Hey there, it's Susan Peirce Thompson and welcome to the Weekly Vlog. So this Vlog might be longer than Vlogs have been lately. I was actually looking at our Vlog length lately and it's just always 10, 12, 15 minutes, 10, 12, 15 minutes, right in that range and I was thinking, "Didn't Vlogs used to be 20 minutes, 30 minutes?" I remember a Vlog that was 53 minutes once. And it's interesting, I think I've had just more contained topics lately, not Vlogs where I am processing or sort of pouring out my heart around a lesson that I learned that was hard for me.
I think I was struggling a lot in the olden days of the Vlogs, 2015, -16, -17, -18. Just a lot of turmoil and struggle in my personal life as I grappled with Bright Line Eating sort of exploding and taking over my life and my food and all that. This Vlog's going to be a little bit more reminiscent of the olden days with struggle because I've been struggling intensely with something the last week, and I want to share it with you.
I think it'll be helpful to share because it's about a personality trait of mine that is incredibly problematic for me, and I feel like a lot of us probably have these. In 12-Step parlance, they call it shortcomings or defects of character, there's the seven deadly sins, however you want to look at these aspects of ourselves that are problematic, are something that we struggle with.
For me, it's ego, grandiosity, self-absorption, tooting my own horn, whatever you want to call it. It's pride, right? One of the seven deadliest for sure, pride. It goes way back to my childhood. When I think about my childhood, I think, definitely, being an only child had a lot to do with it. I definitely had the feeling as a child that the world revolved around me, that I was the center of the universe of all the people that I loved and cared most about. I had a mom and a dad who were divorced, and I would spend four nights with my mom and three nights with my dad every week, and so they would get a break from me.
And then I would come back to their house, they'd be all refreshed and ready to just focus on me a hundred percent again. And my experience was that everyone was always focused on me, a hundred percent. And my grandma, who was so devoted and loving and wise and generous and amazing, I was her only grandchild, and so she was focused on me, and I just went through childhood that way. I think I was also just born vain, grandiose, self-absorbed. I think whether I was born an addict or not, I'm not sure, but I definitely have a lot of the traits of an addict inherently. And then I got into recovery and I learned, oh, this is pretty common for people in recovery, right? In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says selfishness, self-centeredness, that we think is the root of our troubles. And it was very painful for me because I learned as a child, you'll be alone if you come across as too grandiose and self-absorbed, if you toot your own horn.
I remember my dad trying to explain what "tooting your own horn" was when I was a kid trying to explain that to me because I was intellectually smart, but I was not emotionally smart as a kid. I did not have the "je ne sais quoi" that other kids seemed to have around social relating. I did not make friends easily at all, especially in a school setting. I just tended to repel people because I just sat in front and raised my hand all the time and talked so much in class, and they got so tired of me in the classroom, just wanted me to be quiet. So my dad would try to explain, "You don't have to raise your hand just because you know the answer, not always." Like, oh, God bless. So I came into recovery and I learned this archetype of the megalomaniac with an inferiority complex, and I thought, "Oh, I resemble that notion."
So I started to inventory myself through the 12 Steps, and I would go in step four and dive in and try to unpack my pride and my ego, and then in step six and seven, ask God to remove them, step nine, make amends. And I remember years of doing that, the years where I was a professor and I was getting tenure and David and I were married and we were having kids and starting to raise our family, and I remember cycles of working the 12 Steps and feeling like I was getting no traction with my ego. It just felt as entrenched as ever.
And I had the awareness one day that as a professor, I was standing in front of the room teaching a class and trying to keep thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred 20-year-olds interested for an hour or an hour and a half. And I could feel the way I would make myself larger to do that, to be entertaining, to command the room, to own the space, to captivate their attention, and I could feel that my efforts at getting more humble felt it cross purposes to that, and I felt stuck with it.
I could feel why I wasn't letting go of my ego, the fear that I had of being humble and smaller, that how that would not feel like it would work for my career, and I didn't know where to go with it. I didn't know what to do. Then there was that morning, in my morning meditation, where I had the experience, it felt like the universe was telling me to write a book called Bright Line Eating. And I had this vision of myself on the Today Show, and I had this image of this book coming out into the world and helping people. I could feel the prayers of all the people who were praying.
And to this day, I don't know if it was praying right then in that moment or praying throughout time and space, well, certainly throughout space because they weren't right there in my bedroom with me as I was meditating, but yeah, I could feel these prayers hitting my soul with a wave of desperation and pleading, pleading for their weight and their food problems to be lifted, to be solved, for God to help them.
And I could feel how the information that I had to share would have such a positive impact, and I set out to write this book. And as I did, I remember very distinctly having the awareness that if this book became as influential as it seemed like it might be from that vision that I'd had, this could present yet more complications for my quest for humility.
