Monday, March 29, 2010

How's that working for you......

"Pooh?" said Piglet
"Yes, Piglet?" said Pooh
"Oh nothing, just making sure you're there." said Piglet"

I think I have learned more in the last six days than I have in the last 40 years. From my meeting last Wednesday with the Executive Coach to the weekend home with friends, I feel like I have more insight into who I am and what makes me tick than I have at any point before in my life. For as much fun as we had, I have to say the conversations I had with Donna, April, Trish, Mrs B. and Momma Koch are really what I will treasure from this weekend. I get myself now and that is huge for me.

Life growing up was hard, for all three of us (Donna, April and myself). We had to grow up really fast and we had to face situations that as children we never should have had to. A lot of what we talked about this weekend was those challenges we overcame with our parents and families and how they made us who we are. I know for me I have tried for 25 years to hide those scars and realize now that just like I have done in the last 4 months with the scars on my body from the past, I need to learn to accept and embrace the scars of my childhood, that a lot of the stress I feel is from fighting them so hard instead of just working with them and from trying to overcompensate for my flaws and even some of my good qualities.

One of the areas I have always struggled with is my intelligence. I have always felt that I had to hide that I was smart and felt that admitting I am an intelligent person was being conceited. So it was a little unnerving when I met with the exec coach last week and he pointed out multiple times how smart I was. I felt like I should be apologizing for it. The irony only continued when one of the first comments Trisha made after she arrived was how I was one of the smartest people she had ever known. Again I felt like I should apologize for that. Especially since the context she mentioned it in was how it had made her feeling inferior.

I have no doubt where my shame at being smart comes from, we talked about it a bunch of times this weekend, it comes from my relationship with my mom. Who yes, as much as I have never said it before (but my friends did this weekend) I am much smarter than. My intelligence definitely came from my dad, for all his flaws (some of which I now get also) he was definitely above average when it came to his intellect. My mother told me many times growing up that my desire to be more and accomplish more made me a snob and I let her convince me that my greatest asset was something to be ashamed of. This is the first thing I am letting go of! I was very blessed to be given the mind I was and I am ready to admit that and be proud of it. I am more intelligent than most of the people I know!!!!! I can’t help it, I don’t want to change it, and I am very grateful for it!

But I also realizing that as great as smart can be in life, it is a double edged sword that I have been fighting my entire life. When you are able to figure things out on your own, the world expects you to and too often it means I end up over my head without the support I need – both professionally and personally. Yes when left to my own I will usually struggle through until I find the answer and figure it out, but I am ready to admit I shouldn’t always have to and a lot of times it frustrates me that I have to. I don’t want to have to always be right and have all the answers. I want to be able to be as flawed and human as the rest of the world and I want it to be ok to expect others to find the answer for me sometimes.

When I was talking to the coach last week, he found it interesting that as an ISTJ (Meyers-briggs personality test where there I is for introvert) I was so motivated by the team I am leading at work and why I didn’t like having my own solo practice. I didn’t have his answer then, but I do now. While yes, I am an introvert, in that I am much happier with 4 close friends than in a room of 40 people. What I love about working with my team at work is they don’t expect me to have all the answers and they are willing to carry the load WITH me (and when I am overwhelmed, FOR me). They are probably the first and only group of people in my life with who I have felt safe not being perfect around, and for me that is more precious than gold.

I also saw through Donna this weekend (thank you, you have no idea how much sharing what you said to your boss helped me) that I have brought from my childhood the reaction pattern I learned for coping with this over inflated expectation that “Pam can do it all and handle it all because she is so smart”. That the way I would finally get my parents to hear me, by exploding or there being major drama, is what I have been doing in my adult life also. That the explosions (often by email these days) are the only way I have known to get people to hear me and to put aside the “smart Pam who can figure it all out on her own”. That the screaming for help inside me over something I feel overwhelmed by eventually ends up erupting as my only mode of asking for help and to be heard. I see it playing out at work, I see it playing out with Gui, I see it playing out in many relationships I have destroyed (particularly one very dear one that I devastated in the late 90’s and regret to this day what happened with).

The great irony in all this, is that as an adult the exploding to be heard/helped probably gets me just the opposite to the help I need. It ends up pushing away the exact people who I am trying to tell I am over my head and need their guidance, help and support, that I need them to carry a bigger portion of the load. They perceive it as an anger issue, or rudeness or whatever. Yet for as badly as it hurts me at times, it is still the only mechanism I have come up with before people even seem to recognize I am at my limits.

It is interesting to me that I also don’t usually have the explosions with my team at work, and I see now it is because they just aren’t necessary to be heard and supported in that environment when I am at my limits. They just seem to know when I need them to step in and step up without being asked, and they have never once made me feel bad for needing that.

I think the most frustrating part of coming out of this weekend, is I am seeing so much of who I am, but I am not sure yet how to change a lot of it. Obviously with this one, the eruptions and meltdowns I get how to change, just don’t explode, but what I don’t get is how not to get into that mess in the first place. I haven’t figured out yet how to not set the expectation of the people around me that I can do it all, and figure it all out and handle it all and that sometimes I need to ask the same question a bunch of times before I get the answer (this last one I really need to work with Gui on as I saw it play out last week when I wasn’t understanding something he felt I should get and was getting very frustrated with me asking it multiple times).

I want people to see me as competent, reliable and capable, because most things in my life I can do it all on, I do have the answer, I do get it super fast and I don’t need hand holding. But I need to figure out how to not have that end up at the extreme over inflated expectation it always seems to become. That part I am still really struggling with. I don’t get how to let people see that I am just as human as they are and not superwoman from day one, not just when I meltdown.

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