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Self-Doubt and Not Enough-ness

Last week I was scheduled to meet with a C-suite level executive at a global company with a huge reach. We'll call him Dan.

I was nervous just looking at this appointment on my calendar. I’ve only been doing executive and leadership coaching as a subcontractor for a couple of months.

Sure, I’ve coached high level executives, but they had always found me and hired me on their own.

The day of our meeting, I didn’t realize it was supposed to be 88 degrees out (with a hefty dose of Georgia humidity!) and I hadn’t yet turned on our AC.

The door to my office was closed and within two minutes of my zoom call with Dan, I was already boiling up.

With the unbearable heat and my self-inflicted pressure to be “professional” and “personable” with someone as high up and well respected in this company as Dan is, I was a hot ball of fiery, nervous, way-too-caffeinated anxiety.

Only a few minutes into our call, I started sweating profusely and I could see my bright red face on Zoom.I was too nervous to figure out where to click for the "Hide Self View."

At one point I thought I might faint or get sick.

I even toyed with the idea of feigning a bad Wi-Fi connection (raise your hand if you've been there!).

I tried typing gibberish into my notes doc, hoping it would look like I was paying attention and wishing it would distract my attention away from the heat and my nerves.

I also tried tapping my toes under my desk alternating left foot and then right foot as an attempt to bring myself out of my head and back into my body.

There were a few fleeting moments where I felt present with Dan, but not many.

Towards the end of our call, I was so hot and so drained, I just gave up trying to manage anything. I stopped trying to impress Dan. I stopped trying to pretend like my face wasn't bright red. I stopped trying to be more "professional."

Almost immediately after I let go of trying to prove myself, I noticed a college pennant hanging on the wall over Dan's left shoulder. 

It had the name of my Dad’s college on it.

I hadn't noticed it during the entire call.

I asked Dan about it and told him that my Dad went to college there. He smiled and said that he and his wife were proud alums. I told him that I’d be celebrating my Dad’s 70th birthday in a few weeks in a small town not too far away from that same college. He graciously wished my Dad an early happy birthday.

It felt like a wink from the universe.

This moment reminded me that when I’m putting lots of pressure on myself to prove, to please, to perform, it’s like I’m standing on the hose of my own life force energy and wondering what's wrong (for those of you who are Outgrow the Grind podcast listeners, you’ll remember the quote by Jill Wolk that I shared in Episode 1: “You can’t water the roses if you’re standing on the garden hose.”

When I remember that I am one teeny tiny little being among this massive universe of planets and galaxies and cosmic forces that I’ll never understand, I can let all that nonsense go.

I can remember that the universe has my back.

In my line of work, sometimes a theme of the week (like "Doubt and Not Enough-ness") will emerge.

Last week, even before this call, I was noticing a lot of not enough-ness floating around within me, with my coaching clients, and with other friends and communities I'm a part of.

Maybe with a dash of what some might call “Imposter Syndrome” mixed in too (although I wholeheartedly agree with Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey in this Harvard Business Review article that “Imposter Syndrome” is a complete misdiagnosis because it excludes the effects of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases).

This self-doubt and not enough-ness shows up at work, at home, even in our own bodies.

  • “I’m not good enough”
  • “I’m not qualified enough”
  • “I’m not smart enough”
  • “I’m not productive enough”
  • “I’m not focused enough”
  • “I’m not capable enough”
  • “I’m not visible enough”
  • “I’m not quick enough”
  • “I’m not experienced enough”
  • “I’m not organized enough”
  • “I’m not boundaried enough”
  • “I didn’t take good enough care of myself”
  • “I’m not doing enough of the ‘right’ things”
  • “I didn’t work out long enough”
  • “I’m not relaxed enough””
  • “I didn’t eat well enough”
  • “I’m not skinny enough”
  • “I’m not ________ enough”
  • “I’m not enough.”

And on top of the already tender places where we’re doubting our own enough-ness, there’s almost always a layer of shame + embarrassment + guilt.

It’s all my fault” or “I’m the one to blame” or “I should be past this by now."

Especially for many of us who are high-achievers who have gone to therapy and have tried lots n lots of personal growth workshops, classes, retreats and reading!

On my most recent coaching session with my coach I said something like, “If only I could just trust myself more.”

She let me sit with that for a bit and then invited me to zoom out…

She asked something like, "What if it’s WAY BIGGER than that?"What if it’s about trusting the Universe / the Divine / Love / God / Goddess / the forces at play that go way beyond ourselves?

Which got me thinking - what if it's not our fault?

What if the reason we feel “not ________ enough” is because we’re aiming for someone else’s definition of success in a system that’s not set up for us?

From the HBR article about "Imposter Syndrome" that I mentioned above, “The same systems that reward confidence in male leaders, even if they’re incompetent, punish white women for lacking confidence, women of color for showing too much of it, and all women for demonstrating it in a way that’s deemed unacceptable. These biases are insidious and complex and stem from narrow definitions of acceptable behavior drawn from white male models of leadership.”

I couldn’t quite access the trust in myself on my sweaty zoom call last week. And even in that exact spot, the universe still had my back!

What might be possible if we can borrow from unconditional universal love - especially when we forget about self-love?

How can we stay open when we’re sweaty + scared + our ego wants to “prove ourselves”?

And of course this is exactly what this week’s Outgrow the Grind podcast episode (Align with the Divine") is all about.

Episode 11 features Julie Chan, whose professional breakdown as an MIT Grad student led to a profound and life-changing experience that opened up psychic abilities for her.

Here's a little snippet...

If you’ve ever been curious about how forces larger than yourself can support you in aligning with your purpose, I have a feeling that you’ll love this episode.

Sending you a reminder that you are enough. Exactly as you are in this moment.

With love,

Stacy

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