Friday, 7 January 2011

Conclusions

... and coincidences.

Now that I am bringing all my projects back on track and the decision is made that the book will be an eBook, I gave a printed copy to a friend who has an aversion towards electronic books and a love for the printed matter. It always is a bit scary to give it away face to face with the possibility of a rather too straightforward feedback looming. Well, and then we met in the coffee corner after she had read half way through and she asked: I like your stories, they are funny and all, but why did you write them?

Hmm...?! We met only a few month ago, so she only knows me as a rather confident almost 50 year old, and she doesn't know that I only left my teenage state of mind a couple of years ago and eventually started to grow up. I had no idea how to answer her question in a nutshell, and then coincidence came to aid when the very evening I eventually took the time to listen to some TED talks of which the announcements had been sitting in my inbox since almost a week - and there it was: My answer lies in the talk of Brene Brown about 'The power of vulnerability' (I later discovered a second talk elaborating further on the matter).

She was talking about the wish for being connected, for the need to belong, the feeling of inadequacy which makes so many of us strive for perfectionism and taking preemptive action to please in the hope that then we might eventually be loved or at least be accepted - I call it 'good girl syndrome'. She mentions excuses and blame which are used as a cover to avoid being hurt, and a very powerful emotion which is 'shame', which I refer to as 'embarrassment'.

No! No need to read through all those links above which will lead you to my respective articles ... ah, who am I kidding? Of course I want you to read them and to recognise how brilliant I am for having figured it out, all by myself - but honestly: Those links are giving me some sort of an approval that with my ideas and pamphlets I am not on my way to the loony bin, and that with the advice the one or the other might be taking from those, I am not taking you down that lane with me.

For me it was all about growing up, becoming more confident, but those are rather high level concepts. How do I do that? How do I become more confident? I am a compliant control freak, a perfectionist, there must be some rules and a few exercises which I could apply and then there I am. Instead the process was all fuzzy, my brain went along paths which I didn't expect. John, my mentor, triggered thoughts and ideas, and I was willing to let myself fall into whatever would happen. I did not understand why it worked, though.

I never felt 'enough'. I was a woman who felt so inadequate that even the check-out lady at Tescos felt obliged to tell her off, for crying out loud. This whole episode resulted in a ranting article about 'Food Shopping'. And in writing about it, in the attempt to turn the story round, over and over again, until the rant became funny so that it could be published, something else happened: The subconscious learned that this woman did not tell me off because I am inadequate, but because this woman is a silly cow and a very bad employee. It was me, allowing her to be offensive to me. This woman was grumpy for her own reasons. It was not her seeing me as inadequate, it was me allowing her actions to make me feel inadequate. It was in my head, not in hers.

But still: One cannot just go out and switch the inadequacy switch off. One could try and use positive reinforcement, subjecting oneself to increasingly difficult situations and then - maybe with the help of a mentor - get the positive things out of it, so that gradually the subconscious mind is starting to accept the person one is.

You know what? Whenever I write: 'My mentor', as I am sitting here at my desk, 9:20 on a Friday morning, my heart rate still goes up! As a grown up, confident woman one does not admit to the need for somebody who helps with this sort of stuff. Admitting that one needs a mentor, means admitting that one is not adequate, that one is 'not good enough'. I got so lucky to be able to slip into this mentor thing. When I started having those work one-to-ones, it was a  a mandatory admin management thing. I didn't know that he was a coach; I needed half a year to find out that I was coached. By then I saw the advantages and was all game. Would I have ever looked up a coach on the Internet and booked an appointment? NO!

And now, admittedly, I sometimes feel that I could do with some more coaching, that I still have open questions. So, imagine me listening to this talk from Brene and ever so often shouting out: Yes! Eeeexactly! and then she gets to the point where she mentions the word 'vulnerability' for the first time.

Wham! That's it, the final clue!

Vulnerability is the culprit. It is the strongest of all feelings and the crux lies in the mother of all vicious circles:  The feeling of inadequacy, of 'not being enough', makes a person vulnerable. We try to cover it up at whatever cost; by getting a mentor however, we have to let that cover fall. Not just in front of the mentor, but to the world. This first step of hiring a person for help, we have to achieve alone while being in that vulnerable state. Admitting to it feels like giving a knife into the opponents hands, opening the arms wide and consciously expecting the attack. Yes, for me it felt that physical, and even more: I know how a cut feels, I know it may be mended, or if not, that than at least it will be all over. But on an emotional level there is no time frame and I can never be quite sure what the blow will do to me. Will it cause depression, anger? I don't know how much I can trust myself, could in my anger I hurt somebody? And I know that I will be alone. For a flesh wound doctors would be rushing to aid voluntarily, people would visit even if they don't like me, there would be compassion. The blow to the mind would be quite the opposite. The one thing I was striving for in the first place, compassion and bonding: Out of the window!

And nevertheless, according to Brene and to my own experience, the solution lies in allowing exactly that to happen. Apparently John managed to teach me, how to allow to be vulnerable. Turns out that my 'healing thing' is writing on the Internet. There is nothing about me that you don't know. For others it could be opening up to a partner or mending a family feud.

And you know what? The most amazing thing is that NOTHING happened. My healing example is the separation from a friend. We were very close, but our lives developed into different directions. She got a high level job and mingled more and more with her work colleagues and after a while I didn't get invited anymore. Of course I felt inadequate and low about losing the bond! I found excuses: 'Oh we are both so busy and one has to build networks to be good in the job.' I blamed: 'Looking at it closely, she always was after status'. I was angry and frustrated: 'I never thought that SHE would...'

Well, I learned to accept that WE are different with different lifestyles, that WE just didn't have anything to talk about anymore and drifted apart, that if WE would meet today for the first time WE might not have become friends in the first place. So now I can treat her like any other acquaintance, including of the prospect of future friendship. I am open to her approach, whatever that is. Does it make me vulnerable? Yes! Do I mind? NO!

I now know that I don't have to try and please everybody in order to find a few friends whose friendship I then cannot enjoy, because I am eagerly wishing to befriend the people who don't want me, and whose rejections throw me into depression; ... and I will publish this darn book, although the prospect of success is rather small while the proscpect of criticism is rather big. Eventually I am enough! I am the person I am, I am not hiding or pretending: Take me or leave me!

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