Full transcript of author and Stanford lecturer Shirzad Chamine’s TEDx Talk: Know Your Inner Saboteurs at TEDxStanford conference. Shirzad is the author of the bestseller book: Positive Intelligence.
Shirzad Chamine – Author & Stanford lecturer
I’d like to start by making one thing very clear. I want you to know that I am absolutely, incredibly and totally awesome!
Now, before you start thinking that I have a problem with humility, which I don’t, let me add something important.
I believe you too are awesome. Is that better now?
But I also believe based on my research that there is — no, it’s me, OK. But I also believe based on my research that there is an 80% probability that you have no idea how truly magnificent you really are. You used to know, but you’ve forgotten.
I’m here to show you the science behind how you gradually forget your true self, your true potential, and how you can rediscover and unleash an even happier and more capable version of yourself: the true magnificent you! Is that cool? Great.
I lecture on this topic right here at Stanford, and my work is based on extensive research in neuroscience and psychology.
I’d like to show you my most important evidence proving that you used to know how amazing you really are. Would you like to see that evidence?
Well, here it is. Do you think she knows how magnificent she is? Absolutely. She is radiating with it.
What about him? Do you think he knows how magnificent he is? Every strand of his hair knows how magnificent he is.
And what about these two? I know they know, because they are my precious kids, Tisa and Kion,
The point is this: you were born as a unique and magnificent being and you used to know it.
But what about this one? Do you think he knows how magnificent he is? He actually has no clue; he used to know, but by the time this picture is taken, he no longer remembers.
By the way, this is me. Adorable, right? I told you.
So why and how did I begin to forget who I really am?
I was born a happy kid in a troubled household. I lived with four siblings and my parents in a two-bedroom apartment in a ghetto.
My father was scary, angry and unpredictably violent. My mother was always running around terrified. I wasn’t getting much love.
Now, since my life was in my parents’ hands, it would’ve been absolutely terrifying for me to admit that they were flawed.
So, instead, a voice started forming in my head and saying that my parents were perfect and the reason they didn’t love me was, because I was unworthy of their love.
I now call this voice the “Judge”. Of course, once the Judge started judging me, it also had to start judging everybody else around me so that I would be less terrified.
I grew up completely unaware that this Judge character was beginning to take control in my mind. I only discovered it 27 years later in an MBA class, right here at Stanford.
We were divided into groups of 12 MBA students sitting in a circle, sharing our emotions openly. One of my classmates in the circle turned to me and said nervously, “Shirzad, this is really hard for me to tell you, but I often feel harshly judged by you, and it really bothers me.”
I turned to him and said, “John, thank you so much for telling me this. This is very helpful feedback.”
In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Well, of course, you feel judged by me, you idiot! You are the biggest loser in this group. How else do you expect me to think of you?”
But then a second person, a third person and a fourth person in the group said exactly the same thing.
I kept thanking them politely while thinking, “What losers, blaming me for their insecurity!” I really — I did think like that, trust me.
But somehow the fifth person finally got through. All of a sudden, I realized: Oh my God, they are right. I judge everything instantly. This Judge character in my head was constantly and brutally beating down not only others, but myself. It was the invisible character in my head. It was the invisible lens that distorted my reality. And that discovery changed my life.
Since this invisible character, Judge character in my head, secretly sabotaged me, I called him a “Saboteur.”
I later discovered that in addition to the Judge Saboteur, there are nine other Saboteurs, like the Controller, Stickler and Victim.
Even in a perfectly happy childhood, you still develop a couple of these Saboteurs as a coping mechanisms as a vulnerable kid. For example, you might develop Controller tendencies to feel safer in a chaotic environment or become the Victim to get more attention.
The problem is that these Saboteurs become the invisible masters in your head, just like my Judge had. They pretend they are you, but they aren’t you.
That’s how you forget who you really are. A war is constantly raging inside your head between your Saboteurs and your original true self, whom I call your Sage.
These are based on entirely different regions of your brain. Your Saboteurs are based on the survival-brain region, which is made up mostly of the brain stem, limbic system and parts of the left brain.
Your Sage is based on the positive-intelligence brain, which is made up mostly of the middle prefrontal cortex, ACC insular cortex and parts of the right brain.
Here is a fascinating insight and clue to your happiness. Look at this: the survival-brain region and its Saboteurs are wired, are neurochemically wired to feel stress and unhappiness. They just can’t help themselves. If you want to feel consistently happier, you must learn to strengthen your Sage and weaken your Saboteurs.
It’s just a matter of neurochemical science. One of the things that I can guarantee you, based on my experience, is that you can achieve all the great wealth and success in the world and still feel deeply unhappy because of your Saboteurs.