Vail on purpose: I hate to look stupid!
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Doug was a few minutes late for our coaching session, so I reread his e-mail.
“Today I’d like to talk to you about my friend, Brett, who is having marital problems. They’ve been separated for two years after he found out about her having an affair. When Brett called last night to say they are getting back together, I was shocked. How could he forgive her? Worse yet, he said she is coming with him to visit in two months. I’d like some coaching on how to handle this.”
“Did you get my e-mail?” Doug asked as he sat down.
“Yes,” I answered. “Where would you like to begin?”
“Last year, I helped my friend Brett move into an apartment,” Doug began. “I’ve been friends with him and his wife, Jen, since college.
“The problems started two years ago when Jen grew more focused on her career than on their relationship, according to Brett. When he found out about her affair, he moved out. Since then she’s had two relationships, and when Brett is just about to move on, she reels him back in. I feel bad for Brett and mad at Jen. He’s being stupid. How can he trust her?”
“In our coaching sessions,” i said, “we sometimes talk about a specific issue, but I’d like to invite you to try something different. Are you game?”
“Sure,” Doug said.
“You talk about Brett being stupid. Tell me what it means to be stupid,” I said.
“Brett is being stupid because… ,” he began.
I interrupted, “Let’s talk about what it’s like for YOU to be stupid,” I said.
Doug’s back stiffened. “I hate feeling stupid and avoid it whenever possible,” he said.
“Stay with me in the feeling of being stupid. What’s here for you now?” I asked.
“Embarrassment,” he said, his voice dropping slightly.
“Can you describe this feeling?” I asked.
“I feel like I am standing on a big stage wearing only underwear. As the spotlights come up, I see a full house looking at me. Laughter ripples through the crowd and I look down wondering why I forgot my pants. It sounds dumb, but it’s the best way to explain it.”
“What’s here for you now?” I ask.
“I should have been better prepared. Why didn’t I check before I went onstage? How will I ever get over this? I feel stupid.”
Doug looked up at me and smiled.
“I guess it’s what happens next that really matters.”
“What happens next?” I ask.
“I look down, make a big exaggerated expression as though I am surprised that my pants are not there and run off stage.”
“Did you die of embarrassment from feeling stupid?” I ask.
“No. I faced it and moved on,” he said.
So how could this relate to the situation with Brett?” I asked.
“Probably that being stupid isn’t the worst thing in the world. And, it’s not my responsibility to keep Brett from feeling stupid,” Doug said.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“My fear of feeling stupid isn’t just about Brett. It’s about me too. Part of not wanting to be around Jen is because I’m mad at how she’s treated me. I don’t want to look like a fool, trusting her too quickly. She dumped our friendship and I don’t want to be reeled back in. If they decide to visit, I want to talk with Jen ahead of time to clear the air.”
“Does this conversation need to happen now?” I asked.
“Since their trip is two months away, I’ll wait and see how things progress in the next month and then make my decision,” he said.
“One question for you to ponder this week is ‘Where else does the fear of feeling stupid affect your life?'”
“I can already think of a couple of areas,” he said.
Coaches Challenge: Think about the last time you felt stupid. What was your worst fear? How did you handle it? In what areas does the fear of feeling stupid affect your life?
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband Tom and three sons. 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, please email or comment on Sheri’s blog, http://www.coachwithsheri.com/blog/. Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit: http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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