I want to talk about taking up space. I have had a lot of really haunting thoughts lately about my writing and my coaching practice. Most of these thoughts come from a part of me that I discovered in my own coaching session yesterday. We will call her shame.
Shame does a lot of things for me, she keeps me from looking stupid in public, from making crazy mistakes, she keeps me humble and grounded and my ego in tact. However, she also really hinders my authenticity and my voice. She keeps me quiet, small and when she couples up with fear, watch out, you can consider me basically frozen in time.
Shame believes that there are already enough really talented writers out there who have said all of the things that I think I have to say. She tells me stories of how silly and juvenile it is for me to put my writing out on a blog and expect people to read it. She wants me to do something more conservative, safe and functional with my time.
You know what’s really weird about shame though? She wasn’t always there. She certainly wasn’t there when I packed my oversized suitcase at 22 and took off to New York City with no job and no idea what I was doing. She certainly wasn’t there when I was in pitch meetings with seasoned TV executives convincing them to buy the content the team had made up in our heads. She certainly wasn’t present when I put all of my things in storage in LA and flew to Chicago to work on the set of Transformers no questions asked, no plan, no future projections.
You know who was driving the conversation when all of those things were happening? The Dreamer. She had the microphone and she was loud and clear. She saw possibility, she saw opportunity, she understood that the efforts we were making were part of a bigger picture dream that she believed in and she could see. And then one day, Shame and Fear decided to combine their powers and paralyze the Dreamer.
But it is a bit more complicated than that. Because as I started to grow up and see the world more clearly and discover more of my wants and needs a few more parts of me showed up to the party. June Cleaver appeared and started whispering ideas of marriage and family, Super Woman appeared and started championing causes she cared about and trying to give a voice to woman who were afraid, and while the Doer and Executer in me was always there, she got a little louder and she whispered things like, “I want more of a challenge, these tasks are too easy, let’s play in a different sandbox.”
All of these parts combined led me to where I am today; building and running a community organization, consulting with multi-million dollar brands and coaching executives, entrepreneurs and artists. But there is still something a little off balance. Because I stopped leaning on Dreamer so much for awhile there she got really quiet. And yesterday in my coaching session with my coach we asked her what was going on.
And suddenly tears welled up in my eyes and I got really emotional and I said, “Dreamer is exhausted. She says she has been trying to inspire us and give us hope for so long that she just can’t fight off fear and shame any longer. She needs help.”
I share this with you because this is the power of coaching. It is breaking down all of the things going on inside us so we can better understand them and then use them to our advantage. Up until yesterday I thought Dreamer always drove the ship. I knew I wasn’t feeling like my full authentic self but I also wasn’t exactly sure what needed to change. Intellectually I understood fear and shame but I wasn’t fully aware of their impact on my behavior.
Like any good recipe, too much of one thing can throw the whole dish off balance. If you drop the entire pepper shaker in there because the top comes off you are not going to like how this dish turns out. The same is kind of true for the parts of us. At times, it is important to have a little more fear to keep us safe or a little more June Cleaver to help us define our ideal relationship but most of the time, if one of these parts takes charge we can start to feel really out of control of our environment.
So what can you do if you don’t feel like yourself? How can you begin to clear out the clutter and get very clear about what is going on inside of you?
I recommend you start with naming the different aspects of you. Here is how to begin:
On a piece of paper write out all of the things that you feel. Take a good look at all of those feelings and sit with each of them for a moment.
Then go through each feeling individually and identify how that feeling serves you. For example: What does Fear help you with? How does Shame protect you?
Then write the opposite, how is Fear hindering you? How is Shame getting in the way of what you really and truly want?
Then ask yourself, What do I need to feel like I am ok making this decision, taking this step, making this change? See what comes up for you. Then sit with that for awhile and see what comes up for those other feelings. Is Shame getting louder? Is Fear more afraid?
Identifying how these parts of you work together or do not work together will make it a lot easier to feel like you can make clear and informed decisions. You can use this when thinking about asking for a raise, thinking about an important investment, buying a house, accepting a new job, leaving your job, taking on a new project. The possibilities are really endless.
Tell me how this exercise went for you in the comments below or send me a quick email. I would love to hear more about how your parts are playing into your self commitment journey.