One of the things my clients often bring to their coaching sessions is dealing with ‘overwhelm’. That sick and debilitating feeling that creates stress and anxiety and stops us from being our true authentic self. I’ve seen this show up in many forms. Sometimes it’s being overwhelmed with the responsibility of a new role. Other times it’s the ‘imposter syndrome’, a general feeling of being a fraud unable to show up as yourself. Brene Brown spoke about this when promoting her book, ‘Braving the Wilderness’. She regularly sees challenges with ‘fitting in’ versus ‘be your authentic self’ cultures in organisations. She suggests that it is wrong to negotiate who we are with other people and I agree with her. (https://www.facebook.com/brenebrown/videos/1824087924272975/)
It’s often difficult to identify what to focus on, what to say no to and how to put ourselves first. As I begin preparing for my final Certification exam, I’m seeing a familiar pattern show up in me. A question I often ask myself in these times is ‘what matters most?’. I also find it helpful to clarify my values, remember my purpose and revisit my ‘why’.
When these feelings take a grip on us, we often adopt self-sabotaging behaviour. This keeps us small and doesn’t necessarily allow us to be our best selves and to find a way forward that serves our true purpose. It also limits our ability to align to what we value most. When I’m coaching clients, I will sometimes ask ‘who is talking here?’ When a saboteur is lurking, I encourage clients to step into their best self and notice what is different.
Get clarity on what’s important and find out where you self-sabotage with my free personal leadership plan HERE.
True Authentic Self
Your best self, or inner leader, is the part of you that knows what is best for you, your true authentic self, that ultimately knows the way forward. I remember a session with my coach on this which has stayed with me and something that I bring to mind frequently when I find myself in a self-sabotaging spiral. When I connect to my best self, I notice that I slow down and see things with more clarity. My coach observed that I adopt a softer, calmer and kinder attitude to myself which ultimately serves me better.
Things seem to flow better from this perspective than when my saboteur has a hold on me, and it reminds me that ‘good is good enough’. I don’t need to strive for constant perfection. I also find it helps me to let go of things and find ‘the easy way’. When I’m in that frame of mind, I seem to get things done and be happy with them without overthinking.
The pursuit of perfection is the root of all evil
When I completed Shirzad Chamine’s saboteur assessment (http://www.positiveintelligence.com), I scored highly on ‘hyper-achiever’. I now know this to be at the root of much of my stress and anxiety. The phrase, ‘The pursuit of perfection is the root of all evil’ strikes a chord here. One of the actions I’ve taken from my coaching sessions is to visit the beach near my home (renamed ‘my’ beach as it holds such resonance for me) regularly. It’s the place where I find calm and clarity. I love the fresh air, watching the waves and the peace. As an introvert, I recharge my energy by being alone with my thoughts. ‘My’ beach gives me what I crave, and it’s also the place where I’ve found inspiration and solutions when working it out in front of a screen hasn’t helped.
Following the session with my coach, I went for a run (read brisk walk that looks like running) on the beach and here is what I learned. I had been struggling to connect fully with my inner leader, and after the session, this was much clearer for me. What was missing was clarity on what I wanted to call her. I wanted something real, not gimmicky, and something that would stay with me. As I started running and noticing what was around me, it came to me that the name I was looking for was ‘Wiser Me’. Simple, understated and real.
Sometimes it’s easier to find a solution when you let it come of its own accord without trying so hard to get it right.
The mind is a wonderful tool when you allow it to do its own work.
It’s OK to be me
With that settled, I wanted to find a talisman for my workspace to act as a structure for me. As I was running, I decided I wanted a beautifully perfect pink shell. A display of all that is possible for me. As I continued running, I became aware that all the shells had been crunched, cracked and trampled under foot and heavily weathered by the North Sea. Shell after shell cracked and split into an expanse of shingle. I couldn’t find ‘the one’ perfect shell I was seeking.
Frustrated at not being able to find what I was looking for, and in need of rest, I sat on my favourite rock looking out at the waves. As I continued taking in the beautiful scene in front of me, I was drawn to a pink shell peeking out of the sand. Pulling it out and clearing the sand away from it, I noticed that rather than it being the perfectly formed shell I had been searching for it was rough around the edges. In fact, not only was it broken, it was battered, bruised and discoloured, somewhat removed from perfect. What came to me at that moment was the realisation that all the broken shells I’d seen on my run had been trying to tell me something, i.e. it’s not about perfection. I realise now that it’s just what I wanted. The shell now sits on my desk reminding me every day that it’s OK to be me.
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Photo via Visual Hunt