A month ago I took part in a transformational leadership seminar. An interesting thing happened during the weekend long workshop, we had an assignment called 'Getting Off It' and I was supposed to call someone out of the blue and address something that had been bothering me, something I hadn't gotten over. This person may or may not have even known I was holding onto something. In other words we were to reflect (soul search), be honest about something we'd buried, fess up to the person involved and move on.
I didn't do my homework.
(Usually a rule follower, unless they are dumb, which this wasn't, I questioned why I hadn't done it). Was there no one I needed to get over something with? Was it because I am no good at phone conversations about important things like forgiveness or moving on and would rather do it in person?
I think the real reason I didn't do it is because the conversation I needed to have was with myself. I needed to 'get off' being mad at myself for continually making the same mistake over and over again.
In fact, that particular evening I had been beating myself up for having made the same mistake earlier that day. When am I going to learn that just because I can see what needs to be done to move something or someone forward, does not mean I should share it?
Over and over I cannot seem to stop myself from jumping in to help someone before they have even asked for help; before they are even ready. I am aware of this and yet I still let my enthusiasm and good intentions get the best of me, certain at that moment that I have read the signs correctly and my help is wanted.
At one of our break out exercises earlier that day we had to team up with another participant to answer some very deep personal questions. When it was my turn to answer them, I started out with confidence as I have spent the last couple of years answering those same questions myself. It wasn't until partway through my turn that instead of just answering easily I started to recognize that my listener, my "partner" was no longer "liking" my answers....she was slowly pulling away from me. I sensed that she was questioning my answers. Almost like she didn't believe me. I allowed her suspicions to get the best of me, and I started answering differently so she would stay on the same page with me. I realize now I wanted her to like me.
I found myself saying things like "the old me would say this but the new me says this", and even as I did I could hear the voice in my head snidely asking if there were two of me? I could see that she was measuring herself up to me, competing with me --and I wanted her to stop. I knew how many hours of personal growth I had clocked to get to this point, I deserved to be confident in me. And yet, even as I continued on I heard myself explaining that I was still growing, that it was a practice every day to get rid of my old ways of thinking and become the me I was always meant to. I knew even as the words came out that I was saying those things to make her feel better, I really had moved on from my own mean voice and was confident in my self-awareness, my current assessment of "me". I could also see she was clearly not feeling the same way about herself.
I could empathize with her because I had lived for years with a similar judging inner voice who had often made me feel "less than" someone else, and I wanted to spare her that pain. My mistake was twofold, I should never have compromised my answers to make her feel better, and I shouldn't have told her that I had a book suggestion for her.
I really thought I had given up on worrying what others think about me and no longer compromised what I really wanted to say just to please others. I was wrong.
If I had answered the questions with complete confidence and honesty then maybe she wouldn't have struck back at me later in the day when we were asked to volunteer to give assessments of our initial impression of someone else. I was unprepared for her to deliver a negative assessment/assumption in front of the whole room saying I made her feel judged because I had gone into coach mode and offered her a book suggestion. (Funny that I never even gave her that book suggestion). As part of this exercise all we could say in response to someone's assessment of us was thank you.
So I said "thank you" only my cheeks were smarting and my heart was racing. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed the aggressive way she delivered her "judgment" of me. Right after her comment many people piped up to say they were very uncomfortable with this exercise and the giving of negative assessments publicly. It caused quite a ruckus, someone even said they wanted to hug me. I wasn't mad at her for the assessment, I was mad at myself for momentarily slipping back into the old way of seeing myself through the eyes of others and attempting to change me to fit them.
Remember the "get off it" homework I never did? What I needed to get off of was to accept that I had made a gross error by once again worrying about what someone else thought of me. I should never have changed my answers to be more "accepted" by my partner, I should have just stuck with the truth. The truth is that I am happy with me. I have worked hard to be where I am and no one's "judgment" of me should change that.
So here is my late homework: Self --I am sorry that I allowed someone's feelings about me to derail my confidence in who I am. I am also sorry in my attempt to help this person I compromised myself by scaling back the answers about me, then jumped in with a suggestion for her and screwed the whole thing up. I am getting this off my chest, letting it go, learning my lesson and I am moving on. Right now.
And so it goes...