Vicki and I had just parked at the restaurant. She was driving.
We had been working nonstop developing a new workshop.
Feeling tired, tense and creatively maxed-out, I told her I just felt like screaming. Immediately, her blood curdling scream filled the car. Good grief!
Let’s just say, I’m careful what I say around Vicki now… definitely raw human… and I just love her for it.
“I guess that means you’re human.”
Recently, someone I report to said that to me. It’s usually a gracious way of acknowledging a mistake of some kind.
The mistake I made was truly based on incorrect information. Nonetheless, I wasn’t able to get to the meeting I was subcontracted to lead at the preferred time. Although relieved to have her understanding, I felt mildly anxious and it took me awhile to stop berating myself for the imperfection.
That’s the problem with being human… it tends to get in the way of perfection. And the last time I checked, anyway you slice it, we are all human. We’re not going to be perfect… and neither are others.
And what about other, less admitted publicly, but known to most of us, human experiences of anxiety, fear of rejection/failure, and the disconnected feelings resulting from lack of recognition and appreciation?
In this chapter, normal human emotional experiences on the not so great side of meaningful work in progress are highlighted with ideas that smooth the rough edges and possibly inspire more joy and fulfillment.
Now to embracing our human emotional experiences that can show up…
1. Anxiety. At times, it’s just what we need. At other times, we need to shut it off.
=>Anxiety is normal. I’m sure by now you’ve heard somewhere that it’s normal to feel some anxiety when trying something new, or performing (like getting up in a group and speaking or interviewing for a desired job, talking to the boss about your concerns or playing a cello solo).
A little bit of anxiety helps us be “on our toes”, sharper, attentive and quicker with adrenaline easily accessed.
=>Choose something. I remember my mother telling me to chew gum to help me calm my nerves before my scheduled graded cello solo performance. (Aren’t moms great?) It worked…I think I still give gum a special “soothing power” when nervous.
Kind of magical thinking, but hey, whatever works, right? (And yes, I did spit it out before I got on stage!) Wearing lipstick also has special powers too (at least it does in Texas, all good women and probably some good men wear lipstick…if that isn’t your thing, try chapstick).
The point is to choose something, some symbol, visual, structure that says, “Relax. You can do it.” What would help calm you?
=>Being prepared helps a lot. Sometimes it’s just comes down to the practical, everyday ordinary ideas that you’ve heard over and over. Don’t let that procrastinator or perfectionist (you know they are related) be in charge.
Get busy with the task at hand and do what you need to do to prepare. “Winging it” is usually risky and while some people seem to be pros at it, my best guess is that those are the people who probably have years of practice and have a favorite “winging it” speech.
=>Expect critical reviews. When doing something for the first 3 times, expect some not so great reviews, yours or others. That is, you’re polishing it, revising, adding or deleting according to feedback. Expect that and adopt a welcoming attitude for learning what works and what doesn’t. Ask for feedback regularly. You’re only going to improve. Maybe you’ll hit a homerun immediately. It happens.
=>Then there are times anxiety needs more attention. Sometimes people present with a stuck position or belief about themselves that they just can’t shake with all the wise, rational thinking available. A part of them knows that their thinking is off, but another part won’t let go.
I had a mild panic episode while speaking to a large audience years ago. I remember feeling a wave of disconnect while speaking and feeling like I was watching myself perform. It felt horribly out of control. I had momentarily lost my grounding. To this day, I’m not sure what, if any, sense I made. I could hear my voice shaking and I couldn’t finish fast enough.
Until I acknowledged this happened and talked about all the stresses I experienced prior to that incident (which I believe were expressed at that time through the panic symptoms), I was vulnerable and fearful about public speaking again.
And even though I have a background in behavioral science, (we can be the most resistant about getting professional help), I continued to try and manage on my own. I forced myself to accept public speaking events because I knew that staying away would foster a bigger fear. It was tough.
I eventually worked through most of the fears by doing the uncomfortable again and again. Hiring an EMDR trained therapist or coach would probably still be of help today around performing. It’s kind of like putting a delicious icing on top of the cake. I’m putting that on my “to do” list.
