Motivator or Disabler: Which are You?

Throughout our lives we all come across people that we really like being around. When we are around them we seem to feel up, confident, encouraged and safe. For many, we never look any deeper than just how we feel. Just the fact that we feel good when we’re around them is enough to keep us satisfied with our rapport with them and coming back for more. These are the people I will call the motivators.

Then there are those people we tend to avoid like the plague. We see them coming and we literally turn and move in a direction that takes us out of their purview. All we know is that after we deal with them we feel, deflated, depleted and discouraged. They seem to have a way of making us feel tense, doubtful, limited and sometimes even paranoid or aggravated. I call these people the disablers because they all seem to deflate or undermine anything we feel, say or do.

As a small codicil, I will also add that some of these people have a way of making us feel that we either owe them some sort of attention, we should feel sorry for them or even that we might feel obligated to fix whatever situation they may be distressed by.

Then, there are other people who circle within and around our radar who have a minimal effect on us as they might be benign, unimportant or superfluous as we have not yet had any dealings with them of any consequence. I will call these inconsequentials. Since we have minimal connection to the inconsequentials, I will not cover them. But we enjoy and seek out the motivators, and since we have the most difficulty recognizing and dealing with the disablers, I will cover them first.

There are many ploys that the disablers use, and I have given them each an applicable name, so you may separate a recognizable modus operandi for each of their rapports. Their motive for acting the way they do will, essentially, all be the same. This I will explain later after we have covered a few and you can begin to see a similar underlying motivation in their patterns.

The first is the ruler hawker. This disabler gets you on two fronts: past and future. When you tell them what you’ve done or are going to do, they cite all the rules and protocols that you should follow or should have followed before your action takes place with the understanding that it would only then be successful and “proper.” They may say this directly or quote themselves has having followed these rules themselves while also implying or outright stating that it is your responsibility or duty to do the same. The importance of the action you intended or have already taken is now reduced to the rules rather than the excitement or pleasure of the action itself. In doing this the rule hawker believes they have acquired power or superiority over you. All it does for you is deflate your enthusiasm, make you feel like you’ve missed something and convince you that the action you took or are about to take is somehow inadequate or improper.

The next disabler is the problem seeker. This is a future oriented assault. This disabler looks at what you intend to do and tells you what could interfere or go wrong with it. What you might hear from them is, “You know what might happen if you…?” or “How are you going to handle…?” or “What will you do if…?” or “How will so and so feel about what you’re going to do?” They pose so many contradicting possibilities that you begin to think that your intended action hasn’t a prayer for success. You come away from a conversation with them discouraged, dis-enthused and doubting the validity of what you’re intending to do. This disabler will often cover themselves by saying, “I’m just offering some constructive criticism” justifying their assault and preventing feeling their own guilt in knocking you down.

The next disabler is the disqualifier. This disabler is happy just to poke holes in whatever you’ve done, what you’re about to do or what you’re even thinking about doing. You’ll receive comments like “You can’t do that because…” or “They won’t let you do that…” or “You don’t have enough (money, time, resources, support, courage, stamina, etc…) to pull this off.” Everything you verbalize receives a circumstance or condition that is likely not to be met by you or anyone helping you.

The next disabler is the responsibility assigner. This can be applied to past, present or future circumstances. What you will hear from them is “You know that if you’re going to do that you’re going to have to take care of….?” or “Now that you’ve done that you’ll have to answer to…?” or “Now that you’ve chosen to do that you know you have to…?” or “This is something you should have thought about before you…?” This type of ploy seems to be designed to make you regret whatever you’ve done, what you’re doing or about to do. This also is a ploy, conscious or unconscious, that makes the verbalizer feel as though they have power over you or that they know better than you.

The next disabler is the expert echo. This can also be applied to past, present or future circumstances.This disabler tells you what they’ve read, heard or have been shown by professionals that assumes authority over whatever endeavor you’re dealing with. The result is designed to make you feel inadequate to your task.You will hear things like “In college they showed me that…” or “The guy on TV was from so and so and he showed how he became successful with…” or “My doctor said that the only way to overcome that is to…” and many other statements couched with the implication that they know the best way to do whatever you’re doing, have done or are going to do and that it will only work if you follow their lead and “expert” advice.

The next disabler is the Justifier. This also applies to past, present and future. This disabler makes you feel that you must justify or validate what you’ve done, are doing or are about to do. From them you will hear “Why would you want to do that?” or “You did what? Why?” or “What were you thinking?” or “Are you kidding me? You did that?” Their goal is to put you on the defensive, deferent to their authority and make you feel that you must justify your reasoning to them. This is de-energizing, demoralizing and depleting in its effect on your enthusiasm and motivation.

The last disabler I will cover is the sacrificer. This disabler makes it seem that what they recommend, or proffer, is given at their own expense and that you should feel that you must acquiesce, so that their “sacrifice” might not have been done in vain. We often see a variation of this disabler in a parent saying, “I’m doing this for your own good” or “it’s only because I love you that I do this for you.” Changing the focus toward the disabler’s sacrifice distracts the child from perceiving any inadequacies that the adult thinks might be exposed if their “sacrifice” isn’t acknowledged and accepted. If the receiver of the “sacrifice” is an adult, they will usually feel obligated to accept what is given at the risk of being seen as unkind or selfish if they don’t.

All these disablers offer a few common threads. First, and even if they’re objected to, they consciously belief that what they are offering is helpful. There may also be an underlying desire for recognition or gratitude. Second, as humans we all want to have an influence over the people in the world we live in. Sometimes this influence overlaps into a need for control as a compensation for feeling ineffective or inadequate in our own daily lives. Third, if others can convince us to align with the limits that they’ve created for themselves, they can feel safe and validated when they’re around us. The deeper side of this third thread is that if we don’t align with their ideas and methods, they may think that we could expose what they feel inadequate about and then they’ll have to deal with some sort of shame for being less than what they think they should be or are. It doesn’t matter if the exposure is real or imaginary. The effect of the feeling will remain the same.

