I recently found myself in a crisis of self-doubt.
I was in a virtual workshop with a coach who is famous for his method of enrolling high-fee clients. I had been gifted the ticket and was curious to learn from him, so I cleared my schedule to attend.
Compare and Despair
Once in the Zoom room, however, I realized this would not be an ordinary – information-heavy, friendly, collegial – class. It was an intensive, meant to break us down and build us back up in the style of the leader.
I had come for a buffet and found myself in boot camp!
I didn’t want to do the challenges! I dreaded being called on. Yet the other participants seemed to be in the right room. They shared their experiences with the challenges with enthusiasm. They eagerly raised their hands to be coached! They seemed to want what he was selling: how to be a rich and powerful coach.
I compared myself to them and despaired. Was I wrong not to want to be rich and powerful? Would it really be so bad? Was I fooling myself to believe that I did not want to be rich and powerful?
The Way Out Is to Look In
After 24 hours of feeling troubled and preoccupied – tense, holding my breath, struggling to be present – I realized I had to look to stop looking out, at them, and start looking in, at my thinking.
My first step always is to journal. Writing helps me slow down my thinking, so that I can understand what’s going on inside my head. I begin with a straightforward prompt: What are you afraid of?
Anguished thoughts tumbled out in reply: I must be missing something. There’s something wrong with me. I am probably ridiculous.
Ah! Those old friends: the social fears of the blind spot, being exposed as a fool, and laughed at.
Shushing Doesn’t Help
I call these fears old friends because they have been my companions as far back as I can remember. They pipe up when I notice I’m not like the others.
But, hey. I come by them honestly. Humans are social creatures. We need to belong. Feeling like an outsider threatens our sense of belonging. I often can take that discomfort in stride, but sometimes it causes me to stumble and wonder if I’m the problem? This was one of those times.
When old friends become troublesome, what do you do, shush them? No. It doesn’t help! You meet them with understanding, and they’ll give you peace.
The Best Tool for the Job
To meet fears with understanding does not mean simply listening to the stories. It means looking at them in a critical but friendly way. I know of no better tool for this job than The Work.
If you have ever suffered with fears like these, call to mind the last time you did, and do The Work along with me.
There’s something wrong with me. Nona Jordan alerted me to the stupidness of this statement years ago, and I have been able – as soon as I notice I’m believing it – to laugh at it ever since.
Turn it around.
There’s something right with me. What is the evidence for this turnaround in this situation, where I find myself uncomfortable with the idea of being rich and powerful? Well, these traits are not universally esteemed. People do disagree about their desirability! So, I’m not crazy. Also, my business is thriving. So, this workshop is like selling me a five-course meal when I’m already full.
I have a blind spot. Is it true? No. After seeing what’s right with me, I no longer believe I have a blind spot. Next!
I’m ridiculous. Ouch. That one still has teeth.
Is it true? Yes. (They think so).
Can I be certain it’s true? No. (I relax. I’m back in my business, no longer in anyone else’s).
How do I react, what happens, when I believe it? My face hurts. I stop breathing. I want to hide. I feel like a child.
Who would I be without the thought? If I were experiencing this discomfort of feeling different from the others without believing that that makes me ridiculous, I would know that these are just not my people. I feel calm, relaxed, grown up. I walk away.
Turn the thought around.
I’m not ridiculous. I’m magnificent. Yes! Why not? I love my clients, adore coaching, and am paid well. There’s nothing absurd about that.
I’m ridiculous, yahoo! Haha! Yes, sometimes I am. In this case, I’m ridiculous to believe there’s one right (and wrong) way of serving as a coach in this wide world.
Rich and Powerful
Was it ironic that, after doing The Work, I felt rich and powerful? It reminded me not only of the material wealth I already possessed, but of my riches of love and good work. And what is more powerful being able to make peace out of suffering?
So, I left the workshop early. I got what I needed.