There’s this thing my clients say that always surprises me.
It happens when I’m telling them about some (usually difficult) part of my ongoing process that is the same work I’m guiding them through. They always seem relieved or even happy to know that I, too, am still cycling through the change process.
The reason it’s so surprising to me is that when we first talk, nearly every client I have asks me how long this process takes. To which I always answer truthfully that the speed of the process varies and that I’m 12 years in and still going on mine.
Given their question, though, I fear that they might question the efficacy of the work if I say that I’m still in the process of uncovering my core self, and that it’s still sometimes intense for me.
But the reality seems to be that no matter what, people prefer someone who is walking along side them, rather than preaching from some place built on the facade of: “See how perfect I am? You can have this too!”
And that’s not surprising to me. I not a fan of people who are always broadcasting how perfect their lives are, so why would people who choose me as a guide in their journey want anything different?
I often find myself softening things a bit—I will tell my clients that compared to 12 years ago, when I started this process for myself, a bad day was a 14 on a scale of one to 10, and it lasted for weeks. By contrast, when that same icky feeling comes up now, it’s a five and lasts for a few minutes. And that’s all true, but that’s still me hiding from just saying that I’m having a lousy day and I feel awful. Or, that there are big pieces of my own process that I’m still working on.
So, what’s really going on here? Even though I’ve seen over and over that people only feel more drawn to me when I’m fully open, why do I keep hiding behind my false front in some way?
Well, my survival mechanism dictates that I prove I’m perfect. So, especially when it comes to my career, the survival mechanism kicks in and I find myself not wanting to admit that I have chunks of my own Learned Distress left to unlearn, especially when I’m talking with someone who might be interested in working with me.
However, in the past couple of months, I’ve been getting increasingly louder hints that I might need to shift my strategy here. A couple messages came from an important mentor. The third was from a client who said that as she read through my personal change story on my website, hearing that I had been very ill and this work had helped me heal from that, she felt that she could trust me with this part of her journey.
She felt that because I have experienced difficulty, I was going to be able to relate to what she is going through. Okay, Okay, I guess I get the message!
Then, I flashed back to the blog post I wrote just last week. Uh oh! It was about people who have trouble taking vacation. In my draft, I had included how my own survival mechanism had made it hard for me to take time off. I started coming up with excuses—my pattern is more complicated than the others I featured, the blog was getting too long, blah, blah, blah. My finished post talked about simpler patterns and ended with a spectacular success from one of my clients. Well, here’s what I left out: The longest “vacation” I’ve had in the past six years was three days long, squeezed onto the end of a business trip. Yup. That is some serious imperfection, here for all of you to read.
The taking time off thing is a work in progress for me, as are several things that I’ll be working into future articles. Oh, yeah, and I’m still working on that “have to prove I’m perfect” thing.
Are there places in your life where you find yourself hiding what’s real in order to make a particular impression on people? A lot of my work on myself and with clients has been about it being truly safe to openly share who we really are. Does that feel possible to you or too scary?
Have you considered what good might come of sharing all of who you really are with others? It’s time for me to do that at a whole new level, so I’ll keep you posted about how it goes!
Editor: Brianna Bemel