A Coaching Power Tool Created by Leann Ferry
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Being Me is a mindset power tool coaches can use to identify and help shift clients’ thinking from Being Me requires sacrifice vs. Being Me requires collaboration. I created the tool with specific women in mind: those who hold on to the belief that being themselves and meeting their own personal and important needs has negative outcomes for the other people in their life. This thinking causes them to sacrifice themselves emotionally, mentally and physically – and not live fully and authentically.
To take good care of one’s important personal needs first is not a selfish thing. It makes a woman more capable of fulfilling responsibilities and giving to her loved ones.
Being Me Sacrifice
When a client is in this mindset, she thinks she must sacrifice herself for the needs and wellbeing of others and that others are negatively affected by what she thinks, needs and wants to do. There are still lots of societal pressures for women to be and act a certain way even today in 2016. When women do other than what is expected within friend, family, community, or work norms, there can be negative and judgmental reactions from others. Some women believe that if they say what they think, it makes others annoyed or they may react and attack. Women who assert themselves are often labeled: bossy, selfish, mean, bad mothers, bad wives and girlfriends, and worse.
Another way this thinking shows up is when women internalize the idea their lives should be subordinate to those of others’, that they should be putting their energy and intelligence at the service of others. They may easily drop what they are doing in order to attend to the calls of family or coworkers, yet they may not feel they can ask for the same courtesy in return. This is so entrenched in the culture that the discrepancy may not even be noticed.
To be sure, it’s difficult for many women to stand up to these kinds of reactions and to change this thinking pattern. It’s often just easier to sacrifice, not invite attention, not make waves and avoid the conflict. This comes at a big cost – her wellbeing. It has bigger ramifications too. When a woman puts herself second, she teaches other women, her daughters, and her sons that this is a woman’s role. When trapped in this mindset, women do not realize their power as role models and their power to change their own lives and make a difference in the world.
Being Me Collaborate
A woman can create a major shift in the landscape by cultivating a Collaborate mindset. When a client achieves this new way of thinking, she believes that being her true self creates opportunities for collaboration with others and that they can be positively affected by what she thinks, needs and wants to do. It’s not about putting herself first but about insisting that her well being be part of the conversation.
When she is able to stand up, speak up and show up in this way, and if she is able to speak her truth respectfully and handle the negative reactions of others, she helps the people in her life to be more responsible for themselves and their words, actions and attitudes – even if these others are children. If she says what she thinks, it adds to the quality of a conversation. If it challenges other’s thinking, everyone benefits because they grow and adapt. When in this mindset, a woman knows she is a role model for others and that by demonstrating the courage to be authentic she can get what she needs, change outcomes and open new possibilities for herself, others and the world.
We all make numerous excuses for why we are not doing the things we really need and want to do. But when we don’t do them, instead of growing an inner garden of confidence and courage that comes from doing, we grow an inner garden of anger, resentment, and low self-esteem by not doing.
What mindset are you in when you hold yourself back from doing things like: scheduling time for yourself, asserting and influencing with your own ideas, making a career change, standing up for what you believe is right, simply saying no to one person or yes to another, or simply making your own decision about your own life. Consider what would happen if you had all the confidence and courage to act fully as yourself and still meet the requirements of your roles, responsibilities, goals and dreams.
Here are a few are ways that the Being Me Sacrifice mindset shows up.
- It is considered disrespectful if I say or do that.
- My husband, friend, co-worker, child, etc., will be angry, annoyed, or worse, with me if I assert my idea.
- The other will make me suffer for it if I do or say that.
- My children or husband will not know what to do if I do A, B or C.
- There is no time because I must do A, B, and C.
- If I don’t do it, it won’t be done properly.
- It’s not the right time.
Consider a very basic example. Isabelle would really like to take a painting class one night per week in an 8-week course, 6-8 p.m. every Wednesday. She has wanted to do this for a long time but hasn’t made it happen. She works full time, has two children 10 and 14 and is the one that makes the evening meal happen (shopping, meal planning, organizing and cooking). That the family eats the evening meal together is a top shared value for her and her husband. Her husband helps with getting the meal on the table and cleanup and is generally supportive. He supports her in taking the art class and is wondering why she hasn’t just done it. She admits to her coach that she thinks her husband let’s the kids eat poorly, not get homework done and get to bed too late when she’s not there. Doing the class is just not worth it. She is in the Being Me Sacrifice mindset.
Possible coaching questions to help Isabelle shift her thinking:
- Are there other ways for the evening dinner, homework and bed to work out that would be O.K. with you?
- What would have to happen for you to let go of how that evening goes on that one night per week?
- How could being without you on that Wednesday actually be good for the kids?
- What is the worst thing or the best thing that could happen if you do this?
- If your daughter were grown, a mother and in this situation, what would you advise her to do?
- What do you think others would be thinking if you were to do this?
- How might you support the others involved in getting used to this new way for you to be?
More Powerful Coaching Questions
Through powerful questioning, coaches can help clients uncover their attitudes around Being Me, identify the fears that are holding them back and come up with strategies to deal with them. Here are some other potentially powerful questions to help shift a client’s thinking.
- How would you like to be when handling the negative reaction of the “other”?
- What would happen if you spoke up?
- If you were collaborating instead of sacrificing in discussion with the other, what would that look like?
- What would you need to believe about yourself to move forward with this action?
- If you were handling the negative reaction of the other the way you want to, what would that look like?
- What would it look like if others were positively affected by your speaking up about your true thoughts and feelings?
- What would that feel like?
- How might you put your wellbeing first and still fulfill your roles and responsibilities?
- What positive affects could your action have on others?
- What do you need to let go of in order to move forward?
- What would you say and do if you had all the courage necessary?
So what happened with Isabelle? With her coach asking powerful questions, Isabelle gained clarity. To move forward, she could give up the art class or involve her family in devising a new plan for Wednesday nights. Isabelle chose the latter.
To prepare for the discussion, Isabelle worked with her coach to cultivate a proactive mindset, working through what she would say, and considering different scenarios. Then she committed to the goal of holding a family meeting, knowing that it would take courage to both voice her desires and listen to her family’s responses.
At her next coaching session, Isabelle told her story. When she brought up the art class, her husband and children had immediately rallied in support. Then they had enthusiastically collaborated on a plan. Wednesday nights would be opposite nights. With dad’s help, the kids would take charge of their homework, cook dinner, pick the entertainment and get themselves to bed on time. They even promised to make their own lunches.
Isabelle was both surprised and delighted that the kids wanted to take on more responsibility and that her husband relished the idea of connecting with them as a parent, both in the fun of cooking together as well as the discipline of getting them to bed on time. She was also elated that she could let go of any worry or guilt that she might feel about leaving her family on a week night.
It was not the outcome that Isabelle had expected; it was better. The new plan made sense, and yet it would not have been possible without Isabelle’s addressing the problem through the courageous mindset principles of clarity, mindset and courage.
It takes clarity, a positive mindset and a lot of courage to break old cycles of being and to break out of societal barriers because the forces to keep women stuck there are strong. There can be blowback from others (even from other women) when women assert themselves. If we accept this as a fact of life instead of trying to avoid it, it can be liberating. Stepping up, speaking up and showing up as our authentic selves is hard work but it can have big payoffs for us, our families, our daughters, our sons, and the world.
When coaches help women find their confidence and practice courageous action in everyday life, they help women go from knowing what they need to do to actually doing it. With a coach, women can learn to handle the backlash and the discomfort others feel in response to their new ways of being. In developing the confidence and courage necessary to act from the Being Me Collaborate mindset, women come more fully into their own at new levels of authenticity and leadership in every aspect of personal and professional life.