My colleague is an accomplished professional. By that, I mean she owns a successful business. She is confident, competent and tenacious. She always gets the job done and rarely takes no for an answer. She understands that rejection is part of life but has learned not to take it personally, but rather, to experience it as her client’s loss.
My colleague, like many of us, did not have a great high school experience. She didn’t feel like she fit in. Recently, she ran into an old high school classmate she hadn’t seen in thirty years. Instantly, she felt like she was right back in high school. All of her old insecurities resurfaced.
This encounter left her unraveled for a few days.
I was taken aback by her reaction. Here’s why: I know this woman as a leader in her field, respected by others for her insights and accomplishments. It seemed counter-intuitive to me that this simple exchange should have such a profoundly negative, disempowering effect on her. Immediately, I wanted to know more, my assessment as a coach telling me that she had not brought her many valuable professional skills and demeanor to the situation.
“How would you have handled the interaction if you had met your old classmate in a professional setting, instead of a social one?” I asked her. My colleague paused for a moment, looking bewildered. Finally, she said, “I’m not sure.”
This happens to my clients all the time. Perhaps it has even happened to you. In certain situations, you hear old tapes playing in your head. These are the ones that say “You don’t belong.” “You aren’t good enough.” “You’re too shy, too fat, too insecure, or too afraid.”
We might be products of our pasts, but we don’t have to be prisoners of them.
How do we take the power away from those voices? In coaching, we learn strategies to do just that. These strategies can include these simple steps:
- Increase Awareness:
- Notice when those familiar voices make a visit.
- Acknowledge them.
- Tell them that they can watch but you will not let them take center stage.
- Name five adjectives that describe you when you are at your best:
- Ask five people who know you (friends/family/colleagues) what are five adjectives that describe you when you are at you best?
- Go through the list, notice common themes and pick five.
- Write the five adjectives boldly and colorfully on 5 index cards.
- Label the index cards PAST BLASTERS.
- Put one index card on your dashboard, on your night table, in your wallet, on your desk, and in your kitchen.
- Whenever those old voices appear, find the nearest index card and hold on to it.
- Let the past blaster do its job.
- Embody you at your best:
- Acknowledge when you are at your best.
- Where are you, what are you doing?
- For some people it is when they are advocating for their children, doing a physical activity, in their office, at a book club, teaching something, at dinner with girlfriends.
- For each of us, it is different. Some thrive in the very situation that engages other’s “Old Tapes.”
- Acknowledge when you are in those tough situations. Imagine being where you are at your best, hold on to your index card and step into your “Best Self.”
- Let that “Best Self” handle the situation knowing that s/he will do a great job.
Over the past year, I have met many wonderful women through my “Beyond The Empty Nest” workshop series. What they all have in common is that they are about to be or are already empty nesters.
They are entering a new stage with many new experiences. They often feel insecure. Their old voices are making frequent visits. Many have thrived in their roles as parents and community leaders. Coaching can help them to carry these strengths forward into all their new experiences. Once they are able to acknowledge their old tapes, create their past blasters and embody themselves at their best, they are ready to step into this exciting time and make it the best time of their lives.
How about you, are you ready?
For those of you who would like to make more connections with other midlife women, I invite you to join my Midlife Reinvention Facebook Group. You will gain access to training and resources from me and connect to almost 300 like-minded midlife women who inspire and support one another as they navigate and create their most fulfilling next acts.