pART 2: mY cAREER jOURNEY
Self-confidence is your belief in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is knowing what you excel at, the value you provide and acting in a way that conveys that to others.
What happens when you stop conveying that to others though? I know what happened to me, I began to doubt myself and my ability to make good decisions. I lost my job, and I believed that my life had fallen apart right before my eyes. I didn't know what to do or where to go, finding a place to start just seemed impossible.
Confidence is a trait that severely impacts everything we do, losing it is incredibly uncomfortable. Fortunately, we are resilient creatures and have a way of making grand comebacks, but they don't happen without a little self-reflection and a lot of work on our part!
pART 1: mY cAREER JOURNEY
I started my first "real" job as an adult the day after I turned 18. Over 20 years later I was faced with a situation that I had never experienced before. I lost my job.
I played it off more like I had been laid off, but honestly, I got fired. I just couldn't admit it to myself much less anyone else. I was embarrassed, ashamed, scared, and angry. The terrifying part is that I didn't see it coming. I questioned myself as to if I should have seen it coming, what could I have done to prevent it, what was wrong with me?
I didn't know at the time that it would take more than four months even to begin to answer those questions. Spoiler alert, everything worked out alright for me, and I am sharing my story over the next several posts in hopes that it helps someone else as well!
I have a slight obsession with Brene Brown. I love her books, but I prefer to watch her talks on YouTube because her sense of humor, spunk, and wit are second to none. When she talks, it's like my ADHD runs and hides.
While there are many essential topics she translates into digestible information, my most recent favorite was addressing critics. She says that when you go into the arena, you can expect to get dirty. Your clothes get torn. Your knuckles get scraped. You get the wind knocked out of you. You might even break a rib or two. So she decided that when it comes to criticism, she’s only going to listen to it if it comes from other people who are in the arena with her.
So what is the difference between the people in there with you and those sitting in the stands? The people in the arena give advice and suggestions. They offer some sort of guidance that they acquired from their own time spent in the arena. The people in the stands? They commentate, speculate, assume and decide. Very rarely do they ever say, “Hey, how can I get in there with you? What can I do to help?
Among those people in the stands is where you will find your critics, so you need to know how to deal with them. In my opinion, this is where Brene Brown really gets it right. To sum it up, she says that you know your critics are going to be in the stands and you probably know the types of things they are going to say, so you save them a seat right next to your self-doubt. Then you tell them all, "I see you, I hear you, but I'm going to do this anyway."
Everyone wants to be wanted or needed and to feel appreciated and let's face it, needing someone can be scary especially when you know from past experiences how awful and hard it is to recover from losing someone you felt like you needed. Another thing we humans like to have as much of as possible is control. We love to think that we are in control of something and when we feel out of control we tend to try and find a way to create it ourselves.
One way to generate that power we long for is by keeping distance because controlling that decision makes us feel safe and like we have control of our emotions. We must be at least willing to try something new, or we will perpetuate the same disconnected relationships of past. Doing something over and over again expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity, if you want a new result, you have to do something different.
The only thing that I've found helpful when trying to change has been the gratifying experience of learning to recognize when I am holding back or not saying out loud the thoughts are rolling through my brain and in real-time choosing to speak up about it. Sometimes I don't catch myself immediately but as soon as I do I stop myself and verbally acknowledge to myself and my partner what I just realized and sometimes there is a great deal of fulfillment experienced by both of us just because I was able to identify the obstacle almost immediately.
Of course, there is risk involved but what is the alternative if we never let our guard down?
"The vulnerability paradox: It’s the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want you to see in me." - Brene Brown
When allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we feel more connected, invested, respected, valued, needed and desired. That said, vulnerability is a paradox. You get a break from wasting energy trying to protect yourself. Stop worrying about having every answer. We no longer need to work to impress others; we don't have to worry about saying the right thing, we can just talk.
