A young entrepreneur came to me complaining that she was having trouble completing the text for her website. “Where is the roadblock you are hitting?” I asked Barbara.
“It’s the About Me page,” she answered with a contorted face that told me how painful this process was for her. This is the page that most entrepreneurs get hung up on, the very one I have had countless coaching sessions to help clients get posted.
“Do you have any doubts about presenting yourself to the world?”
“Well, yes…,” she answered sheepishly. “I question if I am really qualified and if I am worth people paying me for my services.”
“Got it…. Now let’s put the web page aside for the moment, and look deeper,” I suggested, knowing precisely where we were headed. “Who taught you to doubt yourself?”
“My father was a newspaper editor and highly critical of me, especially when it came to English. Even beyond that subject, there was nothing I could ever do that was good enough. If I did a project with 99 percent excellence, he wouldn’t compliment me on my achievement. Instead, he would criticize me for the deficient 1 percent.”
“And even though you have grown up and moved out of your father’s home, his voice still lives in your head, constantly banging at you for never being perfect.”
Nearly every person I have ever coached has voiced some variation on this theme.
“So your current challenge with your About Me page is just one more instance of a theme that has been going on for your entire life.”
“It is so.”
“Then let’s reframe this: You are now being presented with an opportunity to finally break free from this lifelong oppressive voice within you, implanted long ago by your father, that has debilitated your progress in ways far more serious than the website.”
“If I could do that, it would be tremendous!” she answered, her face lighting up for the first time since we met.
“Then let’s do a role play,” I suggested. “I will represent your father. I won’t say anything, but I will give you a chance to say to him what you wished you could have said when he criticized you as a child, or when his judgmental voice chides you as an adult.”
Barbara sat up straight, looked me in the eye, and spoke firmly. “Dad, I know you love me and you want the best for me. But I can no longer live under the whip of your criticism. Every time I did something as a child, or an adult, you found something wrong with my action and with me. Your judgments have kept me small for my entire life. I am not willing to live with them and allow them to impede me anymore.”
Then came the tears.
“I am a bright woman with a good heart, strong skills, and a significant contribution to make. I want to do that through my new business and other avenues down the road. I know I can do this, and I do not need your permission to live the life I choose and to create a successful career. So I now release all the dark criticisms I have borne for so long, and I step with confidence into a richer life.”
Barbara’s tears had cleared and her eyes shone. She looked like an entirely different person than the one who had complained about her inability to complete her web page.
“How do you feel now?” I asked her.
“Freer than I have felt in a long, long time.”
“And how do you feel about setting up your About Me page?”
“Ready,” she answered with a smile. “Totally ready.”
A long silence ensued. Barbara’s eyes lit up as she said, quietly stunned, “It wasn’t about the website, was it?”
No, it wasn’t about the website. The website was directing Barbara to look inward for her answer. Her block was about self-image, self-esteem, self-confidence, attitude, beliefs, and expectations — the factors that make or break any endeavor. The business and relationship situations in your life do not have a life or reality of their own. They are reflections of your psyche, the images you hold about yourself projected onto the screen of the world. As James Allen brilliantly stated, “We think in secret and it comes to pass. Environment is our looking glass.”
Situations that bother us are not curses. They are arrows pointing us to places in our mind where we are holding illusions. When we can identify the illusion that is causing us pain, we are ready to discover the truth the illusion was covering. When we do, we are free.
It’s not about the website. Or the relationship. Or the job. Or the money. Or the world. It’s about waking up. When we do, everything changes.