When you meet ‘successful’ people, do you feel inferior and assume they know more than you?
Do you assume that what you say would be irrelevant or they’d think it was silly, so you stay quiet ?
(and then give yourself a hard time later because of what you could have said, or should have said)
This reminds me of a powerful experience I had a few years ago.
It was March 2010, and I was in London on an advanced coach training course run by Johnny Tenn.
I was with a group of around 10 people, all of them successful experienced coaches and I felt like the ‘newbie’ and the most ‘inferior’.
We were trying to decipher one of those ‘trick’ images – in the same image was an old woman, and also a young woman depending on how you looked at it.
Everyone except one person in the group had ‘got it’ i.e. seen both images. The others were trying to explain to this one person how to ‘see’ the young woman in the image.
I listened patiently while everyone spoke their suggestions, but this person still didn’t ‘get it’.
I stayed quiet because I thought “Well there’s nothing new I could contribute”.
As I watched this person get more and more frustrated, no-one else seemed to be helping.
I decided to pluck up the courage and just speak my suggestion.
So I said, ‘She’s looking away’
That’s all I said, three little words, and instantly this woman said
‘Ah, yes, I see it now, thanks!’
And everyone else was relieved that we could now move on to something else, and that was the end of that.
Except it wasn’t the end for me.
For me that whole event was a HUGE deal … it hit me like a lightening bolt !
There I was sitting on the answer that could (potentially) end this person’s confusion.
I had always told myself that nothing I said would be useful.
I thought that other people would surely have all the good answers, yet now it hit me smack in the face…
Sometimes even successful people don’t have all the answers.
The way I describe something could (and did) make all the difference to one person.
It was only a small thing, but it had huge implications for me.
The glaring truth hit me …
Yes, I CAN make a difference, just by speaking up, and being myself and sharing what I know.
This awareness brought me to tears and made me realise that I have a duty to speak up and contribute.
And so it is with you.
“Your presence and your words are deeply valuable”
And you cannot know for sure when, where or for whom that might be….
How can you gather the courage to speak up even when you feel inferior?
1) First, take the time to acknowledge your feelings
Whenever we feel something unpleasant, we tend to try and get away from it as quickly as possible, and forget it ever happened.
Take the time to stay with your feelings, and acknowledge them for what they are.
You’ll then be in a better position to be able to do something about them.
This is hard to do in real time, (when it’s actually happening), so practise first in a safe way…
Bring to mind a situation that’s happened recently where you met ‘successful’ people and felt uncomfortable.
As you re-live that situation in your mind, check in with your body and remember what you felt physically and emotionally.
For example, you might have felt a sinking feeling in your stomach, or butterflies, sweaty palms, dry throat.
Emotionally you might have felt fear, vulnerability, or that you were being judged.
Whatever it was that you felt, allow yourself to be with it in this safe space.
2) Second, listen carefully to your mind chatter
There might be familiar words or phrases that will come into your head (your inner dialogue, or mind chatter) that can add to your stress if they go un-checked.
For example, you might be telling yourself
They’ll think I’m stupid,
I don’t understand what they’re talking about,
I don’t have anything to contribute.
3) Thirdly, acknowledge those words with love and understanding
Imagine those words are being spoken by a small child, and your adult self is there to comfort and soothe and empathise with her.
Acknowledge her fears, tell her it’s ok, and that she is still loved and valued.
By giving our inner child soothing words of comfort, we take away some of the rawness of that pain.
We help her to see it’s not her fault, and she doesn’t have to deal with this all by herself.
4) Remember a time when you received appreciation for something you said or did.
Bring to mind a situation where your presence, and your words brought comfort or resolution to someone.
This could be as simple as smiling at someone who’s feeling down, or receiving deep thanks for the transformation you’ve helped a client achieve.
Notice the physical and emotional feelings surrounding this memory, and ‘turn up the dial’ on these so they’re even more powerful.
Repeat this every day, so you have an ever expanding collection of positive experiences to draw on.
5) Rinse and repeat!
Make it a regular practice that you acknowledge your inner child and comfort her.
You’ll build up her resilience, and she’ll know that she’s not alone, and she is loved and valued.
I’ve written more about connecting with yourself more deeply here and here.
You’re building a muscle here.…
You’re proving to yourself that your presence and your words are deeply valuable.
Eventually, you’ll have such a close relationship with your inner child, that you’ll be able to soothe her in ‘real’ time.
You’ll be able to give her the positive comforting words she needs.
You’ll be able to speak up in situations where you want to contribute, no matter who’s listening!
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