When we are little, it is easy to be ourselves because we don't know any better. Then we spend time watching other people and listening to them criticize each other and point out differences and somewhere along the way we start to lose ourselves. We push the unique characteristics that make us who we are out so that the accepted version can shine through. It is a carnival game though, meaning that most of us will not win a stuffed animal or even a goldfish. It takes courage to be true to who you are, but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Choose courage, don't be complacent. Being courageous means being afraid and acting anyway. Don't let your fear keep you from acting, do it anyway. The great thing is, courage is like a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it is and the easier it becomes to enact.
Attend to positive signals and discount negative ones. We tend to pay more attention to disapproval and rejection rather than compliments and acceptance. Learn how to respond to compliments with a simple thank you rather than down playing them. Appreciate what you have to offer the world, and the world will acknowledge you back. Outside the sun is shining and the skies are blue so dare to open the door and take it all in!
Expectations are a funny thing. We want ours to be met but we don't talk about them. We want to meet other people's expectations but we don't have a clear understanding of what meeting them even looks like. Often expectations are unmet because they are unknown and unknown because they are unspoken.
Ask yourself, "are my expectations clear to me? Could I explain them to a first grader? Does my partner understand the why behind them? Did I provide context?"
These are the questions I should know to ask myself when I feel like my expectations are not being met but instead I sometimes prefer to throw a fit like a toddler. I just want to be mad. I want to be crazy and blurt out all the things that have me frustrated so that I can feel better and after I'm done being mad I am ready to go back to pixie dust and unicorns.
That is not acceptable behavior though, and pixie dust and unicorns aren't real. What is real is the residue left behind from being angry and the hurtful words that didn't make you feel better, but you said them anyway.
If you want a different result, you have to try something different. Clear expectations allow you to be yourself. When there are clear expectations, they are either met or unmet, leaving nothing to hide. Remove the confusing gray area and stick with black and white.
The best relationships are transparent and don't come with fine print. Don't expect your partner to fix all your problems, don't expect them to know what you want or need rather tell them, there will be plenty of better-suited situations to be put in the hands of your imagination go ahead and call this one like you see it.
Time and time again I have proclaimed how independent I am, at times I've even said it with pride. Today changed all of that though. Truth can come as painful lessons that hurt to receive, but that doesn't change the fact that it needs to be said (or heard for that matter).
I didn't realize how much I need and rely on others in my life. Whether it be just someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of, share things I'm excited about with or maybe stuff a little heavier than that, struggles I'm facing, the advice I'm seeking, reminders I need. All of these things are so incredibly important and sometimes you don't realize just how critical they are until you are facing them all alone.
The last year or so I think I've spent half my time secluding myself and the other half trying to fill the void with people who are not equipped or willing to take on such monumental responsibilities.
I feel like I have morphed into a new role and I find myself desperately trying to be for others the person that I need and then when I fall short because I wasn't blessed with all of those talents, I seek shelter in people rather than in myself. I don't know if that makes me co-dependent or just human?
On the other side of things maybe it's not about me at all, perhaps sometimes we are just collateral damage. A pawn in the game of life. I could be reading into things too much and taking it personally because the impact is personal. Our minds are beautifully intricate, and sometimes they are more machine than the task at hand needs.
I have not always been a good friend. In fact, there are a few specific times when I was a really crappy friend. In some of those cases, I am blessed to have such forgiving people in my life who were able to give me another chance, and in other cases, I am left to accept the consequences of my actions.
I try to make sure the people I love know how much I love them and how grateful I am to have them in my life.
I apologize when I am sorry, I speak my mind when I have an opinion, I solicit feedback and advice when I'm lost or unsure, and I hope that the street between us is always two-way.
Our hearts never run out of love; they are fascinating organs. We might run out of patience, we might become blind and resentful, we might forget how to be unconditional, but we never run out of room in our hearts to love.
Life gets busy, kids and family are growing and changing, requiring different things from us and we sometimes feel like the most talented juggler in a circus of our very own, but one thing stays the same. We make time for those things or people we find essential.
These days I find myself holding more and more with higher importance, and I've noticed myself trying to hold on tighter. I crave intelligent conversation, I look for opportunities to have meaningful dialogue, and it isn't always accepted the way I intended.
