Is an Underdog Story Holding You Back?
In the cartoon series, Underdog, an unassuming and underestimated dog becomes a superhero at the last minute, over coming a significant obstacle, such as being trapped or tied up, breaking free, to save the pretty girl, thwarting criminals and, in short protecting the world from evil. Only, the underdogs I know do everything but the last part. They get so steeped in their story of being unnoticed, and unappreciated that when the world needs their gifts and light, they are still sitting on the couch enveloped in their story of being under appreciated, unrecognized and insignificant. Their hands are tied, and they can’t seem to break free to share their gifts and light.
In my former husband’s Underdog story, a story he told me every night, went like this: A major crisis was averted at work by my husband’s organizational or negotiation skills but no one noticed that money was saved or a difficult problem was solved. He’d often refer to himself as an old dog, taken for granted, overlooked, over worked and unappreciated. He was, in fact, exceptionally good at what he did, and yet he didn’t seem to be able to get the powers that be to give him the recognition he was looking for, nor was he able to catapult himself to higher pay and a higher level position.
From a management perspective, his high level of performance was expected. To get the accolades he sought, subtle personal marketing was in order. But he felt he shouldn’t have to market himself; his bosses should appreciate him and reward him, not just pay him his wage. A vicious circle was created which kept my former husband right where he was in his mind: an old dog, over worked and unappreciated.
A big part of my former husband’s problem was that he was looking for validation and appreciation from external sources. His personal satisfaction in a job well done and his paycheck were not enough. His strategy using humility when he really wanted attention ran counter to his goal. This lead to anger and subtle passive aggressive behavior. Recognizing and breaking free of these types of patterns is key—but how do we do it?
Do you ever notice the stories you tell yourself? I started taking note of the stories I tell myself and others, especially the ones where my hands are tied and I keep doing the same thing over and over. Just noticing I’m doing it is often enough to cause me to stop and look for alternative strategies.
Identifying what you want and need from a situation is important as well—my husband needed and wanted validation—that was his goal, but he avoided seeking it directly.
Finding more intrinsic enjoyment is another way to eliminate an underdog story, when you are content with yourself and your contribution to the world, you are less likely to seek praise and approval from others.
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I totally agree with your Underdog behavior analysis. I believe that you have to ask for what you want because people are not there to think of how to help you. You have to help yourself, speak up or ask for what you need. Thank you for sharing such a lovely article that made me think.
I understand this Nina! I worked as a teacher for about 8 years in the Elementary and Music classrooms. I felt as I gave 110% creating lesson plans and curriculum from scratch, and there was little to none appreciation. The field itself is underappreciated. i do believe I would go into this environment differently at this period in my life, and speak for what I think should be done/ what my needs are.
thanks for linking!
Thank you Jess!