2. Fear. Fear of rejection and fear of failure walk hand in hand and can be redirected to be your best support.
=>Go for Productive Failure. A favorite term from Courtney Seiter is “Productive Failure” and her conclusion that “doing things you suck at can still be enjoyable.”
Actually, as someone put it, “you’re not doing it right if you don’t get a complaint or rejection.” Think about it. The appeal isn’t present for everyone for a variety of reasons. It could be the other’s particular issue, and yes, it could be your style. Remember, just like you have preferences and reject, so do others.
The beauty of failing or being rejected is the opportunity or let’s say dare, to rise to the occasion and conquer which leads to the next idea…
=>Be like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine… Let the rejection motivate and empower you to boost the action, step it up and get going now!
=>Surrender to rejection and failure. Why not expect that a natural part of meaningful work development is rejection and failure? Surrender and stop debating that it has happened or is happening. When you can surrender to the reality, then your energy to problem solve and notice options becomes the focus.
=>Say thank-you and drop the defensiveness. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
But it’s the feedback, both positive and negative that can be our greatest support. I think it’s true that our biggest allies are the people who speak honestly…with care, but truthfully, even if the message is opposite of what we think or prefer.
Ask for clarification of the rejecting or failing kind of feedback. Put your defenses aside and learn from the other person’s point of view. Be open and receptive. Sit with the feedback for awhile. Suspend judgement for now.
I’m guessing there are several people like me who reads or hears negative thumbs-down kind of responses and immediately feels protective and then curious. Afterall, time and energy has been invested and to have it questioned or torn apart (see, that’s human…not necessarily accurate, but it sure feels like it) deserves a little time to be processed and welcomed as another helpful perspective.
My suggestion is to walk away for a little while. Review who the “critic” is and their legitimacy. If they are not your enemy, then consider that they have given you their gift of time with good intention. You may not agree, however, let their message be understood.
Better still, before you read or hear critical feedback, tune into yourself and get into a welcoming place. Take a few deep-cleansing breaths and get into your “adult” self so that you can process rationally. You know, it’s our adult self we all have access to that is open, honest, and willing to consider another viewpoint. Take some time and let the adult in you surface. It will if you let it.
3. Disconnection. Be the goodwill messenger with recognition and appreciation of others.
=>Realize the benign neglect syndrome. We can just be so self-involved with our schedules that the simple recognition of others or from others lacks. It’s not because we don’t care. Our radars are not programmed, (although thanks to FB reminders, birthdays are hard to miss, right?) Benign neglect is a human condition that only conscious commitment remedies. This is how you do it…
=>Give it first. Ok, you expected this right? While researching articles I came across a story of a woman who didn’t feel she was getting the kind of recognition and appreciation she deserved.
So, she decided to give her own kind of recognition and appreciation to the people she knew, including people she worked around. She made it her own by making capes to celebrate the “hero” like quality of the person she was recognizing. I’m not sure, but I think from her feelings of deficit, came a great idea and who knows, she may have opened a business specializing in appreciation/recognition capes!
=>Start a gratitude journal again. This is not a new idea for many of us, yet it’s an idea worth repeating and an activity that can shift a mood towards greater appreciation and connection. Here’s what you do…
a) Each night before you sleep, make a list of at least five things you feel grateful for. For example: being able to read for leisure every day, the beauty of a sunrise every morning while drinking the first cup of coffee, enjoying the glee of your grandchildren at the zoo.
b)Make an effort to keep up with the journal daily; hopefully, it’s an activity you are enjoying and eagerly anticipate.
The takeaway is…
We’re all human. No doubt, creation of meaningful work is often challenged by normal human emotional experiences of anxiety, fears and disconnection.
By embracing these challenges, career satisfaction can be enhanced with rewards including ongoing meaningful development, possibly with a unique twist not considered before, potential income innovation and other creative opportunities that just feel (and sound) screamingly energizing. Thanks Vicki. 🙂