How much are you who you say you are?

How much do you live your life in honesty and integrity? Are you who you say you are? It’s a very useful question, all the more relevant in the light of the recent scandals in public life. It’s a good time to check with ourselves. Do we practice for ourselves what we insist of others?

We’ve had a week of devasting revelations about the UK banking industry, whose reputation must have reached a new nadir. Now we have news that the bankers were dishonestly fixing their interbank lending rate, the LIBOR, and artificially inflating their performance. The press have been full of words like honesty, integrity, corruption in corporate culture, and trust. There have also been wider comments about the conduct of the press itself in the light of the News of the World hacking scandal, and its interlinking with politicians right up to the Prime Minister of the day. Not long before we had the MPs’ own scandal of dishonest expenses claims. Let’s hope that enquiries into all this have generated a healthy self-searching amongst people in public life.

To enquire of ourselves too is important. It’s not uncommon for people to practice one thing for themselves and expect another of others. Moreover, people may hold a set of beliefs about being in integrity but fail to practice it, or find reasons why these needn’t apply in certain areas of their lives. The law court records will be full of stories of people who’ve lived like that. The classic example is of course the person who in public is the paragon of virtue, like for example a priest or the judge, but who in their private lives abuse others or themselves. It’s that while the shadow in us is unexplored, owned and dealt with it must find a way to leak out and express itself in some way. People who work with others in a helping role particularly have this challenge, in that otherwise their shadow side can impact their dealings with others. This is one big reason why therapists, coaches and others should receive their own personal development: go for yourself first on the journey that you aspire to lead others along.

Hence it is hardly surprising that there is a howl of outrage when more banking misdeeds are exposed, since at essence people need to trust bankers with their money. So it’s a breakdown in trust. However, this crisis of trust in relation to the powerful is much wider, with concern being expressed about the powerful and wealthy in general. It’s as though the established order itself is in question, since somehow it hasn’t worked for huge numbers of people in many countries. Again, this will have it’s impact at the micro-level too, in a crisis of trust in others and in established arrangements. “Will I be OK,” people wonder, “and will I be OK with this person?” Safety and security are bottom-line concerns, at the base of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. When feeling threatened we revert to these thoughts and feelings.

Yet, this can be dealt with, when we remember to have faith, trust and belief in ourselves, confidence in ourselves, self confidence. Our own “failings” and those of others are ego behaviours, not who we are. Here again is another challenge to re-member.