Do you lean in or lean out? It is a question that many of us have thought about thanks to the March 2013 publication of Lean In. That book asked women to engage themselves more fully – to lean in – albeit in a largely corporate vein. While interesting to consider, I’ve found another more important posture that women not only need to be aware of – they need to defy. I call it the failure posture.
What is this you may ask? It is the negative self-talk we initiate when faced with countless situations. Maybe you’ve experienced it in situations like….unexpected or difficult events; decisions fraught with risk or uncertainty; or even and especially when facing your own success. We adopt this failure posture effortlessly. Often without notice.
We engage a failure posture when we say to ourselves phrases like, “there must be something wrong with me,” or “I would never be able to do that…” The posture drags along with it feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. For some of us these phrases play continuously on our internal play list. Needless to say, this sound track can be self-limiting or worse.
I am very familiar with this posture. Thanks to transition, I also know how to beat it.
Last Tuesday – after a year of writing and many many interim milestones – I submitted my final edits to the manuscript for Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Palgrave Macmillan Nov 2015). Hooray! Time to celebrate, right?
My internal talk track kicked in almost immediately after I hit the send button. On it played a litany of negative refrains. “Who will ever read this?” “Why did you waste years on this?” “Your research approach will be questioned..why did you choose that one anyway?”
You get the picture?
Someday – when I have the luxury of time – I will explore why these questions played for me in my head and not some other ones. For now, I am simply grateful for having access to tools that helped me hit the mute button on all this negativity – quickly.
The toolkit that I assembled for managing transition – featured in my upcoming book – taught me about externalization, or distancing. The technique asks us to put space between ourselves and our thoughts or feelings. Space is important. It gives us agency, the ability to direct what we will do with those feelings. You don’t need to embody the feeling. The feeling is simply present. You direct what to do with it – including and especially overruling it.
Thankfully I was able to see quickly that my negative talk track was trying to entice me down a rat hole. Distance helped me reframe. Here is where I landed after the distancing exercise….
I am incredibly grateful for my book project. It is one of the single most important projects that I’ve ever undertaken. I am hopeful that others find it useful. My sincerest wish is that many do. Surprisingly…I learned an incredible amount about myself in the process. Even if I am alone in the book’s fan club – no one can take away the feeling of accomplishment and the joy I’ve felt since last Tuesday. Thank you to all of you for your on-going support and shared interest in this topic. You helped me tap into the voice that become the book……
Early on in my transition I learned about the debilitating posture of failure, a posture that puts at risk so much of who we are and what we have to give. My hope is that you raise your awareness of this posture – and skate around it the next time it is present for you.
To celebrating victories of whatever size – including or most especially the victory over our failure posture.
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