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Whether we are aware of it or not, most of us have hidden agendas. An agenda is
an underlying perception of who we are, our place in the world, and how we present
ourselves to others. It is reflected in the masks that most of us often wear, as
we display ourselves to the world. Unfortunately, we risk loosing our authentic
selves in this process.
(1) “I'M GOOD”
Within this agenda, you seem to need to be the hero of all of your stories. Your
narrations tend to feature those values that you hold most dear. For instance, if
you view yourself as a particularly "giving" person, you will often tell stories
that highlight yourself in action... taking in a down and out friend, rescuing a
sick puppy, volunteering your time in a soup kitchen.
We all try to put our best face forward and attempt to cover-up what we consider
to be less than perfect traits. Revealing only the good stuff is one way we have
of protecting ourselves, not trusting that others will accept us, warts and all.
The "I'm Good" theme tends to create a distance between yourself and others and
frankly, can become tiresome and boring to listen to constantly.
ANTIDOTE: I have both positive and negative traits and it is OK. I do not have to
(2) "I'M GOOD (BUT YOU'RE NOT)"
In this approach, you prove how wonderful you are at the expense of others. For
example, "I check in with my mother every day, even though my siblings don't bother
to." Or, "I always make sure to clean up after myself in the cafeteria, though I
notice most people don't." Usually, this behavior comes from an inner sense of unworthiness……a
feeling not being “good enough."
People listening to this running theme can't help but wonder whether they will eventually
be used as lead-ins to how "good" you are versus them. It can lead to suspicion
and defensive moves on their parts.
ANTIDOTE: I do not have to make you feel bad in order to feel good. I am “good enough”.
(3) "YOU'RE GOOD (BUT I'M NOT)"
This particular agenda can play out in anything from simple flattery to downright
worship of people who are perceived as "more than." Comments like "you're so smart,
I wish I had your brains," or "you're so organized, I'm totally scattered," can
be seen as manipulating others into giving or doing or even befriending you. Additionally,
by jumping the gun with self-deprecating comments, the next person is left without
recourse. This one-down position often generates pity and heads off rejection. It
also serves as an excellent excuse for not taking stock of yourself and improving.
ANTIDOTE: It is OK to show my strengths. I can show my abilities and still have
people like me.
(4) "I'M HELPLESS, I SUFFER"
Here we are talking about the chronic victim. All anecdotes highlight a life of
unfairness, pain and suffering. Subsequently, any sense of responsibility for your
life is relinquished because you are not responsible. Possible solutions are quickly
dismissed. There is no breaking free of this cycle of immobility and pain.
Often two people may begin a relationship based on a mutual "I'm helpless, I suffer"
scenario. Horror stories are shared and a one-upmanship dialogue prevails. Such
a scenario does not bode well for a future, healthy relationship.
ANTIDOTE: There are painful parts to my life and joyous parts and it is OK to share
(5) "I'M BLAMELESS"
It is always someone else's fault. By constantly putting it on the next person,
you are not taking responsibility for your own life. For example, "he didn't call
me back because he's unreliable." Jumping to that conclusion without any inner self-reflection
absolves you from considering your role as to why he did not call you back. Basically,
it is always someone else's fault; someone else made you do it; you are not to blame!
ANTIDOTE: I am not perfect. Nobody is. I can take responsibility for decisions I
(6) "I'M FRAGILE"
The "fragile" message, which can be conveyed through words, tone or facial expression,
is "be nice to me... I've been hurt enough... treat me gently... I can't handle
it." This demeanor begs for protection and complicity in avoiding the reality of
life and life's challenges.
While the "damsel in distress" role can initially be seen as attractive, it ultimately
ends in resentment and anger.
ANTIDOTE: Things may be a little scary for me, but I am strong. I can handle it.
(7) “I'M TOUGH"
In search of admiration and approval, you live the life of superwoman or superman,
accomplishing in one day what others may take three days to do. You are quick to
run through your laundry list of accomplishments, leaving everyone in awe. With
your schedule, people wouldn't dare ask you to do one more thing because you are
already beyond busy. You enjoy being seen as stronger, tougher, faster and invincible.
Though you want to be seen as someone who is totally in control and self-sufficient,
this posture often hides a fragile ego, fearful of rejection.
ANTIDOTE: I know I’m strong but it’s OK to let down my guard; it’s OK to ask for
(8) "I KNOW IT ALL"
Finally, you may see yourself as the perpetual lecturer, always in need of a soapbox
from which to share your ideas and wisdom. Not because you are necessarily smarter
than anyone else, but because you have the need to prove that you are, by way of
moralizing, preaching or teaching.
These individuals are often impressive in front of a much younger "audience," but
peers will find this behavior boring and feel unheard and excluded in their presence.
ANTIDOTE: I can learn more from listening than from talking. I can be interested
in what others have to say.
PURPOSE OF THE AGENDAS:
Each and every one of us is born with an inherent need to be loved and cared for.
When we feel unlovable, unworthy, we “create” masks or coping strategies, in the
form of agendas, in the hope that it will make us more lovable, more acceptable.
We tend to think that if only we can prove that we are “good enough”, better than
everyone else, blameless, etc., we will be able to get the love, the attention,
the caring, that we so desperately want. Unfortunately, this inevitably backfires.
Our need to be “perfect”, our fear of letting ourselves be “seen”, only serves to
chase away the very love that we are looking for. It is only when we allow others
to see the “good" and the “not so good” parts of ourselves, when we feel safe enough
to expose our authentic selves, that we can truly have a chance at creating a meaningful,
loving relationship with another.
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