I remember when I first started my coaching program. I had spent a lifetime helping other people, it is my nature. I didn’t really understand the gap between what I was doing as a “helper” and the technical approach and skill of coaching. All of these new terms and concepts were kind of overwhelming but they also felt like home. My brain just seemed to attach to the information and run with it. The more I think about the beginning of my training and where I am now, the more I can see how there may be a gap in my readers brains when I talk about things like, “Internal Family Meeting” and grief being attached to our personal growth. For starters, I want you to know that the actual active coaching relationship is where you can really get a better idea of how these concepts relate to you. It is certainly a process—and one that only works when you stumble upon realizations and self discovery yourself. I cannot tell you what to do, I cannot “show you the way” as they say, I can only enable you and encourage your own self development. However, I want my blog to serve as a tool for you to really live with clarity, confidence and radical self acceptance. So, I am going to attempt to tell you a personal story that will maybe spark something in you.
When I was in first grade a boy, who we will call Roger for the sake of this story, was really mean to me. He called me all kinds of names and he teased me all of the time. I was small and skinny and kind of pale and I had big curly Italian hair. So he called me names like, “Fro” and “Casper”. One day he even went as far as calling me a monkey spanker? Which to me is the strangest thing a first grader could ever choose to call another first grader but when I went home crying and told my big sister about it we realized that the term meant something offensive and it made me really sad. Roger basically made my elementery school days a living hell. One day, in between the bookshelves of our first grade classroom he had gathered a few other kids around and he was being really mean to me and I decided in that moment that I was finally going to stick up for myself. So after awhile I simply looked at him in the eye and said, “Roger, just shut up.”. Well, this was a Catholic school and apparently in Catholic schools shut up is like I don’t know totally against the rules. Unlike me, Roger was a tattle tale. So Roger went right over to our first grade teacher and told on me. She asked me if I said it and I, as any first grader would probably do, I kind of danced around and said, “Maybe I said shut your mouth.” Either way, I was in trouble. I think I got a time out, I don’t really know. She scolded me pretty harshly in front of the group and I cried. And that was the day that I decided that for the rest of my life I would just keep my mouth shut. I wouldn’t cause any trouble, I wouldn’t stand up to anyone, I would just go with the flow. I was so embarrassed and so confused and alone. I was a really nice kid, I did nice things for people and Roger just wouldn’t leave me alone. Elementary school never really got better. He was in my class for the rest of my time at that Catholic school and he brought a lot of people along with him to make fun of me and I just often felt like I didn’t belong.
Now, I am in my 30’s. Roger I think may be a Priest somewhere and I don’t think I have seen him since High School. But if you’re reading this, you can see how clearly I remember that day. How clearly I remember how I felt, what it was like and the lesson I learned very early on and that stuck with me for a very long time. The other lessons in there were that I had big hair and I was pale and no one liked me. This narrative followed me for years, well into high school and well into college. When I look back now it is quite fascinating how these experiences shaped me, but do you think I want to be walking around wondering if I am pretty enough or if my hair is too big or if standing up for myself will lead to public shaming? No. That’s ridiculous. However, it is very real and very tangible for me. This memory impacted me and I’ve spent the better part of my late twenties realizing just how much I was impacted.
Now, at the same time not standing up for myself, worrying about whether I am pretty or likable or belong also serves me in some capacity. It protects me from the opposite. In my little psyche somewhere is a first grade girl who really believes that if we just act perfectly everything will be ok. And a lot of times she is driving our behavior. She does not want me to change. If I change she believes that life will be terrible. She also believes that we will be forever alone. In coaching we call these equal signs. If I do this, then this is absolutely going to happen. Often times those equal signs are fabrications that protect us. Little Teresa is quite adorable and lovely but I really don’t need Little Teresa driving the train, you know what I’m saying?
This is a very simple example of how the parts of ourselves that think they are doing us a favor can often times get in the way of the progress we are trying to make. And why are we left grieving them when we do change? Because they are a part of us. They are important. They did do something for us at a time in our lives when we needed them. To get through Catholic elementary school Little Teresa did need to behave and just keep her mouth shut and just go with the flow because that was necessary. Being nice and quiet was my ticket out of shame and suffering. I could belong if I just played along with what was going on around me.
I have obviously forgiven Roger. They say that young boys when they like you tease you, ok whatever that is ridiculous and it is a ridiculous perpetuation of poor behavior. However, who cares. I am a strong, confident, beautiful woman with flowing Italian hair. I am not worried about Roger. But, I have to be mindful of that addiction to that behavior, of that need to protect myself from shame and ridicule and how that is keeping me from living authentically and true to who I really am. And that narrative is part of my belief system. It is engrained and the unraveling is a necessary step to evolving.
Obviously I chose a story that simplifies this issue a bit. All along the way our psyche is development narratives. Our experiences shape us—quite literally. Yours may not be some mean little Roger at your catholic school, it may be your divorce, the loss of your job, not getting into law school, your parents going bankrupt so now you’re relationship with finances is complex. Every day we are experiencing things that build a narrative for us. And if we do not take the time to understand those narratives and how they are driving our behavior we will always be victim to those narratives. But it is a dance, because there is something to respecting those narratives for protecting you all of this time. There is something to looking that narrative and part of you in the eye and saying, “Thank you for getting me here, for allowing me to be here, but now I am ready to move forward.” We don’t need to punish ourselves for where we have been and what we did while we were there. We need to have a little more grace and love for ourselves and bask in the beauty of the possibility of this exact day and this exact moment.
As one of my favorite authors Brené Brown tells us, we are all looking to belong and be seen. The research and science is real, and the results are in. We all want to belong.
And self commitment and introspection, it is a brave brave path my friends. The discoveries can be beautiful and also painful but, once you overcome those narratives that are holding you back, watch out! Your life will open up and anything you want will be possible.
Let’s all hope that Roger is somewhere living his best life. Am I right?
Thanks for tuning in today. I hope your keeping your self commitments and you are seeing the results of choosing yourself and making space for what brings you joy. If you are interested in talking more about the concepts I discuss here shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. Life is quite beautiful when you let it be and I would love to help make your life more beautiful.