The BITTER - SWEET ART OF SELF BETRAYAL: Self Victimization And How To Remedy It The BITTER - SWEET ART OF SELF BETRAYAL: Self Victimization And How To Remedy It
Nelson Ebong

Nelson Ebong

22 Jun 2021

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The BITTER – SWEET ART OF SELF BETRAYAL: Self Victimization And How To Remedy It

"STRANGE BUT TRUE": We have heard this phrase many times, maybe in different forms and phraseology for various reasons in various settings, but all in all it remains true and strange at the same time that we the human race act in strangely self betraying ways to individual and collective selves. Some agree that its a real life paradox, yes, something that should not be but is. Others may argue that It Is NOT possible to betray oneself. The big question then is, Is It Possible for one to betray himself or herself? Let's verify from the preceding exposition this strange but common phenomenon.

The preceding discourse will highlight some areas in which we quite often ‘betray’ ourselves in the deceitful thinking that we are doing good to ourselves. In some cases, the self-betrayal is so overt in the eyes of the observers that we wonder why the ‘self-betrayer’ had to do such a thing; questions and statements such as;

i) How could he/she do such a thing?

ii) Didn’t you know it would result into this problem? Or “You should have known better”

iii) Why didn’t you first ask for advice before …..? or “OMG, you should have consulted first!”

iv) How can you do such a stupid thing? Or “I cannot belief you could do such a thing”

Many adults will confess they have been through these paradoxical situations not just once, but many times in their individual and probably collective lifetimes as individuals or groups respectively. Fortunately, you can remedy the situation if you already have tasted the bite of self-betrayal. You can also avoid it as much as your circumstances permit by learning from what is shared in here to empower our youths and adults in various settings and also other age groups and individuals to whom the tips may prove useful. Remember, the suggestions are not exhaustive but all the same empowering in given real life situations since they spring from experiential and or reliable sources.

Self-Betrayal In Employment Settings:

Just from college/ university and you land on your first job, your input is undoubtedly bringing in good results and the big shots in the company or any other institution you work for be it NGO or government institutions are noticing and pouring praise on you. Some people even lose their jobs because you have proved what could not be done under their watch can be done under yours. You are involved in most decisions and processes that your employers want to embark on or are undertaking. No doubt, you have become a very important factor in the company and you know it just as everyone else does. Is It Possible that at this point someone who probably really looked for a job and finally found it can do something that would tantamount to self-betrayal that endangers his/her job? Yes Dear, It Is Possible! How?

i) Some at this point develop a sense of indispensability, that feeling that you are so important that the employer cannot easily get rid of you. You feel your colleagues are so dependent on you that they will get stuck without you and revert to previous low productivity levels hence they will always defend you. This dangerous indispensability feeling makes you start making demands for what you might, in your self-righteous belief believe are your rights, like; pay increments, more privileges like better transportation maybe a company car, own carry home laptop, special treatment by the directors / bosses, etc. If these do not get given to you, you resort to threats like reducing your efforts and productivity and at worst, threatening to quit.

In some cases your employers may give into some of your demands if realistic, in some cases they may not basing their position on your contractual commitments. If your demands persist beyond your contractual commitments in the event that your employers do not succumb, that is when you likely feel the bitter sweet pinch of self-betrayal. At best, this subtly unintentional act of self-betrayal may just lead to some private counseling by your employers or mature well-meaning colleagues, at worst; a dismissal that spoils your reputation and CV may be your fate.

Has this happened to you already? Has it not yet? Whichever the case, you are better off not allowing an over evaluation of your worth to your employer lead you into self-betrayal. you can avoid this by observing the following;

a) always re-reading your contract to remind yourself what you can and cannot expect or demand

b) patiently doing your best in expectation of revising your contract at its end so that what you feel will make you happier and more profitably productive can be added to your benefits in the new contract

c) if you must have it now and now, discussing it amicably with your superiors is better than behaving like an activist in an otherwise mutually agreeable matter. If you truly are profitably hardworking and realistically need the adjustments to your terms and conditions, if you present it respectfully and in a manner that shows how it will make you a better employee, you might be surprised at how quickly and readily your employers accept your request.

d) remember you join an institution as you, so avoid the band wagon influence and petty thinkers who will influence you to join silent strikes and or unwarranted demands. Unless what the issue is touches negatively on the script of your contract and considerably so, being pulled into petty confrontations with your employer only pulls trouble if not now, not far from now. This leads to the second connected Bitter-Sweet Art of self-betrayal by many youths and adults just starting into the employment front.

ii) Being Used As Pawn by others: It feels sweet when everyone looks to you as a savior and one who speaks up fearlessly, it gives you some sense of heroism, you feel the star with the best girls and or boys hanging around, the adrenaline that comes with “our man, our man…” or “Our mama, Our lady” chants. But the end can be bitter if it goes awry. It does not mean you should not stand for what is right, it means DO NOT be the one used always for petty grumbles by those who understand the danger and are intent on taking advantage of your inexperience on the job environment. Many fall for the trap due to the Sweet Yet Bitter in the end feeling of heroism!

