This post was inspired by a post on bullies in the entrepreneurship space, in my Women Speakers Association Premium Members group on Facebook. It's a private group, but in writing a supportive response to her, I felt another personal expansion, growth, moment awaken in myself.
"...It's always a blow to me, but I've learned to stop pretending it doesn't bother me. I'm okay with the fact that I'm sensitive, an empath even. Feeling it and releasing it right away is a huge part of my learned resilience. Still learning, but the turnaround is faster.
Lately, I've found that the more I focus on the good, the less I seem to attract them (bullies), and a whole new community has started showing up in the positive... out of nowhere..."
I thought I'd unwrap it here, on my blog, just in case this helps anyone else own their unique approach to life and it's beautiful challenges or, as Abraham 'Esther' Hicks says, "not problems, but mere questions to which we are seeking answers".
Why can't I say it hurts?
I grew up in a "suck it up and wear a smile" culture, but that is not restricted to where I grew up. It didn't help that dance performances reinforced that message in the physical as well, and that I have been dancing for most of my life. I truly thought resilience meant being able to smile, breathe and function like a well-adjusted individual, regardless of what happens to you. I've been through some brutal things and came out smiling because I thought that meant I was no one's victim.
Spoken or not, a few of the reasons I got as a child for not saying, or showing, that it hurt:
You will embarrass your parents.
You will prove that you are weak and people will target you more.
No one wants to befriend someone "so sensitive". You are too much work.
What are we expecting from society and our kids when we teach that? Perhaps everyone's on autopilot, doing what their parents did, so no one's ever really asked. Who came up with, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"? I don't think therapists are in such high demand because of sticks and stones.
My mess. Seeing myself in others, without judging
I shied away from doing my MBA because of all the press around executives being sharks and sociopaths. In the end, I'm happy I did it because, while I met some of those, I also met some good friends. Moreover, it made me take a long, hard look at myself. I'm not a straight A student - except in all things English. Ironically, perfectionism kept me back. I do, did, however, have an A-Type personality.
In complete paradox, the MBA, the most fast-paced environment in my life, is where I learned to slow down. I didn't realize it then, because getting sick forced me to, but I saw myself on a lot of the same alleged sharks and sociopaths. You learn very quickly that it is unwittingly taught and that if you don't slow down enough to really stay aware in each moment, you too could get sucked in . You're always under pressure to make decisions quickly, to become aligned with the network that will matter in your industry on the next few years, to get and stay at the top. You can see so easily how it happens. The change.
I raise this because while remaining sensitive on the inside did something to hone my emotional intelligence, the lack of permission to cry lead to a ridiculous inability to really connect with my feelings. Looking at how that unfolds in business, in science prior to that and, later on, in entrepreneurial spheres (it's not just the MBA - don't judge 😝), I saw just how dangerous it is to live only on 'logic'.
My inner work and path to Resilience
As a child and teenager, I had always been introspective. The goal was to be a good person, emotionally unaffected and understanding of those who were mean to me. In the end, lead to an environment where I allowed my own boundaries to be violated because, “I understand why they behave that way”. It wasn’t until my 30’s, when I’d released being “good” - because that was highly dependent on whether or not others were offended by who I was - for being, and accepting, “me”. We’re not truly invited to by society. You’ll find that even those who say the words, “you have to face your feelings”, will start rolling their eyes if you live by that. They mean well, but that behaviour will not disrupt their world for the better. That’s why it’s called our “inner” work.
Your inner work, has to be done for you, by you, within yourself - for me, anyway. I had to get everyone’s voices, philosophies, expectations and perspectives out of my head, so I could listen to my own. Having trained my mind to constantly be aware of others needs and feelings, it was the only way I could truly give myself permission to do the same for me, unencumbered. That can take a lot of time, if you’re just starting now or if you have to make a similar mindset shift.
The inner work I’m referring to is facing your feelings, having all the messy and ‘inappropriate’ reactions in private, get them all out, so that there’s room for the healthy shift in mindset. People think if you cry, or let the rage out, you’ll become a monster, but if you do, it’s only temporary. You come out the other side, exhausted but free of those emotions, so that you’re clearer, and able
The true test of your inner work, however, of the resilience it’s built within you, is whether or not it sustains you in the real world, with actual people. If you have met anyone who can:
admit that something hurts, in the moment,
cry in the moment, without feeling shame, failure or weakness,
express anger verbally in the moment, again, without feeling shame, failure or weakness,
Would it help you give yourself permission to do the same? It’s not an invitation to become vicious, yourself, but to set and maintain firm boundaries to honour your own needs. People may not always like it, and it may seem awkward at first, but in the end, you’ll start attracting people who will inspire positive emotive responses in you, instead.
My Talk is my own Self Talk
Today, I’m far less likely to feel terribly for standing up and saying, “enough. that’s not acceptable here, regardless of where else you get to do that.” I’m also quite comfortable simply disappearing. You will intuitively know who’s worth the explanation and who isn’t, once you begin to truly listen to yourself. At first, being open about your emotions and setting clear boundaries may make you go away and spend long mental cycles wishing you’d “handled it differently”. Especially in a global society that doesn’t really approve of vulnerability. Many thanks for Brene Brown and anyone like her making vulnerability the norm. You’ll get the ‘looks’, the comments and some people will even pull away, but when the dust settles, those left are more likely to treat you with the respect you deserve. Over time, you’ll find those mental cycles shrinking, until they disappear altogether. You’ll even start being proud of nipping things in the bud.
My talk, "The Disruption of Authenticity" draws from a lot of the work I've done on myself, knowingly and unknowingly, around acknowledging emotions and inviting them in, without losing sight of who you are. I am no psychologist, so know that I'm only speaking from my experience and, anonymously, those who've shared with me.
I've learned that despite what we've been taught, if you could kick everyone out of your head for a bit, it is liberating to feel your feelings! More, it saves your energy for the things you actually want to do and be in this one life you have, in this current time and space. Happy Being!
Crystal-Marie Sealy, MBA, is a keynote speaker and entrepreneurial strategy consultant focused on sustainable business models for established entrepreneurs and professionals transitioning to entrepreneurship. President and founder of Successiory and her signature "Mindful Entrepreneurship. Your E.A.S.Y. Affluence Business Model™ by Successiory", Crystal-Marie works with professionals who want to build sustainable (livable) business models around their lifestyles and create sustainable client community on social media. She also speaks and delivers workshops at business and motivational conferences on authenticity, entrepreneurial strategy for pricing, process, feasible schedules and client social media community. Connect with her and subscribe at www.successiory.ca