Living on purpose: How do you act when no one is looking?
VAIL, Colorado ” “In today’s coaching session, I’d like to talk to you about a parenting issue,” Clara began. “I had an interesting conversation with my son, Tommy. It struck a chord and I’d like to sort through it with you.”
“Tell me what happened,” I began.
“I’ve noticed that when Tommy is around his friends, he’s like a chameleon. He takes on their traits, everything from facial expressions to gestures to talking just like his friends,” Clara explained. “If one friend leaves and another arrives, Tommy morphs into the new friend. He seems to forget who he is and becomes someone else.”
“Is that typical of kids his age?” I asked.
“I don’t remember his two siblings doing that when they were 11 ” at least not to this extreme. Tommy’s friends do it every once in a while but Tommy doesn’t just adopt a phrase or a look. It is a need to be just like his friend,” she said.
Clara continued: “When I mentioned it to Tommy, he didn’t understand. After I gave him a couple of examples, he asked how I’d like him to act. I told him I wanted him to simply be Tommy. Then he said, ‘but I don’t know who Tommy is!’ I was surprised at the wisdom and depth of his comment, not only for him, but for me too.”
“How does this relate to you?” I asked.
“Don’t we spend a lot of our lives trying to define who we are? At first, we relate to the world by trying to fit in and follow social norms. Then, after trying so hard to fit in, we begin to create our own mold and uncover who we really are ” at least that’s the goal. But it’s a constant struggle trying to balance fitting in and being unique.”
“Where are you ‘fitting in’ in your life?” I asked.
“Most of my life I’ve tried to fit in, basing my actions on other’s approval. It’s like a bat and its sonar. When I am making a decision ” even if I know what’s right ” I send out signals to people to get their reactions before I make a decision. Why am I so afraid to just be me?”
We revisited the notion of the saboteur’s voice, the inner critic people hear in their heads, affecting their decisions. Although the saboteur’s messages originated from good intent, the messages may no longer be valid. Plus, these messages are the voices of other people.
We listed several saboteur’s messages that were keeping Clara stuck, tested their validity and updated them. She said this gave her a stronger foundation on which to make decisions and be herself.
“How do I incorporate this lesson into my life and explain it to Tommy as he struggles to find who he is?” Clara asked.
“I once heard a saying,” I said. “‘If you want to know who you truly are, look at how you act when no one is looking. If that resonates with you, what if you look for times this week when no one is looking and monitor your behavior?”
“That does resonate with me and it would be interesting, but it will take vigilance. I’m already busy and am reluctant to add anything in right now.”
“What if you did it for only one day?”
“I can do it for one day and see how it goes,” Clara paused. “As for Tommy, maybe I could introduce it to him as though it is a game. For one day, any time I catch him being himself, I’ll let him know. We can come up with a keyword like, “caught-cha,” so it is fun, and it reminds us how much easier it is to be ourselves.”
“That sounds like a great way to integrate the concept,” I said and then joked as she got up to leave, “Go forth and act as though no one is watching!”
Coaching Challenge: For the next 24 hours, look for times when no one is watching. Observe your behavior. What makes you unique? Also notice when you are with others or think others are watching. How does your behavior change? What are the benefits of just being you?
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. If you have topic suggestions, e-mail or comment on Sheri’s blog, http://www.coachwithsheri.com/blog. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.