There’s clearly a lot of stuff I don’t want you to know about me, because as I sit down to type this blog, I notice the Crazy Lady in my mind shouting, ‘Are you INSANE? Why would you choose THIS as a topic?’ and yet here I am anyway, sitting at my desk, typing before she catches up with me…
A few years ago I learned a surprising lesson. I was attending a leadership course that happened to have a ropes course in the middle of it.
If I go to hell, it will be a series of ropes courses. And we’ll eat shellfish at every meal.
I was absolutely terrified.
The first exercise was a trust fall. You know the sort, you climb up to a certain height and then fall backwards into the arms of encouraging friends and then everyone smiles and pats themselves on the back for being so brave.
Before you did your fall, you got a series of practice falls with an instructor, who showed you how to fall backwards safely. Everyone got at least two, usually three. Me? I got ONE. He patted me on the back and said, ‘You’ve got this’ and sent me off for my turn.
I couldn’t believe it.
ONE practice? Could he not see that every bone in my body was shaking with fear? HOW COULD THAT BE? And yet, I didn’t even get a second glance. I think that may have bit him in the bum a bit, as when I got to the steps we had to climb to get into position, my legs were trembling so much that two instructors literally had to lift one leg up at a time to get me up each stair. By that point, I’m figuring they must have noticed.
That day, and in the days that followed, I realised something I had never seen before: people generally think I have life absolutely nailed.
The more I became aware of it, the more I started to notice that hardly anyone in my life ever had any sense of when I was struggling. Even though it felt to me like I was waving a thousand flags and shouting from the rooftops.
In many ways this is a strength. Like all strengths it comes with a shadow too.
Whilst it allows me to bring a great sense of possibility and safety to people, especially when I am coaching them, it can also mean that people think I have it nailed, that I didn’t have it quite as hard as everyone else.
Sometimes, that gets in the way. It leads to, ‘she can do it, but I can’t, I’m not the same’.
I’ve coached some incredible women (and men) in my lifetime. Every single one of them had their own flavour of self-attack and I’m no different to anyone else.
So sitting here today, at my beautiful desk looking out at the window, I’m wondering what I don’t want you to know about me and whether I’m brave enough to tell you it all. Knowing that the answer to this question, probably the biggest one we can ever share, helps us all to get a little more human together.
OK, deep breath. Let’s see where this one goes…
Here’s what I don’t want you to know about me:
- Some days I wake up with a level of anxiety that simply makes no sense. Even though everything is safe in my world, I lose all sense of perspective. It can take me days, even weeks to get through it and resettle again.
- Last night I woke in the middle of the night with a deep seated terror that all my teeth were going to fall out due to continuing gum trouble. It didn’t take long for me to move my fears about teeth falling out to a more shocking conversation with myself around what will happen when I die. I put on a meditation in the early hours of the morning to shut out the noise.
- Every single morning I check out my stomach in the mirror. This is followed by immediately having to manage my mind out of brutal self-attack. If I let it continue, I wouldn’t get out of the house.
- I run a community called Remarkable Women, for women who want to have more impact in the world and have an amazing life at the same time. Every time I get ready for a teaching session with them, I have to manage the voice in my head that says I have absolutely nothing useful to tell them.
- I’ve been out of the corporate world for 18 months now and Nic and I have been running Somebody Inside for 2 years. As soon as I sign a new client, I tell myself it’s a fluke and not to think that I will be able to keep this going for much longer. If I’m lucky, I manage a week before the voice in my head tells me that we are not only going to run out of money, but also, to add insult to injury, I remind myself I am now completely unemployable, especially because I’ve been speaking my mind too much on LinkedIn…
- I’m going to be self publishing a book in the next few months. The thought of it is so painful and scary to me that when I got the reviewed copy back from my editor, I had to go for a walk for an hour just from reading her introductory email. It then took me two days to opened the edited copy because I couldn’t face the critique.
There’s more. I figure you have enough of a sense of it now to realise I’ve got my own flavour of crazy too.
Here’s what I need you to know:
We’ve all got a mind that can drive us to the most ludicrous of places. The continuing work is to learn techniques to get it out of the driver’s seat and in the back of the car where it belongs.
Truth? Even amongst all of this stuff (which has been serious enough to offer up two eating disorders in my life), I’m an inherently joyful, passionate, opportunistic, idealistic human being. I love my life. I even love that we experience mood swings that can be as high and low as they are. As a good friend once said to me, ‘without the darkness, how can the light shine through?’.
I am grateful beyond words for the life I have created for myself and for the inexplicable pure luck that had me born a white woman in a developed country with food on my table and a bed to sleep in.
I wake up every day amazed that I get to be ME in this world of unique human beings, that THIS is the life I get to experiment with and blow up to its fullest potential.
So whilst I absolutely do not want you to know any of these things about me, I also truly do want you to know them. All of them.
I want you to know that the biggest obstacle that almost every one of us faces in our day to day lives is ourselves. It’s the voice that would have us play smaller, step back, never dare to speak our dreams.
And I want you to know that you can have something different. That although you may still wake up on many days of your life with a voice telling you to that you are not enough, or you are too much, that you should play bigger, play smaller, try harder, stop being so useless, you do not have to give it any attention whatsoever.
That’s where the choice is.
That you can watch those thoughts as an observer. Noticing that some days they are loud and agitated and others they are quiet and peaceful.
And you can ride the waves like a true pro. Waiting for the storm to pass, surfing the ones that look exciting and enjoying the days where there isn’t a ripple in sight.
Your thoughts are not real my friend. They never are. And nor are you ever alone. So don’t you be believing the voice that tells you that you are.
I haven’t got it nailed either. Thank goodness for that.
Imperfectly perfect together.