Even if you are the best around who is loved, valued and listened to by the big guys, unless it is for a good course and in line with organization policies, culture and acceptable mutual good, please do not be deceived into betraying yourself by accepting to be sweetly flattered then used as a pawn by the clever colleagues who are good at playing safe only to bitterly face the axe and disciplinary boards alone.

Reminds us of an incidence involving Benjamin William Mkapa, his boss at the time Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and the then Iragi president Saddam Hussein, all three of them highly respected former heads of state who have rested already from this world’s troubles and whose examples provide a good guide to our actions if we desire to learn from the best; in this incidence recorded on page 77 through to page 78 of “My Life, My Purpose” by Benjamin William Mkapa, we learn that the then Tanzanian foreign Minister B.W Mkapa had a stand for not being pulled into band wagon actions, yes, he had a stand for what is right but not allowing himself to be dragged into “group thinking” and “group actions” of others even if they were right. You would not lure him in if you interfered with what his employer stood for. In this case, they had visited Bhagdad and was scheduled for a meeting with the president of the land. When His Excellency Saddam Hussein demanded that they make a joint communique against apartheid South Africa, how did Hon. B.W Mkapa respond much as we all know he did not support any form of oppression by one group over another, which was apparently the content of the communique? He said,

“Do you think we can’t condemn these people from our territory if we want to?....We know there is racial discrimination, and there are places where Irag can add its voice of support, but why do this on a bilateral visit between our two countries?”

When he reported it to Mwalimu (page 78), Mwalimu stood with his loyal and witty-wise “employee” even when president Saddam Himself came to question. Little wonder, Benjamin William Mkapa later became the “Boss” of his country with the backing of Mwalimu J.K Nyerere.

What do you learn from Babu Ben? That you should not accept to be used as a pawn but stand for what is right in the right way as you, but you should not just act because someone or some people for their own reasons are pushing you to do so. And when you make a decision yourself to do so, do your best to avoid antagonistic or confrontational approaches unless otherwise.

Remember to learn from the best and the best are patient and tactful unless otherwise.

(Note: To learn why you should not accept to be used as a pawn, please make an effort to learn how to play Chess which is a strategy based board game in which the pawns are the smallest pieces always exposed to all the dangers because they are the ones helplessly placed right at the front-line)

Self Betrayal In Goal Setting And Goal Management:

We shall not spend time on the challenges of choosing a goal because our assumption is that you already have a chosen path with milestones or phases and stages to cover and manage along the way. If you have not, it is highly recommended and never too late! What in this field may lead you into unintentionally causing yourself trouble, that is, that may lead you into a bitter end?

i) Biting More Than You Can Chew: there is a point when a young business does so well triggering in you the hard to resist urge to grow bigger faster. At this point your client base is bigger than what you can comfortably and adequately handle. All the same you take the orders and probably payment advances but due to your limited resources ranging from manpower to actual production facilities or product quantities, you begin falling behind in orders and service provisions. Boom, you have bitten more than you could chew because of the sweet promises in your mind of bigger profits/ rewards, a very subtle kick starting of a bitter experience in the making, yes sweetly self-betraying yourself by your own mind,heart and hands. Soon the complaints and stresses and loses of others begin being deferred to you and the resulting strains start affecting your performance, sooner or later, the clients begin doubting this once small but reliable business and gradually you begin dwindling physically due to the stresses and business-wise due to customer and order reductions. Biting more than you can chew is a sweetly deceitful pitfall many have fallen into. You can avoid it by taking it one step and a time, let not the rush of others be your rush! Like the adorable musician Jordin Sparks says in her song "One Step At A time":

“One step at a time, there is no need to rush

Its like learning to fly, or falling in love,

Its gona happen, when its suppose to happen….”

Obey her admonition and you have saved yourself from this self-betrayal trap.

ii) At the point when you are at your startup best and probably bitten more than you can chew, then Money lenders not necessarily banks come in as god-sent saviors; because banks need securities that you may not yet have, your fast feet and youthful mind do the quick but deceitful calculations that the softer but outrageously high interest rated loans will get you to solve the need and make your profits later when all is well. One after another, they compete for you with whatever promises you can make. Banks may also come in and you start shuffling one loan with another till BOOM, the business levels cannot manage the shuffling leave alone the daily operational running. What started as a god-sent salvation in your inexperienced mind turns into a safety risk with threats of all sorts and competition for whatever can be salvaged from you by your different former “ Financial Jesus the saviors” now turned angry hungry debt collectors. Subtly, your inexperienced fast feet rushed you to money lenders to support what is above your normal capability and business growth timeline, a Sweet Self Deceiving that has betrayed you by your own making into a bitter ending, yes you have victimized yourself while believing you are doing good to yourself!

