As much as I am calm and even keeled much of the time, there are days when I wake up and carry on like a bull in a china shop. “We have to get going!”, “Why aren’t you ready?” Push, push, push. I have to make things happen – NOW!!
Today started out as one of those days. And could have continued had my dear friend and mentor not called me out and stopped me in my tracks.
As I reflect on our conversation, I realize that my drive to make things happen, and push on through, regardless of whether it feels right tends to come into full effect when I feel unsure in some way. At such times, I retreat into my preferred comfort zone – my head.
Living in my head gives me the illusion of control. When I am not sure what to do to make things happen, I over think, and get distracted by the minutia. I will work on things, like a blog post, for the better part of a day, in order to make it just right. And then the task just becomes… well, overwhelming.
What is the big picture that gets lost? Connection. And the only way to truly connect is to share one’s self authentically. I know this. And I know that things flow more easily when I just “show up” and let things happen. But even I, a professional, who teaches people to do this every day, can get off track.
This is why I am so thankful for having guides in my life who alert me when I am off center and help me to get back to understanding that I am most powerful when I am authentically me.
By the time I left the 2 hour marathon meeting, I was realigned. And the most amazing afternoon unfolded.
I walked around the corner and discovered Homegrown, a produce stand selling the most gorgeous local fruit and vegetables.
I then went down to the lake for a late lunch and was greeted by a trio of dancing swallows, and four Canada Geese floating on the waves.
And as I watched their easy ebb and flow, and listened to the waves against the rocks, I was reminded of my connection with everything around me. The tension eased even more and I returned.
This post is what unfolded. It took about 20 minutes. Easy.
Until next time,
I, like most people, would rather do just about anything before speaking in front of an audience. And yet, in order to fulfill my goals of promoting mental health, public speaking has become increasingly necessary for me.
My typical way of preparing for any kind of public talk is to literally script it in advance, jokes and all, and rehearse the heck out of it so that it comes across as natural. And I pull it off every time. I get the applause, and the positive comments. I succeed at projecting an image of complete confidence in spite of my anxiety.
That’s the thing about perfectionism – it’s usually rewarded. But it’s a lot of work. And quite honestly, as a busy working mother building a business and trying to get on top of this social media thing, I frankly no longer have the time for this level of obsessiveness.
It also occurred to me that my perfectionistic approach essentially made me a hypocrite and had the potential to undermine one of the core messages I am trying to promote: the power of authenticity. How could I speak about the power and importance of sharing one’s authentic voice while hiding behind a script? How could I present a completely rehearsed talk when my goal is to make a genuine connection with the audience?
So when I was asked to be one of 6 presenters at an event called My Epoch, I knew that I needed to take a different approach. The spirit of the event was to make genuine connections with people you might not normally meet with the aim of cross pollinating knowledge and inspiring new ideas. Clearly, there was no better opportunity to challenge myself to truly ‘walk the walk.’ It was time to let go of fear.
You see, I realized that the true motivator behind my pursuit of perfection was not conscientiousness, but fear. Fear that I suddenly would be unable to articulate my thoughts, when in fact I receive positive feedback about the way I convey ideas every day be it with clients or in media interviews. Fear that I would somehow present as not knowing what I was talking about when in fact I am an expert in my field. Fear that I would make a fool of myself…well, that actually happens on a daily basis. But it’s ok. I recover and move on. If that should happen, if I should reveal a flaw, reveal that I am indeed a human being, it would only serve to solidify my connection with the audience.
With this new perspective in mind, I chose to lead from the heart and to connect with the audience by sharing a genuine part of myself, even if that meant that I might stumble along the way.
In the days leading up to the event, I did find myself wrestling with the temptation to draft my talk as I had done in the past. I mean, the people attending paid to come and I wanted them to get something out of it. I did not want to insult them by looking ill prepared. I wavered and thought that I should just forget this little experiment and write out and rehearse my talk.
But rather than give in, I stayed true to my intention and let the anxious thoughts wash over me. I chose instead to just observe my own process. And in fact my internal battle was actually a little amusing.
However, I did not ignore the anxiety gremlin entirely. I did have to do something to prepare. And so I struck a compromise: I would draft a brief outline with the main points I wanted to communicate. Nothing more.
