Episode 18 - Believing In What’s Possible
Hey Rebels!! Welcome back to the podcast!
We’re taking a brief intermission from the amazing conversations we’ve had this season with clients, colleagues, and all-around game-changers. Women who faced their own (and others’) fears and doubts had a vision for what was possible for them in their lives and courageously went after their dreams. Based on those conversations, I thought today’s topic was rather an appropriate one to drop in here.
I want to talk about believing in what’s possible. What do you believe is possible for you in your life? How do you know something is possible for you? I recently asked a client, and she pushed back on me and said, “I don’t believe in that ‘just believe’ without knowing how it will happen. That’s how I know something is possible. It’s like jumping off a cliff.” But when I asked her how she went from a degree in linguistics to a career in finance, she had to admit it was because she believed it was possible. But she initially fought against the idea and accused me of suggesting something ridiculous as a path to finding the career she really wanted. However, I could see through that rather quickly because I recognized what it was.
You see, the reason we struggle with believing what’s possible is because of fear, but more specifically, I think the culprit is that many of us suffer from having a victim mentality. What I mean by that is that we don’t want to take responsibility for ourselves, the outcome we want our lives because what if it doesn’t work? Who will we blame? And if we’re to blame, what does that say about me, my intelligence, my strengths?
Many women are stuck with the victim mentality and don’t realize it. Now when I bring that up, many of my clients will get a little pissed at me and say, “I’m not a victim.” But listen, most of us don’t choose to be a victim consciously. I know I didn’t, but I had the victim mentality for years, too, and, of course, didn’t realize it either. As many of my clients do, I thought of myself as a strong, capable woman who could never have a victim mentality.
The dangerous thing about having a victim mentality is that you feel justified in your feelings or actions, so it’s hard to see how you can take responsibility for any part of what’s going on, which makes it easier to blame other people or circumstances. But what’s really underneath, as I said, is usually some fear or worthiness issue (like I’m not worthy or I don’t deserve something). But because we don’t like those feelings or want to deal with them, we go to blame. But we don’t see it as blame; we see it as just an explanation for why it’s someone else’s fault. It’s someone else’s fault that the program you signed up for didn’t work or get you the results you want, or you would have gotten the promotion you wanted if you didn’t have such a nightmare of a boss. But giving other people or circumstances all the power and responsibility for how we feel or what we don’t have, can’t figure out or achieve is the victim mentality. It keeps you from seeing what’s possible for you in your career or life. And it keeps you stuck and trapped in your current situation, feeling as if you have NO WAY OUT.
Now, if you’re feeling a bit defensive right now, like “She doesn’t know me or my life. My situation is very different.” If you felt like you needed to defend and explain how you’re different, you may be in the victim mentality right now. The victim mentality is ripe with defensiveness because your brain is trying to cover up or hide the fact that you’re feeling some fear or angst. It’s what makes it so hard to believe we can do something even when we don’t know how yet, or put ourselves out there and go for what we want. It’s also why we may struggle with our coach, who may be giving us advice that could help us.
A lot of the victim mentality has its roots in the past. It’s learned and has become a protective mechanism against any potential pain or harm.
It reminds me of that movie Glass with Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Sam Jackson’s character had a rare condition that caused him to break every bone in his body multiple times. The other kids would tease him and call him Mr. Glass. He escaped into a world of comic books, a world of villains and superheroes. He became wealthy and brilliant started to believe that he must have a counterpart. So he started creating massive catastrophes to see who would emerge unharmed. He wanted to find the hero, the counterpart to his villainy. He was a victim justifying his behavior to explain the hurt and pain he experienced as a child. Now that’s a pretty extreme example, but you get the point.
The way out of victim mentality and clearing a path to what you want like so many of the women I interviewed this season is by embracing imperfection and vulnerability. When I think about my conversations on this podcast this season, Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability and courage comes to mind. By the way, I highly recommend reading The Gift of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. In fact, I just re-read the book the Gift of Imperfection. It’s a great book that will help tap into your humanity and save you from the need to be perfect and right.
The key is we have to stop trying to resist our feelings of fear, worthiness, and shame because these experiences are simply part of the human condition, and when we can experience them and live through them, on the other side, we’ll find courage. Our efforts to avoid feelings of shame cause us to blame others and our circumstances preventing us from “daring greatly” and achieving great things.
As Brene’ puts it, “Blame is simply the discharging of pain and discomfort.” Meaning instead of feeling into the pain and discomfort, owning it, working through it, and taking responsibility for it, we’d rather attack people and circumstances or just hide and avoid the situation.
For me, my victim mentality would cause me to blame others, and then I did start blaming myself. If only I was better prepared, made better choices, said no, paid attention, spoke up, defended myself, on and one, then I wouldn’t be in this situation or would have more. But being the victim of myself is no better. It still kept me stuck trapped and prevented me from moving forward. And what’s worse, I start to make it mean something definitive about myself, like “see I knew I wasn’t ready for that position,” “or I knew I shouldn’t have applied for that job,” or “I should have never quit that job” or “started my own business.”
If any of this sounds familiar, it only means is that you too have a pattern of thinking that causes you to identify yourself as the victim. But vulnerability and the gift of imperfection can actually set you free. It’s as simple as knowing you are worthy, you are deserving, you’re not perfect, and that’s just fine. And hey, sometimes you make mistakes, and shit happens.
So take some time to answer some really critical questions, “Where am I unwilling to feel my emotions? Where am I avoiding it? What dreams aren’t I pursuing because I think I can’t, or is something stopping me? Who am I blaming for how I feel? When I feel anger, who am I blaming? When I feel sadness, who am I blaming? Am I blaming myself? Am I blaming other people?”
Then challenge yourself and ask when you’re in feeling defensive or justified, “Am I being vulnerable and open and willing to feel whatever comes up, and knowing that when that emotion comes up, I can feel it all the way through and I identify the thought pattern that is causing it. I can take a hundred percent of the responsibility for how I feel. I can feel vulnerable, and that’s ok.”
If we would stop trying to hide from our emotions, from fear or feelings of unworthiness, and stop blaming others, we’ll no longer have to feel like a victim.
That is the gift of imperfection and the magic of vulnerability. It’s also the pathway to seeing what’s possible in our lives and careers and going out there and getting it. So if you don’t believe it, listen back over the career rebel conversations this season, and I think you’ll learn to believe.
Until next time Rebels, have an amazingly rebellious and vulnerable week!