Is it possible to avoid this pitfall? Yes Dear, It Is Possible; move at your pace, control or shut your ears and eyes from the call of money lenders who promise business successes that they themselves have not been able to fund themselves into. Which business earns between 10% to 30% profits a week or month that they expect from and make you believe is possible? Not very likely under normal circumstances!!

In his wonderfully researched book entitled “Built To Last: Successful Habits Of Visionary Companies” Jim Collins sounds the alarm bells to those who still belief in very quick success when he reveals that

“…we found a negative correlation between early entrepreneurial success and becoming a highly visionary company. The Long race goes to the tortoise, not the hare.” (p.28 of 10th.Anniversary Edition)

In a nutshell, being in a hurry like the hare will only have temporary sweetness that ends in bitterness. Be the visionary proverbial tortoise by avoiding dangerous borrowings that promise unlikely if not impossible returns.

iii) Basing your concrete plans on sources outside of yourself:

Have you ever been so sure that someone particularly known to you will come to aid or do something important on your behalf but then doesn’t in the end? This happens more often than we realize. Usually the serious recognition of this problem occurs when it involves something that really matters to us. The expectations range from bailing you out of a stressful loan, lending you money to boost a business, helping you pay a bill such as rent or so, making a meaningful contribution to your graduation or marriage ceremony, meeting health bills or providing some material support, etc. You make phone calls, write and literally visit this person(s) but all that keeps materializing is a promise postponed or some genuine reason for inability to help but your “desperate” self does not comprehend it because you belief he/she is able to and should until the bare truth occurs to you in some cases when it is too late, in some cases at the dying moments of the reason for which you needed their assistance.

It could be your parent, a sibling, a close relative, friend or colleague, maybe someone you have assisted before and so you feel they are obligated to act on your request without reserve. Why is this a treacherous path?

a) One reason is that everyone has salient overwhelming demands that they struggle with. Occasionally you read in the press of multi-millionaires whose business empires are all of a sudden crumbling under the heavy weight of debt or such other troubles that befall enterprises; however before that press revelation, the struggling millionaire’s associates may have already branded them neglectful and uncaring to their friends’ plights. So, never concretely count on what is not within your own absolute control and ownership, you just never know what is behind the mask of your “savior run-to”, just as you have silent internal struggles, the others too may just be keeping face. “But you promised me, now look!” is not good enough and you will meet many, so, dealing with what you have is your best bet!

b) Blame shifting; this self-betraying art only postpones your goal arrival by rousing a false innocence which soothes your emotions without getting you to the required goal. Apart from deceitfully making you feel good that you are not to blame, your goal arrival is not helped in away way by assigning responsibility for any mistakes and failures onto someone or something else. Taking full responsibility gives you the impetus and push to resolve whatever stands in the path to reaching your goals.

This facet of self-betrayal only defers the action required no matter how demanding the action maybe, yes shifting the blame only means you will have to do it yourself another time if it really is something that must get done or accounted for by you. What is your best bet? Face whatever challenges that need to be resolved and if circumstances do not allow, acknowledging and shelving it for an appropriate time in the future helps you a lot more than denial because it keeps you working it out in the process, even if just mentally as opposed to the blame-shifter who will leave the rot to keep rotting in deceitful self-denial.

IN SUMMARY, there are several areas of self-betrayal that the scope of this article cannot cover, for example in the management of relationships, in child rearing, in leadership and governance etc. It is important to note that the underlying foundations and remedies are very similar; one basically needs to tally both the avoidance and remedial strategies to the particular need and or situation. In case a challenge arises, remember facing the challenging situation a step at a time is your best bet instead of biting more than you can chew through inappropriate and rush rationalizations. Yes, self-betrayal is real and subtle but we can tackle it successfully if we choose to do so with the right knowledge, approach and mindset!


Just as you sharpen two knives against each other to get their best cutting and slicing effect, so too does your mind and heart sharpen each other within your body supposedly for best results to you. However, when the synchrony between the two knives is missed, the unintended misstep can cause serious injury to your flesh which translates to serious pain, a kind of betrayal by your own hands and two knives to your body that they should help feed by helping in preparing foods for it. In the same vain, when you fail, due to inexperience or otherwise to properly align the workings of your mind and heart so that they guide you not into treacherous paths but worthwhile ones, you get a serious proverbial cut, yes, you betray yourself into a bitter end. You can avoid this common predicament by sharpening your mental powers through reading power books which guide in good decision making, listening to the counsel of the experienced and going one step at a time within your means among others while TAKING APPROPRIATE RISKS, Yes, risk taking is unavoidable just as failure is a process not always necessarily a betrayal of self and this is a subject for another time.

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Nelson Ebong
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Nelson Ebong

Being Of Effective Service by sharing knowledge and skills both experiential, which is most impacting, and learned, which can be hypothetical but all the same essential in the journey towards the mastery of living that is fulfilling and positively contributory to improving our world

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