You guys may not know this about me, but I am a total wuss when it comes to speaking in groups. Not in front of groups, but actually in groups. When I lecture at a conference or teach a class, I am master of my domain–strutting around and laying down some funky knowledge for everyone in attendance. But, you put me in the middle of a random, humdrum meeting and force me to decide when to speak and whom to interrupt…well, lets just say I have to fight the temptation to run for the door. The only grade I ever got that was lower than an A in all 5 years of graduate school (yes, I’m a nerd) was a B from a professor who thought I didn’t spontaneously speak up enough in class. Boy, was that vexing.
How odd is that whole thing, right? Actually, research done by masochistic social scientists who want to know how to make us all squirm, has confirmed that this is a pretty common phenomenon. The crux of the matter has to do with how we decide to give ourselves permission to communicate. If one is hired to stand up in front of people and speak, as I do at a conference, then the permission has already been explicitly given from an external source. However, if I decide to speak up in a meeting, there is nobody to give me permission for that except myself. I have to ascertain the worthiness of my contributions minute by minute during that experience. Some days, the play-by-play reporters in my head are negative nellies.
This basic struggle to decide if you rock or if you stink is at the heart of all our self-esteem wrestling matches. This is true of all kinds of settings in which we need to speak our truth and offer our wisdom–work, couple relationships, family relationships. Some of us come into the ring armed with a lifetime of family or friend support that helps us decide that our contributions are valid and enriching. When our interior voice jumps in to naysay our abilites, we have a frame of referemce that allows us to dismiss those fears. But what if you haven’t had that blessing? What if experiences in the recent or distant history have eroded your confidence in the goodess of your choices? Here are some things to remember:
1) You have a ticket to ride: A wise professor once told me that thoughts are like taxis in NYC; there will be a new one along any second. If the first thought that comes into your mind when your boss offers you the lead on an important project is, “she’s crazy; I can’t handle that,” you don’t have to take that ride. You can acknowledge it, wave it on, and step right back on the curb and wait for the next one. When you recognize that often your thoughts are just knee-jerk reactions that can be reconsidered and changed, you will begin to be able to do this more often. It is the key to higher-level performance in any area of life.
2) There is widsom in problems: I have seen clients for most every problem I can imagine, from sex offenses to agoraphobia to eating disorders. What is common among all those very different things is that the problem they are coming to see me for (the behaviors or symptoms) is often a solution attempt gone far awry. For instance, cutting releases endorphins, and call dull or heighten a person’s bodily sensations when he or she is in the throes of an anxiety attack. Since the behavior worked at least once, we might do it again. Since this solution is also destructive, we now call it a problem. Have you given yourself permission to really examine which of your current problems make sense when viewed from a problem-solving lens? Have you been able to get at the root issue?
3) We get by with a little help from our friends: When we enter into partnerships with other people, no matter what the nature of the relationship, we recieve subtle and not-so-subtle messages from them about our worthiness and goodness. What feedback are you getting from the people with whom you have chosen to share your life? Is it constructive (which is not the same thing as positve, by the way)? When it is negative, does it help you grow or break you down? It’s important to realize that we are living in concert with other people who constantly shape the ways we define ourselves.
In what areas of your life to you need to give yourself permission to shake off old habits or build up new resources. Why don’t you give me a shout? I would love to help you get started.
Your Partner in Healing,
Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in the Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com.