Ella (not her real name) and I were talking about her career. She is a driven, ambitious woman with a fierce determination to succeed. However, she reported, she’d been feeling under more pressure recently.
‘I went to a university reunion’ she explained, ‘and as you’d expect, everyone was talking about what we do for a living. It seems that a lot of my friends from back then have gone on to work within our field of study – lots of analysts and statisticians, a couple of stockbrokers and bankers, even one university lecturer. I was one of the only ones who’d done anything different.’
‘How did that make you feel?’ I asked.
‘Like I had to justify my choices! I seemed to spend the whole evening telling people about my business and my great team and the award we won last year and how I still get to spend precious time with my family … I couldn’t stop myself.’
‘And what was that like?’
‘I hated it. I could hear myself babbling on. I was comparing myself to them and what they did and the decisions they made and I just kept on and on talking. I don’t think they even cared. I just felt the need to prove myself. I’ve got a big family wedding coming up soon and I know it will be the same. I don’t want to feel like that.’
‘Let’s stop for a minute and think about how you do want to feel,’ I suggested.
We sat quietly for a few minutes and then Ella started jotting down a few notes. When she put her pen down, she smiled and said,
‘I’ve got it. I want to answer honestly any questions about how things are going for me with my work, not shying away from the things that have been difficult but instead talk about what I’ve learnt or am doing differently. I want to laugh about some of the crazy stuff that’s happened and to be proud of what I’ve achieved but not big-headed. I want to ask them how they are doing, how their families are, how work is. I just want to feel like it’s a normal conversation, not like a promo for “Ella and her wonderful world”!’
‘It sounds to me like rather than proving yourself, you just want to be yourself. Is that right?’ I asked.
‘That’s it exactly – I’m going to keep telling myself that: don’t prove yourself, be yourself.’
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: what would it be like to just be yourself this week, without feeling any need to prove yourself?
What do you think?
ps I’m taking a blog break for Easter: back on Friday 21 April.
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’re ready to transform your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.