There is one singular thing that is often more detrimental than unbefriended fear, than limiting beliefs, than unrealized shadows, than un-navigated resistance, than sucky situations.
And that thing is the anxiety, shame, or self-criticism that comes with thinking that we are the only ones who are experiencing the fear, the limiting thinking, the resistance, the messing up, the mess, the imperfection, or the sucky situation.
Even when we know better, we fall into thinking things like—
“I’m the only one who doesn’t feel good enough when I lead client sessions.”
“Everyone else feels like they belong; it’s just me who doesn’t.”
“It’s not normal to be scared to raise my rates.”
“I’m not comfortable in my own skin; something isn’t right with me.”
“It’s so abnormal to be 50 and still not know what my business is about.”
“My kids are so chaotic; there must be something wrong with them.”
“My underarms get so sweaty when I have to give a presentation. What’s wrong with me?”
When things don’t go our way, or when we have a fear, it’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction: without even consciously thinking about it, we just feel that what’s happening to us doesn’t happen to other people, or at least not “normal” people (or successful people or “happy” people).
And when we think what we’re thinking, feeling, having, or experiencing is abnormal, shame can set in.
And like I shared above, this shame can be more detrimental than the thing itself.
As a coach or transformational practitioner, it’s important that you use your deep listening skills to detect when a client has fallen into the thinking that what they’re experiencing is wrong, and then, normalize it for them.
Normalizing falls under the skill set of “creating awareness,” and it is such a vital awareness to create with clients who need it.
Especially in our social media culture where everyone else’s lives look so perfect—perfect looks, perfect careers, perfect meals, perfect relationships—our clients benefit deeply from learning that their messiness, that their fears, that their triggers, that their pain, that their not-so-savory parts are totally normal.
And when they can really see and feel that what they are experiencing is normal, they can loosen up a bit. They can be gentler with themselves. They can let go of some shame. They can maybe even appreciate what they’re experiencing.
A week or two ago, I heard Brené Brown share that normalizing is the opposite of pathologizing.
I have seen this to be true over and over again, and I routinely normalize with my clients.
And when I do, the feeling of a big, deep sigh of relief is palpable.
They eventually thank me for normalizing their situation with them. And also for showing them that I’m not perfect and that you don’t need to be perfect to create what you want.
I share all sorts of things that support them to stop pathologizing themselves and their situations, that support them to soften themselves and who they are; things like:
“I still, after all these years, get nervous and super sweaty before I give a big presentation.”
“I really want people to like me, too.”
“It’s so normal to be terrified to raise your rates.”
“Sometimes, I too want to just quit everything and run away.”
“My not-good-enough stuff still creeps in sometimes, even more than sometimes.”
“Yeah, my body is doing weird things too now that I’m in my 40s.”
“So many entrepreneurs get anxious when it comes to sales calls.”
“Everyone has a part of themselves that is jealous of others.”
“I haven’t yet spoken to a single parent of a teenager who has told me their kid’s room isn’t a danger zone.”
And so on. And so on.
The normalizing doesn’t mean that we don’t then work to change what we want to change. It just means that the work of change is being fueled by a place of self-love and compassion versus a place of self-hatred and brutality.
I use the skill of normalizing not only in client sessions but in all of my marketing. Because I see my marketing not just as material to sell my offerings, but as a service to anyone who comes in contact with it. And if my marketing is truly going to be of service, it needs to poke holes in the myths of perfection and normalize the human experience.
If you’re not already using the skill of “normalizing” in your work and marketing, my invitation to you is to start looking for the places where you can. Be of service to those you connect with by not letting them fall into the trap of thinking they’re alone in their experience or that there’s something wrong with them for feeling the way that they do.
Don’t underestimate the impact that “normalizing” can have.
It can be a healing gift that helps others love themselves and their lives more deeply.