A lot of CEO’s I work with carry questions of self-worth. We spend time exploring how they know they are doing enough, succeeding enough, achieving enough. Many high achievers have carried these questions since childhood. This morning, I found the same questions exploding in my own head. The results were not pretty. Here is my effort in my own journal to coach myself back to center.
This morning I blew up at my eight-year-old son in the middle of breakfast. He was chattering away and not listening to us the way I wanted. What he did not know was that I was experiencing a mounting sense of self-doubt and anxiety that had been growing all morning. This is a familiar experience to me as I have carried such questions for as long as I can remember.
I have learned over the years how to find my way through mornings like today. But this morning, before I could self-manage my way through the anxiety, it came spewing out of me in the form of me yelling at my son about how he never listens.
After apologies were said and a mending walk around the block was taken, I found myself sitting with my journal trying to work my way out of the anxiety.
What started as me self-criticizing, something like “you’re a fucking coach and you can’t even handle your own emotions with your own family” resulted in a realization: “You’re a coach; what questions would you ask a client who had a morning like today’s.”
The result was the journal entry below which I thought I would share here just on the outside chance it is helpful to anyone else out there.
My journal entry from today:
I actually woke this morning feeling green, and then just felt this anxiety and self-criticism bubbling up hot and fast. It came out with me yelling at Marco over practically nothing, him running off to his room in tears, and me having to sit by his bed apologizing for not being able to handle my hard feelings as a 40-year-old man.
Emotions are tough.
I think what was up for me was this bubbling feeling I’ve had lately of not being enough. Not doing enough. Not having enough.
Not even sure what enough is.
But feeling I’m not it, don’t have it, etc.
I’m a coach for god’s sake. What questions would I ask a client?
Coach: How will you know when you have it?
I’ll feel like I do.
Coach: Is enough a feeling? Are feelings facts?
Coach: So what then?
I’ll feel like I’m enough when I’m doing enough.
Coach: How’s that worked out before?
Well, I felt numb. Kinda. But there were definitely creeping feelings of sadness.
Coach: So what’s enough?
Ugh. Accepting myself I suppose.
Starting with ground zero, moment zero, accepting myself, Matt, as enough.
How do I do that permanently? It feels like it keeps coming up again and again.
I guess that’s part of the human experience.
Coach: What does the data tell you?
Hmmm. Lots of people around me love me. They seem very happy that I exist and that I am in their lives.
Lots of people tell me that I am helpful, talented, smart, interesting.
So why do I feel like shit so often?
Coach: If you were going to befriend the shitty feelings, how might they be helping you?
Hmm. I hate that question.
I guess my drive comes from feelings of not being enough. But I don’t know if it’s worth it.
Coach: Let me rephrase. Difficult emotions are often the dark underbelly of a very positive need or desire. What is the need or desire that is resulting in these surges of self doubt?
I want my life to matter. I want to belong. I want to contribute.
Coach: Wow. There we go. You want to matter, you want belonging, and you want to contribute.
Coach: Ok. Now we are getting somewhere. What data do you have that you matter and belong? What data do you have that you are contributing?
Wow. That feels like a shift.
I have a lot of data that I matter to a lot of people. I have a strong sense of belonging actually in my community of family and friends around me. Even in my work community, although I carry a fear of not belonging, I have to admit that I have a lot of data that I am welcome in the startup/tech/coaching communities and a lot of strong relationships.
Coach: You can carry this narrative of not belonging and not being enough for as long as it feels of service to you. What comes up when you think about hanging onto it?
I’d like to loosen my grip on the story. I know it will continue to come up. But I would like to welcome it when it comes and also kindly welcome it to leave when it is ready. The feeling is not me.
Coach: What tools help you to hold the story more loosely?
Hmmmm. Meditating helps me to get some space from my feelings. It helps me to realize that the feelings aren’t me. And that’s really liberating.
Exercise helps me reset.
And when I struggle with my emotions in front of my family or friends, getting open and honest with them about the feelings and the triggering thought patterns helps me to feel more connected to them and less alone in my own head.
Coach: Sounds like you know a lot about what you need here.
Hmmmm, yes, I guess I do.
If you find yourself sitting with overwhelming emotions some mornings, do not worry. You are not alone.
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