And I remember dropping to my knees one day and just saying, "God, I don't know what you're doing to me here. Is this a joke? Is this a joke? Are you testing me? Are you teasing me? You know that I have been praying for humility and praying for freedom from the bondage of self for so long in my spiritual practice, and now it feels like you're setting me on a path that would result in a bigger persona, a public image that I'm not equipped to handle. So what gives God?"
And I remember getting a sense of peace around that. I don't know how to explain it. The sense that when people shared with me their, "Oh, you're Susan Peirce Thompson. Oh, thank you for writing this book," That I would be able to just duck to the left and let their praise fly over my right shoulder and not stick to me, that it really fundamentally wasn't going to have anything to do with me personally.
And I think my fear of my ego getting bigger through this Bright Line Eating project that I was embarking on, my fear of that served me really well for many years. And then I think what happened is that I stopped being afraid and I stopped being mindful. And then what happened was this week.
I'm actually on step four again. I still work the 12 Steps, I love the 12 Steps, and I'm on step four again, which means I'm inventorying myself, my life, my wrongs, my behaviors, my resentments. I'm inventorying and I'm writing. And I was writing about a relationship that had ended badly about 10 years ago, a relationship with a woman that I was mentoring and it soured really badly and largely because of my ego. And as I was writing about that, I could feel this issue with my ego coming up again in my face. I hadn't felt it in quite a while.
And meanwhile, every time I would go into Facebook, I was smacked in the face with people in the Bright Line Eating Community, Bright Lifers being really fed up with me, with how I was marketing the book "ON THIS BRIGHT DAY." Not all of them, but a few, like really vocal, really angry, disgusted, fed up people saying intense things like, "I am so sick of how you're marketing this book in my face with your ego and your grandiosity," That, "Enough is enough and I'm out of here," basically.
And I thought, whoa, really? I mean, I take a fair bit of hating, whatever, like everybody does who has a public persona on Facebook, Instagram, whatever. People are going to come and say nasty things to you, that's just given, and mostly, I dismiss that and don't focus on it. You just can't.
But I could feel that there was something in what these people were saying that I needed to hear and I made a long post in the Bright Lifers community encouraging people to spread the word about the book. And the way I phrased it was so misunderstood. And I reread it and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I just blew it. I said this really wrong. What I was meaning to say was, 'Hey everybody, we've sold about 2,000 books. Our collective goal is 10,000 books. The first 2,000 were easy because there's always some people who are really paying attention, who are really right there, but that's the easy part, and then the task becomes reaching the attention of all the people for whom they're in session with their life and they're not paying attention, and that's normal. We already reached the core loyal fans, now we have to reach everybody else.'"
And what people heard was, "Oh, really Susan Peirce Thompson? I'm not loyal because I haven't bought your book?" Basically a big "F you."
And I was like, "Oh God, that's not what I meant. Oh dear." So I edited the post to take that out, to reword it, to say what I meant to say. I mentioned in the Vlog that, "Hey, here's the reason why it actually does matter to our movement that this book is a New York Times bestseller versus not. To the world, that does mean something, and it will help reach more people that are suffering if the book gets a stamp of approval like that."
So anyway. So I'm writing in my fourth step, I'm seeing this stuff in Facebook, and suddenly I get the feeling that I had when I was a kid of like, "Oh, Susan, if you come across as too big, as grandiose, as self-absorbed, as tooting your own horn, you will be alone." That is what I felt as a kid was, I was too full of myself and I had no friends, and that was just a childhood reaction.
So I went to my spiritual advisor and I was in this really deflated state, and she said, "You know, from a Buddhist perspective, there's three issues that we need to be aware of. One is attachment, one is aversion, and then the last one is indifference." And she said, "Your issue right now is your aversion. You've seen this thing about yourself, but now you're having this aversion to it." And it was sort of like a mental binge. It was sort of like, "Oh, let me now feel like a total piece of shit. Let me now feel really low." And she's like, "Careful because..." I was sort of like, "Are you saying that the issue here, in this instance, is not my ego, but my aversion to seeing my ego?" And she said, "Yeah, at the moment, that's what I'm seeing." It was like, "Oh, that's interesting."
I think that we can do that a lot to ourselves when we see something in ourselves that we don't like, the potential for a shame spiral right there, for a mental binge about a persnickety chronic aspect of ourselves that we struggle with. That trap is there. We can fall into that trap, and I did, for a moment, I fell into that trap.
So I scheduled an emergency session with a therapist that I used to work with, a parts therapist. He's amazing. He's trained in Internal Family Systems, and he was such a miracle. He had just had a cancellation that day for an hour and a half, and I had an appointment I could move, and so I met with him for an hour and a half.
And we ended up finding all of the parts throughout my life that are associated with this grandiosity, and I realized, ultimately, I developed this big persona as a kid because I was alone so much. I didn't have friends, I was an only child, there were no kids in my neighborhood, and I was playing by myself. And so I was my entertainer, I was my fun thing. It was it, it was me, I was entertaining me or nobody was. Oh, God bless me. So that was really helpful to see. So easy to have compassion for a little five-year-old kiddo who's just developing big ways to keep herself entertained.
