The fleeting and subtle moments of self doubt before something big
A big part of my job as a coach is to see the potential and the magnificence in other people.
Often when we’re talking about a new role that my client is about to step up to or a significant professional or personal challenge that they are facing, they will drop hints or even be totally open about their lack of magnificence. I might hear things like:
“I’m not all that clever” or
“I don’t really care that much about this project.”
What’s going on that they would raise that, and raise it now? Is it something as their coach that I should ask about then and there; or should we stick with exploring that new role or that big challenge itself?
It depends, of course, and I’ll usually go with a combination of gut-feel about the strength of feeling behind what they’re expressing and my knowledge of this person. Is it a pattern for them that they hedge or chip-away like that? Is it a request for support about something that (in my enthusiasm about them stepping-up) we may have overlooked or not stayed with for long enough?
I have to be aware that there’s a place where fear of what is actually possible, of just how much they might achieve or become, is actually more paralysing then the fear of what can go wrong. This is a place where the internal saboteur can become very subtle and very hard to spot.
What is it that a client is really saying when they tell me: “I’m not really as good as you think I am, you know”, and what avenue of exploration should I choose with them?
My personal rule of thumb is probably to work through a sequence of possibilities in my mind that goes something like this:
- Is this an opportunity to remind someone just how magnificent they already are?
- Is this a good chance to explore how it’s possible to be great, achieve amazing things and be frail and uncertain and human all at the same time?
- What resources (internal strengths and tangible, external resources) might my client and I both need to bring to the fore right now or in the near future?
And what have the sages and poets had to say about it previously – here’s a great one from Marianne Williamson often (wrongly) attributed to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”