Beyond the Merit Model
The Trap of Deservingness
The Reluctant Inheritance
As Homo sapiens we have over 150,000 years of successfully attaining abundant health, love, and wealth: An inheritance weakened by our reluctance to own our excellence. Tribal collectivism is the hidden culprit that pressures us to excel and then to minimize or deny the achievements when praised by others. Yet, we are immunologically designed to admire and be admired, free of false humbleness. But the cultural hypocrisy does not stop there. Merit is used to reward and punish conduct as if deservingness and performance were the same while ignoring our inheritance of abundant health, love, and wealth. Let me unpack these tribal restraints that control without our awareness:
The Misuse of Merit — The assumption that we deserve rewards or punishments confuses deservingness with performance:
Example 1. Two mechanics competing for a bonus: Mechanic A, who is a pedophile, has better trade skills than Mechanic B who is a devoted father. Mechanic A gets the bonus because of his performance although undeserving of good fortune as a human being.
Example 2. Undeservingly, good fortune happens to bad people and misfortune happens to good people.
Example 3. A good person is rewarded for excellent performance but is unable to enjoy the benefits because feeling undeserving of good fortune.
Example 4. A bad person is punished for deplorable performance but is unwilling to own the consequence because feeling undeserving of bad fortune.
Performance vs. Deservingness — In order to further clarify, I propose that performance is external behavior assessed with tribal merit models, whereas deservingness is internal beliefs assessed with tribal worthiness models. The conflict begins when individuals and groups view performance and deservingness as one. Merit systems ignore or deny our inheritance of health, love, and wealth by constraining the potential for a life of abundance with external rules of performance and internal rules of worthiness.
Beyond the Merit Model
When I teach workshops on my theory of transcending the merit model, I am asked the same questions. Very legitimate need for clarity requiring thoughtful answers.
Question: How will people produce and obey laws without standards of rewards and punishments?
Answer: Performance is rewarded or punished based on complying or violating determined rules. Worthiness requires claiming our inherent abundance of health, love, and wealth without deservingness judgements.
Question: Why do good and bad fortune happen to good and bad people?
Answer: Mostly because of excellent or poor performance, but also, there’s a component of unpredictability in life that allows chaos to intrude, independent of a person’s worthiness or performance.
Valuation self-esteem includes what you value about yourself and how deserving you feel about the good fortune that comes your way. Although cultures influence how you value yourself, contradictory evidence from personal experiences can challenge what you are taught to value. For example, although your culture may teach you to value tradition, you find some self-directed behaviors (nontraditional) that give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Competence self-esteem has to do with how good you are at what you do in life: home, work, relationships. In the development of self-concept, cultures have specific definitions for what constitutes excellence in each of your roles. For example, a culture can value or devalue motherhood based on whether the woman chooses a career or stays home to raise her children. Although it may seem quite obvious that it is not an either-or decision to be a competent mother, some cultures prohibit women from working outside the home. Unfortunately, not all cultures share a sense of gender equity.
Affiliation self-esteem reflects the quality of people you choose to bring into your life to share your journey. Cultures will give you their prescription for how to select and what obligations you should have to the people you choose, but like anything else in human endeavor, it’s a matter of what you should do versus what you choose to do. Cultural lessons can be wise or oppressive. Considering the three components of self-esteem can help you assess and develop each of the areas rather than assuming self-valuation is one-dimensional. For example, someone could be a highly effective manager (competence self-esteem), unable to accept personal worthiness (valuation self-esteem), and with no close family or friends (affiliation self-esteem).
Achieving balance within the three pillars of worthiness allows us to trigger and gracefully accept our inherent abundance of health, wealth, and love: Valuing who we are, what we do, and those we choose to love.