And yet, integrity is probably not what you think it is.
Here at TCP, we have been reflecting a lot on identity, self concept, and what it means to have integrity. You see, we all hold beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. And we all have deep inner desires or callings.
Both of these, our deep beliefs and desires, generate thoughts and feelings, which generate words and actions.
For example, if we believe that the world is a generous place. We will think that the world is full of abundance, and we might even feel supported in most everything we do. These thoughts and feelings will be articulated in the way that we speak, and in our actions and accomplishments.
If we believe that the world is cruel, this too, will drive our inner narrative, our feelings, our vocabulary, and our output or actions in the world around us.
When we have a desire, say, to make it to VP in the course of our career, our desire will also catalyze thoughts, emotions, words, and actions. And typically, when we desire something, we hold beliefs tied to all the relational objects to that desire itself.
To drive this in, let’s take the desire to become a Vice President. If you desire to become a VP, you likely have some sort of belief about what it means to be a VP. You likely also have some sort of belief about the company that you work for, the industry that you work within, the people that you work with, your capacity or capability as an employee, and what this would mean for your life (to name just a few).
If all of these beliefs are aligned and supportive of one another, you will feel really good about taking action to earn the title of VP. However, if your beliefs are conflicting (with each other, or with the desire to become a VP), then you will feel a tiny, little pit in your stomach and you may or may not ever even try to earn the title of VP.
Worse, you might self-sabotage your ability to earn the title of VP so that you don’t have to address the inner conflict that you may or may not even be aware of.
Yes. Because when we have conflicting beliefs, we are no longer integrated or in alignment. And once we are out of alignment, it’s easy to feel resistant or even stagnant/stuck. Self-sabotage becomes a bestie.
You see, the human experience is no stranger to the intense conflict of differing (often competing) beliefs and desires. And, if there is one massive lightbulb moment that I would like to pass unto you, it’s this:
Integrity doesn’t mean doing the right thing when no one is watching. Integrity, to be integrated, means that whatever you believe on a core level, whatever you desire, whatever you think (consciously or subconsciously), whatever you feel, however you act, and whatever you say are all aligned with each other.
Therefore, you are not acting out of integrity when you are not “doing the right thing when nobody’s watching.” You are acting out of integrity (AKA you get that little pit in your gut) when you are doing something (or desiring something, saying something or even thinking or feeling something) that goes against a fundamental belief that you have.
Where things get sticky, however, are the following:
- When we have competing fundamental beliefs. I.e. I believe that to be good, I have to do XYZ. AND. I believe that XYZ is bad. See how that would get weird?
- When we have competing desires. I.e. I want to work full time and excel in my career. AND. I want to be a stay at home mom.*
- When we have a desire that competes with a fundamental belief and thus will also (likely) compete with another desire. I.e. I believe that to be good, I have to do XYZ. I desire to be good. Therefore, I (think I should) desire to do XYZ. AND what I actually want to do is ABC (which very much seems against XYZ so now I feel conflicted on multiple levels). See how this can get weird and also complex, very quickly?
So if we come back to the example of wanting to become a VP. If you believe that you are a good person and you also believe that only narcissists get to leadership, it’s going to be very hard for you to earn the title of leader in your career. It’s even going to be very hard for you to admit or articulate out loud that you are interested in becoming a VP. It will also be hard for you to genuinely support (aka feel warm fuzzies in your heart for) those around you getting promoted to leadership. And this is in a simplified example.
Us humans, we are so much more complex than this. We are often juggling MANY different beliefs and desires, that are producing a seemingly infinite number of thoughts and feelings that at any given moment can be aligned or competing.
AND, many of these beliefs and desires did not even originate from us! Some of them are inherited from our parents and family, close friends and peers. Yikes!
So what do we do about it?
The goal is not to eradicate all of the conflicting beliefs before we take any action. And the solution is not to ignore the conflict to get to the things that we think we want. Because odds are, whatever it is that you think you want, whatever it is that you think you are capable of, is grossly limited in comparison to what is actually possible for you.
This is why becoming aware of what it is we believe, who it is we think we are, and who it is that we desire to be, are so important (at minimum). When we develop this deep awareness, we have the ability to question the origins, to test if the belief is rooted in solid ground, and to decide if what we believe is actually true and of highest service to ourself and the world around us. (i.e. is it serving you to believe that all leaders are narcissists? Probably yes. How? And, is it serving your highest possibilities and the highest possibilities for the world around you? Probably not. OK, now we might be getting somewhere).
When we can do this, we start to resolve the internal conflict that keeps us from fulfilling our full potential. We become much more equipped to make big life decisions with ease and confidence (hello, because we are able to act in integrity!), and we start to pave our own roads going forward. We leave behind the path already traveled, along with whoever it is that we thought we needed to be, trading who we thought we were for who it is that we actually are.
Fuck VP. You can be CEO if you want to. President, even. Beyond.
Whatever it is that you most deeply desire, get to the root of it. Understand what you think you know about it, and decide to hold on to the belief that is actually true, both about yourself and about everything that touches your deepest desires. Then, you will clear your own path, unlocking your fullest potential as you step forward toward your dreams.
Don’t believe me? Or, not sure what it is that you believe and/or desire? Ask yourself the following questions. Answer them in a journal or open the discussion with a safe and trustworthy friend.
- What do I believe to be true about myself? Who am I?
- What are 5 things that I grew up hearing about myself? Are they true? How have they shaped who I think I am? How have they served me? How have they limited me?
- What are some of my desires?
- And, what do I believe to be true about my desires? For example: what do I believe to be true about business, entrepreneurship, leadership, money, corporate, hermitism, teaching, love, romantic relationships, becoming a parent, etc. etc. etc.
- What are 5 things that I grew up hearing (and/or commonly hear) about [insert topic from above]? How have they served me? How have they limited me? What do I actually believe to be true about this?
This article is just a scratch at the surface on the topics of identity, self concept, and integrity. If you want to dive even deeper, I invite you to reach out or book a session to uncover your deepest desires and what may be holding you back.