Can you think of a life pattern that once you recognized it your life completely transformed? A recent conversation conjured up one of those painful living patterns that I needlessly carried for decades. A belief that until it was brought to my attention, lurked in the deep swamp of my non conscious mind, stealing my joy and contentment in any given moment.
The other day I was enjoying the satisfaction of connecting with a few engaging colleagues on a work break. We were laughing and having fun. One of the new staff members started saying he should get back to work, and looked around nervously. It seemed like he was worried about getting caught “not working.” Hmmm, I thought, I used to feel that way all the time! Yikes! Hmmm, I wondered when that was. Slowly it all started coming back to my awareness. The nightmare that had been my life. I recalled working in high-end retail sales about 10 years ago. The pressure to make sales targets each month was immense. I lived with great stress and anxiety on a daily and nightly basis.
As I was raised to obey orders without question and follow the rules set out for me, I had accepted that this was the life I was born to live without being aware of ever having made that decision. That job and the career itself fulfilled my every fear. It turned out to be a wakeup call for me.
My predator manager had been marching around the sales floor on a gorgeous sunny day, hunting down the next hapless victim to open fire at. I could feel the flames rising in his eyes as he stomped over to my luxury product counter. I straightened and looked him in the eye (my sales were okay that morning & it was time to face the firing squad). “Iris! You don’t socialize enough!” He snarled. Huh? I looked at him as if he had told me I was a pink elephant. I thought he might have finally lost it and was making shit up. I confidently told him “I am a sales person. I don’t get paid to socialize.” At six years in, the numbers were the most important aspect of this job, or so I thought.
Well, so much for defending what I thought was right. Right then and there I was told in no uncertain terms that I was lacking a team spirit, did not fit in and my performance was not up to par. As my manager carried on his rant, my confidence wavered and I struggled to absorb what he was saying. Shocked, I felt utterly demoralized. The old feeling of being wrong, even when following the rules, pressed into me and I felt sucker punched, like a COMPLETE failure.
Blindsided, I meekly agreed to be more of a “Team Player”. My mind taunted me: “How stupid, you are just an idiot! You should have known better than to think you had it all figured out.” Looking back, its easy to see that he was grasping at straws to go to this length with me. The thing is, that person had the nose of a bloodhound and attacked my Achilles Heel. Socializing and having fun had never been a priority in the “Rule Book of Life” that had been pressed into me from an early age. I thought I was safe, following the rules! With others, I felt safest blending in and like Katy Perry sings; “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.” If my manager looked at me like I was a failure, then that is what I was. I felt like such an odd duck, unsure of how to connect with others besides listening to their problems.
I now see that if we have experienced others being out to one up or sabotage us, it is not shyness that has us hanging back in a social setting. If we are not able to discern the true motives of others who are looking to outdo us underneath their facade of “niceness,” day-to-day interactions with others will be laced with fear.
Underneath my “Nice Girl” persona, I was living in a teeny tiny box called “Survival Mode”, and was drowning in the shark infested waters of “Relational Aggression”. Unable to trust myself or others, my To-Do list became the one area of my life that I could control, ugh. For example, one of my biggest passions, exercising, devolved from being a joy of self expression to a self punishment and getting through my work day drained more and more of my energy.
Wow! What a crazy making pattern to be spinning around in. I am so grateful to my Awakened Spirit for recognizing this self-destructive pattern and pointing me in the direction of who I really am. I have come to see that these types of experiences did not mean I was fundamentally flawed! The thing is, as long as I chose to believe those experiences, I was stuck. When I admitted that I needed help and took risks to ask for it, I was really tested. R & D on other people who had overcome tremendous odds helped me believe that maybe I could change my experience too.
My newly installed truth in my business and personal life is; “Relationships are the foundation of every interaction with others.” What a profound shift in experience! Every aspect of my life is now a celebration of the experiences that give back to me and others. I invite you to spend some time with Simon Sinek, who is the expert at clarifying this exciting life choice.
We all need inspiration in our lives. I am curious, who inspires you? Do you give others inspiration? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.