This covers day 14 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I'm collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.
Thursday was the trifecta of personal growth services. I kicked off the morning with my weekly marketing coaching call, then headed to the Valley for my monthly shrink check-in (thank you, reduced health care plan), then headed back over the hill for Day 14 of 30 of the Hypnotherapy Project.
There are some emerging themes of late. First is my staggering incompetence as a leader of men (and women). This term as president of my Toastmasters club is pointing out all the ways in which I suck at being in charge. While I love love love effecting change, I'm much more skilled at helping directly than helping people to help themselves. In other words, good at thinking and doing, bad at delegating and trusting.
I'm starting to see the roots of some of this, and by "seeing", I mean "actually grokking." It's not like I haven't had my struggles with perfectionism pointed out before. I also figured out a while ago that I'm a control freak. (Sorry, Jim, for not figuring that out sooner; then again, I wasn't the only gabbadost in that relationship.) But a whole slew of dots got connected Thursday morning when Leslie, my wonderfully patient shrink, finally got it through my thick skull that I have a dramatically stunted sense of entitlement.
Wait, you're thinking, isn't that a good thing?
Well, no. No, it's not. To make a really clumsy analogy, having no sense of entitlement in a modern world is like being a fry cook with no temperature receptors, it turns a rather ordinary existence into a life fraught with danger.
Once I brought it up, Greg immediately seized on it as our idea for the day. I went under lickety-split and he asked whoever was in charge of this aspect to come forward. The voice was so small and quavery, he didn't recognize it as Monkey Brain, who, while only around seven, is extremely forceful.
She was adamant on the point of NOT accepting compliments because they give you a big head. You do the work, and it's expected you do it well, so compliments are either beside the point or reserved for occasions of staggering accomplishment in an area outside of one's expertise. (Hey, relaxed people! Starting to get a picture of the non-stop party that is the life of a perfectionist?)
The grownup me understands that the person responsible for this rather loopy system of praise and reward meant the best. Mom grew up in a family where the expectation that women would accomplish anything significant was so miniscule that she and her sisters were not given middle names, they'd just lose them anyway, when they got married. I'm hugely grateful for her expecting more from me, and for teaching me to use my brain, to look up the word, to never ask for help with homework.
All the same, there's a limit. So Greg did a little playing with Monkey Brain and got her to agree to try out taking a compliment by observing the following protocol:
- Pause and take a breath.
- Resist the urge to brush it aside by saying "Oh, THANK you!"
- If necessary, give myself a little more time to gather myself by adding something like "That is so NICE of you to say" (as opposed to rejecting it outright or even partially).
It still feels extremely uncomfortable to really sit in a compliment, just like it feels uncomfortable to expect that if I lead, people will follow.
But I have a feeling that if I keep practicing, it might get easier. And I'm almost sure that it will lead to me feeling much, much better more of the time.