I decided to dedicate my 6 minutes at the mic describing why I am so passionate about my work as a psychologist. I wanted them to understand how privileged I feel to be able to witness and support the human spirit in each client I see, regardless of whether they are suffering or aspiring for something more. I wanted each person to walk away with the understanding that seeing a counselor or a psychologist is not about weakness, it is about assuming control to Design Your Life.
The day of the event was like any other Saturday filled with making meals, working out, cleaning up and taking advantage of some time to take a blessed nap. I arrived at the event early and while I spoke with my fellow presenters and then the guests as they arrived, I found that I was not nervous.
The only time a felt a bit anxious was while listening to the presenter just before I was to go on. This was largely because I was trying to review the main points of what I wanted to say in my head but could not do it effectively while also trying to listen. Recognizing the futility of this form of last minute preparation, I gave up on trying and focused on listening to Dennis and his honest and heart felt talk on the benefits of connecting with people outside of one’s typical social circles. Dennis finished to resounding applause; a hard act to follow. It was now my turn.
To quote one of the participants I “..nailed it”. As I spoke about the privileged role I have of witnessing and empowering the human spirit, I could see… or rather I could feel that the audience was with me. I was able to make eye contact and take in their smiles of encouragement as I scanned the room. It was actually really great.
The comments that various audience members provided me with all the validation I needed for my new approach. All of them expressed feeling moved. I had succeeded.
Not only had I made a connection, but I proved to myself that fear was not necessary for me to perform well. I could listen to my anxiety as a sign for the need to prepare without letting fear take over and push me into obsessiveness. I could keep focused on my own goals, show up, and let the process unfold.
I tried it and now I am sold. There is no going back.
How about you? Is there any way that these ideas could fit for your life?
I welcome your thoughts and comments.
I love being a psychologist. I am passionate about it and know in every fibre of my being that I am fulfilling my life’s purpose.
Every day that I go to work, I have the unique privilege of making genuine connections with people who, in the safety provided by confidentiality, are free to be their authentic selves. And I have to tell you that it is truly inspiring.
You see, when people feel safe enough to be their true selves, something absolutely amazing happens…the human spirit is able to shine. And I am telling you that it is abundantly creative, and resilient and wise.
In fact, I have yet to meet a client that does not have a sense of what it is they need to do to become the best version of themselves.
So what is going on here? If all my clients essentially know what they need to do and have the ability to DESIGN their LIVES why are they coming to speak to someone like me. Well, the reality is they are stuck.
Stuck because what they know they need to do is in conflict with another important need, and they are not sure how to move forward.
They know that they deserve to be treated better by others, but fear that articulating their needs will threaten their relationships.
They know that harsh criticism is generally not the way to bring out the best in anyone, and yet, they have difficulty letting go of their inner critic for fear of losing their edge.
They know they need to take better care of themselves, but ignore their body’s messages because they perceive that there is no room for self-care in their lives. That is, until they have their first panic attack or their child asks them why they yell so much… or worse.
Or sometimes they just know that that life could be better and they are not sure how to make it happen. Some know that the rule book that they inherited from their families is inherently flawed but don’t know how to effectively challenge it and take control of their own story.
Whatever the situation, the individual knows that they have to make a change. They also know that they need to create space for reflection and that they cannot do it entirely alone.
Let’s be clear here – not being able to figure this stuff out on your own is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of intelligence.
Because being able to hear one’s own voice requires someone to speak to. It is in the mirroring back of that voice from someone who is really good at listening that we learn to understand ourselves accurately. In the process, that inner voice that is there to guide each and every one of us gets amplified.
And as we experience someone else giving it the space to be heard, and the respect it deserves we learn to do the same thing for ourselves. We learn how to listen to that voice, and respect it by acting on its message.
Yes, there are often new skills to learn, new behaviours to try, and assumptions to test. But the essential understanding of the type of change necessary is almost always there. It is through the experience of being heard and supported by an empathic listener that the change process is able to unfold.
And you know what is truly amazing, once people start to get good at listening to and respecting that inner guide, things just start to get easier. It is almost as if they wake up to a new world.
For me, being there with someone in that moment when that awakening occurs…well, there is nothing more rewarding.
And so my question for you is this: What are you waiting for?
You know it’s time.
Design Your Life.