Unhappy? You may be ignoring your single most important asset.
A new client of mine was applying to be the leader a major project at her company. She didn’t get the role. She was crushed. She wanted it SOOO badly.
When we had our coaching call all she wanted to do was distract herself. She’d decided her strategy would be to stay in her old job, which she hated, but disconnect from work, focusing on the rest of her life. “Give me something, anything, to distract myself CrisMarie!” she pleaded.
I gently nudged her to drop in and feel what she was feeling. “No, it’s not productive. It’s a waste of time. It’s illogical. I just need to figure out what to do next.”
I knew she’d wind up at the wrong destination if she didn’t let herself feel the impact of the rejection, the hurt, and the anger. She’d never let it sink in that maybe it wasn’t a problem with her, but a problem with how she didn’t fit with the company culture. She’d be that frog sitting in boiling water as they slowly turned up the heat. Her soul would wither.
Thank goodness, she did feel and as a result, surprising options rose to the surface for her to consider.
Successful Professional Women
When a client starts working with me, she’s typically a successful professional woman, yet, despite some good results, she doesn’t feel that way. Often she feels miserable, like a fraud, or left wondering, “Is this all there is?”
What I have found is she’s often not listening to herself, her emotions. She’s bought society’s patriarchal view on emotions:
“You’re being illogical.”
“Don’t take things so personally!”
“Don’t be so sensitive.”
She’s making herself wrong for what she feels. But, feelings are powerful.
Honor Your Emotions
I want you to decide to honor and feel your emotions.
What if you’re always responding in a right way to what’s happening?
As for me, I’ve come to accept I’m an emotional being and highly sensitive. It’s who I am. My emotions guide me.
They tell me when I’m off base, trying too hard, lonely, miserable, all used up
They tell me when people or environments fit and when they’re toxic
They tell me what feels good, right, and on target for me
Thank goodness, but that wasn’t always the case. Starting out, I tried to be a little man.
Becoming A Little Man
I grew up in a military and Catholic household, which didn’t leave much room for anything emotional, feminine, sensual, playful, or tender. I was too sensitive for my environment, which was loud, violent, and scary.
At the age of 13, after an unfortunate event with my Dad’s fist, I decided to shut it all down and pack it away.
I figured I’d protect myself by not feeling. Sounded like a reasonable plan. It even seemed to fit what society demanded: good grades, achievement, and success.
As a result, I became a “little man.” I was going to prove I was as good as, if not better than, men at their own game – work.
When I was rowing at the University of Washington, I became the first woman rower to bench press over 200 pounds, 215 to be exact. I learned later that my feat of prowess upset the men’s crew team. They couldn’t believe it and began their own bench pressing contest to beat me.
I didn’t pay attention.
Protection Meant Bad Choices
However, to do things like make the Olympic Team, become a Boeing Flight Test Engineer, or a manager at a Top 5 Consulting firm, I had to push myself harder than I had ever been pushed, to do things I didn’t want to do.
Why did my life look so perfect on the outside, but I was so miserable on the inside?
I was busy living up to the expectations of how others defined success, chasing security and belonging, but ignoring myself: what I wanted, what I needed, and what made me happy. I felt miserable and crazy.
What I didn’t realize is that the problem with protecting myself against feeling meant I missed the connection to my own internal guidance system, which is my emotions.
As a result of shoving my feelings in the closet, I made a series of bad choices:
Being in dangerous situations with guys that traumatized me dearly
Staying in jobs I thought I had to, in environments that didn’t respect me
Trying too hard and too long to make relationships work
Continuously trying to be the perfect employee, partner, daughter, friend
Making work my top priority, never having time for hobbies or fun
Learning to Feel
Learning how to allow, feel, and honor my emotions has been the single most important skill I’ve learned as an adult. Ironically, it was a skill that came naturally to me as a young girl, but I’d rejected it as an adult.
Honoring my emotions has allowed me to regain my health, create good relationships, engage in work that I’m passionate about and makes me money, and finally, engage in hobbies – and ones that make me feel alive: dance, acting, and painting.
What you may not realize is that it’s the avoidance of your feelings, not your feelings themselves, that causes you the most angst.
Sure, there are dark emotions: rage, jealousy, grief. You may think these are bad or ugly emotions, but ALL emotions are valuable. Really.
Emotions are energy moving through your body (not your mind) trying to tell you something. They’re trying to give you access to your internal guidance.
You don’t have to act out of them, but letting the energy move through you is crucial. All emotions are telling you something. It just may not be what you originally think.
Decide that no matter what you are feeling, you’re feeling it for some good reason. Don’t push it away. Treat it like a dear friend. Turn towards it, acknowledge it, and get curious about it. Allow the energy to move through you.
Then listen to what’s left. Likely, it’s your guidance on the next right step.
P.S. For those of you that have rejected or wrestled with your emotional nature, I have a gift for you. This past February I performed in Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, and there was a piece written by a teenager, called Emotional Creature. It's powerful.
P.P.S. Interested in extra credit? Watch Eve Ensler’s TED Talk: Embrace Your Inner Girl
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke are Master certified life coaches, business consultants, speakers and authors of The Beauty of Conflict. They believe real relationships are the key to creating great business results. They’ll take your team from mediocre to great.
Want to take a class? Sign up for one of their virtual classes: Get Unstuck, Relationship Mojo or come to their signature retreat Find Your Mojo in Montana. Click here to check out all their service offerings.