The Three Pillars of Self-Mastery

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The Three Pillars of Self-Mastery by Guest Blogger Blair Glaser


It’s such an evocative word. For me, it brings up images of a virtuoso violin player, who can play any piece of music at a moment’s notice. Or a writer, sitting down in her cozy, woodsy cottage, diligently typing away at her fourth novel. Sometimes the concept of “mastery” feels like shoes that are too big — something unattainable, something simply not me. Sometimes the things we crave mastery over don’t feel as impressive as the word itself; like when we no longer wish to be governed by our cravings, our bad habits or our emotions.

But isn’t self-mastery the most important Mastery? Here are three practices that can help you fill those shoes and strengthen your personal mastery.

The Discipline of Self-Inquiry

Discipline is another one of those scary words, so before you click away form this page, hear me out. I’m not talking about getting up at some ungodly hour, every single day, to do something challenging like meditation or yoga (but don’t get me wrong, I love both practices in the services of self-mastery). I’m not talking about limiting calories, or being rigid in any way. Discipline in the service of self-mastery is about cultivating a habit of understanding our choices. When we take the time to open to choice, rather than exist on autopilot, we step into our personal authority, writing the story of our lives the way we want it to go.

The discipline of self-inquiry is an inner dialogue, in which we ask: What are the implications of my choices right now? If I eat the ice cream sundae, how will I feel after? And what will I do with that feeling? Will I beat myself up while lying on the couch — and do I really want to do that? OR If I speak what’s on my mind in this moment, how will that impact the next few hours? Is this the best of all possible ways to proceed right now? You can see how these questions open us up to choice: We can eat, not eat, or have some of the sundae. We can wait to speak up until the best moment for us to really be heard, or we can let our comrades know that there’s something we need to discuss, now or later.

Navigating Shame

This discipline of self-inquiry is difficult because we must confront our choices and our behavior. It often leads to feelings of shame, and shame, being one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the human experience, is something we naturally seek to avoid. I don’t want to look at what my temper does to myself or my loved ones, because l will feel bad. I don’t want to face my sugar addiction because of what that says about me. So the second key to mastery is learning to navigate your shame.

Other than massive amounts of courage, navigating your shame requires two things: Humility, and a refusal to believe it. Let’s say you have a problem with anger. You flare up very quickly, and this behavior pushes people away. You no longer want relationships in which people have to tip-toe around you. To really digest that your behavior has an impact on others takes a humble stance. You must admit that you are not perfect, and there are pieces of your behavior that need improving. But if you feel ashamed of yourself and stay stuck in that feeling, it will be very hard to make the necessary shifts. We need to refuse to believe the feeling, we need a counter voice to the shame. One that sounds something like this: I can only learn from what I am willing to face, and I am willing to learn, so that I can enjoy my life and my relationships more. Deep breaths help.

Letting Go

And then, of course, we face the third and perhaps most harrowing practice of self-mastery, which is the art of letting go. Letting go of shame, of habits and behaviors that no longer serve us, and of our perfectionism.

Letting go. It sounds so easy. Open your hands and release. So why do we clutch and cling to what doesn’t work so tightly? Because it’s known. The known is dear to us. It may be wreaking havoc on our lives, but if what we are doing is familiar to us, then we feel stabilized. We recognize our surroundings, as it were. It sounds kind of nuts, doesn’t it? But it’s true. I know you know what I am talking about. Letting go means, that in the service of becoming who we want to be, we face the astonishing fear and destabilization of not-knowing who we are. And in addition, we must grieve who we were: The hot-head, the smoker, the people pleaser, the complainer, etc. Letting go. Not as easy as it sounds.

However, the more you practice these three pillars of self-mastery: the discipline of self-inquiry; navigating shame, and letting go, the easier the process of mastery becomes. Maybe you will never be an actual “master,” but these practices can and will open you to a freedom that you could not previously imagine. A freedom that comes with the self-esteem of being a person of integrity, of being a person you respect.

Blair Glaser

Blair Glaser, MA, LCAT is a psychotherapist, leadership mentor and relationship consultant who delights in helping people stand in their authority at home, at work and in love. She mentors individuals to achieve self-mastery and helps leaders and their teams grow through building relationship skills. She has worked in private practice for 17 years and with leaders and teams in prestigious organizations such as JP Morgan / Chase and Mt. Sinai Hospital in NY. Her articles on modern love and business practices appear across the inter-webs.

Blair lives and works in “the most famous small town in America,” Woodstock, NY, and frequently commutes to New York City.

You can find more about her work at, follow her on Facebook, Twitter & Google+

Be sure to visit her website to receive a free copy of her brand new e-book, 4 Ways to Step into Your Authority, Now! (Even if your broke, frustrated or feeling a little hopeless.)