generalized “problem with authority”, because implicit in that notion is the idea that authority IS some amorphous quantity.

    And finally, that idea that there’s a “top” that somebody is at, or closer to than somebody else? I think it might be nothing more than an artifact of perception and cognition. The same sort of illusion that makes mirrors revers left-to-right but not top-to-bottom.

    • Hello Pete,
      I think this blog is more about the introspective look at authority than authority in general. It’s looking at our view of authority and giving us the option to choose to be free of the insecurities that keep us trapped by the jealousy or fear of authority, the very thing that stunts us or keeps us from doing or being more than we are.
      You do not appear to have a problem in that area… Go you! Grab and cape!

      • Yep, I can see that as well. A view of authority is the only kind of authority there is. But I think the phrase “problem with authority” is dangerously infectious, at least here and now, and I think the scaffolding it automatically erects is better left as a pile of disassembled shards.

        • Quinncreative Fund Raiser: Capes with logos! Like T-shirts, only superer. Or plan B: t-shirts that make it look like you’re wearing a cape, like that “shirt and tie” T. (I’m doing my part to get everybody their cape, y’see — if it works, dibs on “The Caped Persuader” as my secret identity)

          • The secrets of meetings:
            1. No agenda == no attendance.
            2. When the agenda is complete, say thanks and leave.
            3. If something’s left undecided, the decision is assigned to one person, with a due hour (not a due “date”).
            4. The default is “no meeting”, there has to be a reason to change that.

            We don’t always follow all of these, but it gets better when you keep trying.

  4. What an important post today! Security and confidence for everyone. It begins with us….Think of the impact we can have on those around us if we believe in ourselves! What freedom and inspiration. We can change the world. Gimme one of those capes!

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