In some cases I've been greeted with the kind of "no thank you" you expect a telemarketer to get sick of, in other cases, I just keep leaving voicemails on an answering machine with no tape to record the message.
It isn't all bad though because I've also learned my worth, the value of my friendship. I would rather know where I stand and know when to throw in the towel than to just keep banging my head against the wall of a soundproofed room.
I'm not sure I made any real point here, but I think what I am attempting to say is, that the cost of friendship is free, the value is priceless, but it all comes down to choosing to be intentional.
When I engage in conversation usually it's not just to hear myself talk, I want to be understood, I think most of us have that goal in mind. My communication style is intuitive which means that I only care about the forest, not the individual trees. Details are cumbersome to me. The most significant reason for miscommunication in my interactions happens when I'm talking with functional communicators. Those who crave the details, clarity, planning, and end points. They overlook nothing and account for all aspects. Often the difference in styles creates obstacles which lead to misunderstandings.
I get so frustrated when I'm talking, and there is no response, no acknowledgment. It feels like I'm just providing information rather than having a conversation. Then I feel like what I have to say is not important. I'm left reeling over things like, did I mention something I shouldn't have or use the wrong words? Was I not clear, did I leave out necessary details? By the time we talk, again I have over-analyzed the previous conversation to an unrecognizable state (see my post on Assumptions). Which doesn't solve anything, in fact, it only creates more problems to work through.
As hard as it is to do in practice, I try to keep reminding myself that feelings are never right or wrong, they just are. So I have to convince myself that I shouldn't take it as a personal attack. The person I was talking to wasn't engaged in the conversation because I didn't provide the details needed for him to invest. That or, I dominated the conversation because I wasn't listening to listen, I was waiting for my turn to respond. Once all of that is out of the way, it's pretty easy to clarify and remedy the situation (though getting to that point can feel like an eternity sometimes).
I also have a terrible habit of getting frustrated and then shutting down and just responding "ok" when deep down I don't feel "ok, " but I refuse to say anything. I don't want to make it worse but that whole thought process, if put into action, does make it worse. I think all of it could be avoided by just staying in the moment and asking questions until everything is crystal clear, but man is that tough to do because we all have pride and that pride does not like being swallowed! I'm not perfect yet, but I am well on my way! Haha!
Some people are always ready to communicate, anytime day or night but I am not that person. I require a certain amount of prep work. I can listen to someone else, but as for sharing my day or talking about what I'm working on or interested in or excited about, I have to be in the mood or get myself motivated to do so. I've only started to notice myself being this way as I have gotten older which has made me wonder why. I have a half-baked theory to share.
Before I can have a meaningful conversation, I have to get right with myself and do some self-validating. I have to remind myself that I don't need for the other person to get excited with me or understand my thoughts or feelings or agree with me. I have to remind myself that their reactions and responses (or lack thereof) do not determine the relevance of what I have to say. It takes work to do this because it is not my default mode, I would prefer everyone think I'm brilliant and always right, and everything I have to say is intellectual and stimulating. Unfortunately, that is not the way life works thus the reason I must mentally prepare and sometimes I just think I'm too tired or too lazy to equip myself properly so let's chat another time.
We communicate to share and share to be understood (see my post on Miscommunication). We seek for others to share in our excitement when we are happy and we seek comfort and support when we are sad. But I think that sure puts a lot of pressure on the other person to know what you need or want in that moment and give it to you unconditionally. Maybe there is a compromise somewhere in there, but I haven't found it yet. I will say this though, because of the way I compensate for what I need or want I have started to become a better conversationalist for those around me. I have learned the difference between listening and hearing, receiving information and engaging, asking questions and seeking clarification.
Of course, it is still a fantastic feeling when someone else validates us; I think we all crave validation from time to time so knowing how to self-validate is maybe a worthwhile skill to master even if it means not always being ready to have a meaningful conversation at the drop of a hat. Quality interactions can just learn to have a little patience!