Rumour has it…I’m an onion.
Over the last few months at work, members of the senior management team (myself included) have been receiving professional coaching from a lovely lady called Beth. My sessions with Beth are pretty epic. Sometimes I think they are more like therapy sessions then coaching sessions. Either way, I seem to need them. It s great way to offload and in the process I am learning a lot about myself.
During Beth’s last visit, I was described as an onion. Not because I smell like one (thankfully), but because I have lots of layers. Ironic, when people in my past have said they like for my simple nature. I’m far from simple. I know that. But being described as an onion!?! I’m not sure I saw that as much of a compliment, but it does make sense.
Admittedly, I do show some random characteristics and behaviours.
I am unable to accept compliments for one. We have explored many possible reasons why this may be. However, we have drawn a blank on this one and parked it for now.
As much as it is sometimes nice to draw a conclusion about things and to put behaviours in a box, sometimes, we just have to give into the fact that we don’t know the root cause, it is just the way it is (for now at least). Despite not knowing the cause for this behaviour, it is still an area I am working on.
It is my natural instinct to reply to a compliment with a negative.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, my friend complimented me on my driving skills. Instead of thanking her, my reaction was to laugh and tell her that she was only person to think that (most people aren’t that kind about my driving).
Why do I struggle to thank people?
I am however, becoming more aware of this. Now when someone compliments me, I automatically go to respond with a negative, but I am learning to pause, realising the comment is complimentary, and although I don’t respond immediately, after a pause, I am slowly learning to say thank you and leave the negative response parked in the corner. Overtime, I hope the length of the pause will shorten, but for now, I am grateful that I am at least noticing the behaviour, and working to resolve it.
I think the most life changing characteristic we have identified is the fact that I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I have possibly suffered with imposter syndrome for much of my adult life without realising it. I can think back to a number of times when I would receive a negative comment about my performance, and I would let this fester away in my mind for days. The only way I can describe it was like having a dark cloud over my head that I just could not shift.
I don’t tend to get the dark cloud as much anymore, but more worrying in some ways, I can feel my heart racing, which comes with a dull ache in my chest and a kind of sinking feeling.
Part of me is grateful at being ‘diagnosed’ with having imposter syndrome. Giving a name to the sinking feeling took a lot of weight off my shoulders, and made me feel a little less like I was going insane. For those of you who may not have heard of imposter syndrome, neither had I until my first coaching session. In short it is a fear of being found out to be a fake or a fraud, that our achievements are based on some type of fraudulent behaviour, as opposed to actually just being really good at what we do.
Imposter syndrome for me comes in waves. It is not something I suffer with all the time. My trigger seems to be other people’s comments. I have recently come out of a particularly bad wave of imposter syndrome, triggered by one persons comments, which then made me doubt myself. I had the ‘sinking’ feeling for around three weeks in the end. And quite frankly, it was exhausting. It was all I could think about. It affected my performance at work and my mood at home. It was demoralising and made me feel horrendous.
I am working with some new techniques to deal with this. My current trend goes something like this:
Trigger > Reaction > Perspective
The ultimate goal is to avoid the trigger. However, in the meantime, I am trying to work on:
Trigger > Perspective > Reaction
The aim is for the reaction not to be as long lasting, or in fact, not to be there at all. By putting perspective into the trigger first of all, I should then be able to see that the comment wasn’t necessarily a dig at me, but could’ve purely been the result of someone else’s bad day, or simply realising that there was truth in the comment, but there are solutions in order to fix the problem. Fixating on other people’s comments is not healthy.
Ironically, the individual who made the comment that set off my last trigger, doesn’t even know the impact it had on me.
Eventually of course, I rationalised things, and realised that the reason I reacted so badly was because I already knew I wasn’t performing at my best in a particular area of work, I didn’t need someone else to tell me this. But, as they say, truth hurts. And it did. For three god damn weeks…