So here I want to share, finally, the lessons that I've learned through this because I'm guessing you're not perfect like me, and guessing you may have one or more things about yourself that you struggle with that sometimes really wallop you over the head.
So here are the lessons that I've uncovered through this. The first is a saying we have in Bright Line Eating. It's one of the Four S's of Simply Rezoom, right? It's "Seek the Lesson."
When I had all this unfolding in front of me, I really stayed in action talking with my spiritual advisor, taking it to my phone calls with friends, saying, "Here's what's going on for me, what are your thoughts?" Scheduling that therapy session, continuing to write about it in my fourth step. I stayed in action seeking the lesson, knowing that this was happening FOR me, not TO me, and that good would come of this.
Ultimately, it's painful when I get chopped off at the knees. It happens often, it happens often, and I need it, and it always ends up good. I end up being a person that I like better and respect better, and a person who's more fit for the company of others, who can more share space and air with others, who doesn't need to take up all the space and the air in the room.
So seek the lesson, keep at it. Keep at it. And then this notion of... When we have an aspect of ourselves that we want to release, bludgeoning it out of ourselves with a sledgehammer likely isn't going to work. When I was a professor and I could feel that something about my bigness in the world was being of service in some way, bludgeoning my ego out of me with a sledgehammer wouldn't work because a part of me would hold onto it, right? It requires a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, like a careful cutting away of certain aspects.
Like, can I cut away the part of me that is so full of myself and talkative that at a dinner party of six people, friends, six people sitting around a table, I will talk for half of the minutes? Which is not the person I want to be. Can I cut that away and be someone who can, "Remember, Susan, you don't need to say everything that you're thinking at this dinner party. This is fabulous conversation. Make space for others."? Can I cut away that? Because I don't want that. I don't want to be the person who dominates like that.
So with a scalpel, I can absolutely let go of aspects of this trait while not, perhaps, bludgeoning away the whole thing because there may be aspects of it that are useful. Third lesson is, we talk about peeling the onion in recovery, that we get down to a more core lesson. And each time I circle around with this ego of mine, I reach something that I never reached before.
So the inner layer of the onion this time was that therapy session that I did where I learned the parts of myself that have developed as protective parts, protection for myself that developed a big way in the world to protect myself against loneliness and isolation. And the irony, of course, is that then that largess ended up making me more lonely in school. Such an irony. But it's beautiful.
As we circle back around to these lessons over and over again, we get to a deeper and deeper place with them, a deeper and deeper place. So what I'm left with for myself around this ego piece is that I can see even more clearly now, even more than when I was a professor, that there are aspects of my calling in the world that do require me to be large, big, but they don't require me to be large and filled with self. That's not helpful. Large in the sense of creating a big space, a big container, and inviting others in to do their work here and to have their own experience here.
So it's a service-oriented large. And my spiritual advisor said, "Remember, Susan, humility is not being small. Humility is being right sized." And so, I need to make sure that my efforts in Bright Line Eating are just first, last, and always about service. Writing the books I write is a service, it's the least expensive, least financially laden way for people to access the Bright Transformation.
So I write books, I spend time and I spend time marketing them. And yes, I talk about them in emails and videos, and maybe poorly, and maybe filled with self. God bless me. Help me to turn that around because it's not about me that this book is coming out into the world, it's about the people who can wake up every morning and read a passage from ON THIS BRIGHT DAY and get yet a bit more nourishment, put just another deposit into their bank for Brightness, their trust of Brightness in their lives so that they can live free from the tyranny, the tyranny of food obsession and compulsion.
So I write books, I shoot videos, I create programs, I create spaces where people can come, gather, be, and have a Bright Transformation. It's a service. And I was thinking about how I created that bonus of the three people who buy the most books will come to Rochester, New York, get an invitation to come visit me for three days and two nights. And I was checking myself and noticing how when I created that bonus, I was in such a self-absorbed state that I didn't spend any time thinking about what kind of transformative experience I was going to create for them.
I was thinking they'll get to come see me. Having, again, God bless me, just believed my own press clippings, inflated myself with the persona of "SPT," but the turnaround on that is quick because I can have compassion for myself and remind myself, "Susan, you can create a powerful, transformative experience where it will be worth it for them to come and spend three days and two nights for them."
Anyway, I'm done talking about this. God bless me. And yes, I am afraid that someone will comment and say, "Here you are talking for 20 or 30 minutes about yourself. The Vlog is usually 12 minutes, but of course you get talking about yourself as if we care," Blah, blah, blah.
And the irony of, the longer Vlog is the one where you're talking about yourself and your ego. And those fears, those stories, those are ego too. I can let that go. All I can do is just show up here and do the best I can. It really is all I can do. And be careful not to fall into the pit of the shame spiral of, "I have this issue, I am egotistical, have always been. I don't like it about myself, and that's okay. I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay. We'll just be here together, doing our best."
And that's the weekly Vlog. I'll see you next week.