All three of these threads, whether conscious or unconscious, are based on looking to others for approval or acceptance. More precisely, values that emanate from external sources are seen by them as having more validity than their own personal experience.

There can be many variations of disabler, especially, since their characteristics are often paired in different combinations. These seven disablers and the three threads they follow are not only easy to spot but very easy for us to slip into when we’re feeling the least bit under confident. The idea of following an external authority over our own inner compass brings us to an interesting divide.

In living our lives, we live from one of two perspectives. Either we believe that the world controls our fate and that we are not responsible for our circumstances or that we choose our own fate and we are accountable for our circumstances. When we see the world as responsible for our fate, we employ what psychology calls an exterior locus of control. When we believe that we control our fate we employ and interior locus of control. As humans, we usually have a mix of the two depending on what circumstances we are the most sensitive or insecure about and how much confidence we may have in ourselves at the moment.

Generally, those who have low or no self-confidence and who ascribe to an external locus of control believe that they must either respond to the authority of others or they will have told themselves that they are above the authority of others. Contemporarily, this is the land of should’s, supposed to’s and those who believe that they will never be able to live up to what the world expects or requires of them.

Consequently, aligning with external rules and protocols then gives the people who follow them a perceived permission to absolve themselves of any accountability if what they are told to do becomes improper or ineffective. Offering what we’ve learned ourselves may come from the heart but offering what others have told us is proper or appropriate comes from a defensive feeling of based on responsibility or subservience. Conversely, if we feel good about ourselves, we have no need to influence or change others. This brings us to the motivators. Their authority is, essentially, internal and based on their own experience rather than what they’ve been taught or told. They may recognize and follow what authority may be externally appropriate but generally follow their own inner promptings for what they choose to do.

From motivators we hear things like “good job” or “now, you’ve got it” or “you can do it” or “I knew you had it in you” or if from a parent “I’m proud of you. ”Motivators emphasize support and the positive and encouraging side of tasks done by the people they encounter. They uplift and energize us by the things that they say. We have no call  to feel ashamed, inadequate or undeserving. On the contrary, disablers garner just that; shame, feelings of inadequacy and undeservedness but most of all, they deflate the enthusiasm and willingness of their “victims” to meet the trials and challenges of daily life. Because most of the disabler’s activities are proffered as being “constructive criticism” while even stating that they’re “just being helpful” or that they “just want to make sure that you’re aware,” they easily slip in and sabotage the confidence of the people that they are claiming to “help.”

Motivators follow their own authority. That is, their personal experience serves as the validator for what they feel or think is appropriate for them. Because they have learned to have confidence in their own counsel and experience, they feel no need to assert themselves over others or to validate themselves by seeking external approval. Because they feel comfortable in their own skin, they are able to allow themselves to give compliments and encouragement to others should they have a mind or heart to. Odds are, they are giving from the heart but not for any recognition or from any need to cloak their own perceived inadequacy through “service.”

Disablers come from a place of perceived self-inadequacy or shame over their own experience or lack of it. Almost all of this is unconscious. If a disabler is able to convince you to agree with their “recommendations” or cautions, attention is distracted away from their own history and they feel less threat for risk of exposure. They believe that this will keep them safe from outside judgment while also giving them the perception of power over you. By acting this way, they are, essentially, doing to you what they have been trained into, namely, following others to gain approval as a valued and respected (loved) individual. Another benefit for the disabler is that if they can convince you to follow their “advice,” they feel needed and useful; something they likely didn’t feel when they were growing up.

Whether you feel that you’re a motivator or a disabler, please understand that we all go through both of these at some time in our lives but eventually settle into, primarily, one or the other depending on how we feel about ourselves at the time and where we’ve learned to draw our authority from. Generally, those who look outside themselves for validation, and whose confidence in them depends on the responses of others, are more likely to become disablers. It’s important to understand that many people who swear that they trust themselves unconsciously only align themselves with what others around them espouse as the truth and what is “right” and “proper.” They honestly believe that what they are deciding is by virtue of their own guidance. Those who have learned to become confident in their own perceptions and who validate themselves through their own experience gravitate more toward being a motivator. The urgings of others have little effect on what they decide is true for them. The key to becoming more one than the other lies in our ability, or inability, to trust and validate ourselves based on our own experience rather than what we’re told or taught by others. Currently, our educational system is almost totally geared toward encouraging children to look outside of themselves to know what is “right” and “proper” for their clan or social group. The well-being of their own heart never enters the picture and is nowhere to be found in the new curriculums. The outgrowth of this is political correctness.

These days, following our own inner leanings as opposed to addressing ourselves solely to needs of others has become personal characteristic that induces a label of selfishness leading to the withdrawal of support from our clan or social group. It takes courage and a strong heart to overcome the need to belong rather than to align ourselves with our own intuition and inner urgings, especially, if following our own drummer denies our group’s expectations of us. This form of social blackmail has depressed and silenced many a good soul.

To be a disabler means that your Self-Trust has been shut down and that you are letting the world tell you who you are and who you should be. To be a motivator means that you have a strong heart, listen to yourself, and trust yourself and that you don’t need to convince others that your way is best in order to validate your own self-worth.

 

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2 thoughts on “Motivator or Disabler: Which are You?

  1. Linda M.

    Great article, John! Powerful and concrete conceptual reminders that I am going to keep in mind in my daily interactions with people....asking the question in my mind before I speak: Does what I am about to say make me a Motivator or Disabler? Thank you for the wisdom, my friend!

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