How Do I Feel Worthy Enough?
Lessons in power, privilege, and potential from ghosts, ancestors, and paper cranes
The day after 9/11 this year, I found myself headed to a coworking event space, just a few blocks north of the memorial site. I’d stopped to notice the paper cranes carefully placed beside the names of people of Japanese ancestry who’d died in the attacks 18 years ago. As it was 18 years ago, the weather was perfect.
I’d arrived early for the evening’s event. It was to be a talk and chat; I’d prepared a few slides as talking points about the ways in which our patterns of belief shape and inform our leadership styles. The audience, about 100 people, had gathered partly for education and partly for the social life of shared conversation, wine, and cheese.
Following the talk, my host and I sat in stools and riffed. He asked about managing time, and being more productive, and I was, perhaps, annoyingly mischievous, not giving him the answer he wanted but probing instead on the ways it served him to always be busy. I smiled. I’d been in this place before, where the client wants nothing more than for me to tell them what to do, and I adroitly resist the impulse and nudge them to find their own way.
“I see how my subroutine tells me over and over again I am not worthy. What I want to know is, how do I stop it?”
We then expanded the conversation, fielding questions from the audience. Each question was more revealing than the last; each sparked an intimacy that, I suspect, few gingerly holding their wine glasses expected. Finally, my host announced the end of the questions. Then I saw her more clearly. A woman a few rows back from the stage had steadily raised her hand with each round and my host had, consciously or not, I’ll never know, overlooked her. I chose to see her. I said, “No. We have one more,” and pointed to her.
She stood; a little shaky. Emotion seemed to hold her body even as she held her face steady.
“What I’d like to know is this,” she began.
“I see my subroutine…” she said referring to my term for the piece of programming…