Amy Roberts: Self-help seminar takeaway – Be someone you can be proud of
I am not a fan or likely registrant of buzzword seminars. When I see an ad for an upcoming workshop touting “leadership” or “empowerment” or “inner peace,” I do not ponder the learning potential or reserve the date on my calendar. The only thing I do is try to contain my dramatic eye-rolling in front of those who excitedly tell me about enrolling in this type of “life changing” event.
I am sure these conferences, with their breakout sessions and goal setting and expert speakers whose “qualifications” rarely seem to go beyond reading a few self-help books, work for some people. But I just don’t buy into the notion that for $199 and four hours of my day, a complete stranger can revolutionize my life. Maybe I’m just not screwed up enough to see the value in this.
Given my limited confidence in this sort of thing, most people who know me do not enthusiastically suggest I join them for a class titled, “How To Have The Best Year of Your Life.” It’s not that I don’t want to have the best year of my life, I just don’t think a dingy conference room at a Radisson, rented by a thrice-divorced, balding man in his 40s whose biggest accomplishment is owning a timeshare in Cancun, is the right place or person to launch my life into “best year ever” mode. I kind of think of these seminar speakers as the love child of a pro wrestler and a late-night cable televangelist.
So who knows why I agreed to attend this “transformational afternoon.” It wasn’t even a tough sell. My friend didn’t want to go alone and if I signed up with her, we saved 20 percent. It would have been a good day for someone peddling organized religion to knock on my door — apparently I wasn’t in the mood to resist the ridiculous.
We arrived the hotel and followed the signs with arrows pointing which way we needed to go to stop ruining our lives. Walking into the room, admittedly I was guarded. I didn’t expect much, and truth be told, one week later I feel no better equipped to have the best year of my life, or at the very least, stop actively making poor choices. But there was at least one solid takeaway moment from the “how to be a better person” camp.
Our speaker divided us into small groups for discussion and asked us each to answer this question: What are you are most proud of?
I am not one who likes to share her feelings with strangers. I don’t even like sharing them with people I’ve known all my life. I once had a therapist tell me I paid him a lot of money sit through my jokes. I can write about my feelings, but I don’t like to talk about them. So this modified group counseling session was pretty much the worst way to start the best year of my life.
As those in my group answered the question, I noticed their pride essentially boiled down to two things — a purchase or a person. People were proud of raising good kids, or buying stock in Amazon, or owning a home, or helping a sibling get back on his/her feet. They were proud of working hard to afford nice things, or having enough money to ensure a good education for their kids. They were proud of other people in their lives whom they had influenced. But no one seemed to be truly proud of the person they were — instead the focus was on what they’d done or what they’d helped others do.
When it was my turn to speak, I squirmed a bit and tried to convince the others I’d already answered the question, which didn’t work.
Finally I told them, “I am proud of my resilience and perseverance, and that I fearlessly pursue what sets my soul on fire. I’m proud of the compassion and empathy I’ve developed for all living creatures. But mostly, I’m proud I treat people fairly. I don’t abuse their trust. Whether I like someone or not, I am always honest about where they stand with me. I don’t mislead people or consider them disposable.”
This answer led to me receiving a coupon for the next seminar. Apparently, I need more work. But over the past few days as I thought more about my response, I realized this — I’m proud of what I’m proud of. A PhD from Harvard or a vacation home in Malibu doesn’t mean much if you aren’t proud of who you are.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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