I have recently finished coaching Karen, a self-employed bookkeeper. We started working together 5 months earlier. She’d come to see me because she wanted to feel more confident, learn to trust her own judgement and stop looking to others for advice and approval. She’d seen my website and liked the idea of standing tall in the world.
I started by explaining how thoughts determine how we interpret everything that happens to us. This means that our life can feel promising or disappointing, depending on our inner dialogue. I introduced her both to the idea of becoming more self-aware and to her Gremlin (her critical inner dialogue) as well as to the idea of establishing personal boundaries.
About four months into our work, three important relationships let her down badly.
One was a solicitor whose appalling service caused her a lot of anxiety. She had hired him to arrange a Power of Attorney for her elderly Mum. In the end, the Power of Attorney never materialised because he missed the deadline. Then, her Mum died and this became a non-issue.
Her other experience was with a web designer. He made promises and agreed a deadline but there were several delays and issues which Karen was not confronting. Despite me pointing out that he was repeatedly letting her down, it was clear that she wasn’t taking in any of my warnings. The consequences to her business were serious.
The third experience was with a colleague. She was devastated when she discovered he was dishonest and is still paying a heavy price for it.
As these experiences began to unfold, I saw Karen become increasingly stressed and anxious so we focused on effective self-management, direct and indirect.
I decided to leave the subject for a while and focus on her confidence and personal boundaries using a variety of tools from my 10 Life Enhancing Principles ™ . My strategy was to enable Karen develop inner resilience so that, when she was ready to act, she would be able to do so from a strong mind-set.
After a few sessions I brought up the subject of the website designer again and this time she exclaimed “You know, you’re right!” Then she paused and said, “wait a minute, you’ve said this before, haven’t you?” I replied, “yes, several times”. She looked perplexed. “How come I didn’t hear you?”
I explained how the mind works:
“When you like somebody”, I explained, “it’s very difficult to imagine them being incompetent, unreliable or dishonest.”
“However”, I continued, “the mind protects itself against unwelcome information until we’re ready to deal with it.”
Karen had been beating herself up about being too trusting and ‘always’ letting people take advantage of her.
My explanation helped her accept that she could have done nothing until she allowed the information penetrate her awareness. Only then was she ready to take action.
I added a further comment: “When you wonder how best to live your life, I suggest that it’s better to trust and be betrayed than to live life not trusting”. Karen looked relieved, then said, “I’m so glad you said that because that’s how I live my life and, since I never had to deal with such deeply disappointing situations before – never mind three all at once – that tells me that, most of the time, it works for me.”
Karen walked out of that session feeling ready to confront each situation. She dealt with each of them firmly and decisively. Our preparatory work had paid off. For someone who used to be scared of confrontation and regarded herself as a ‘people-pleaser’, this was huge.
As the session ended, I gave her homework to do. I asked her to reflect on what she had learned so we could discuss it at our next session.
Karen arrived smiling and looking ten feet tall. She proudly showed me her conclusions and, for her own future reference, she’d come up with a list of questions:
- Is this person credible? What is the evidence?
- Do they take responsibility when there are setbacks or is it always somebody else’s fault? (the operative word is ‘always’).
- Are they reliable? Do they do what they say they will do when they say they will do it?
- Do they treat others with respect or with carelessness? Sooner or later, they will treat us the way they treat others.
To round off our session I told her, “These three people caused you a lot of pain but, looking back, can you see how valuable they were as a vehicle for your personal growth?”
She smiled and shouted “Thanks, guys! I couldn’t have done it without you!”. We both laughed.
As a result of our work together and, especially, having dealt with those three challenges in the way that she did, she now feels really good about herself. She knows she can handle challenges without always running to other people for advice. She told me: “I feel I’m standing tall in the world! It’s an amazing feeling to know I can trust myself!”
Are there areas in your life when you don’t really trust your judgement? Or where you sometimes feel unable to deal with some challenges? If you do, let’s chat: