It used to irritate me when people used quotes, or inspirational sayings, without any understanding of them. And I get it. I did it too. I tried very hard to post quotes that had meaning on Facebook but, in reality, I felt like I was spreading a “wanna-motivate-everyone” virus. Hiding behind the computer screen, waiting for a moment when someone challenged me to start public speaking. “Want to inspire others? Go and do it from a seminar stage – walk your talk!”, my coach told me.
I was very, very uncomfortable facing the fact that I was terrified of public speaking. Thankfully, at that time, I was willing to lean into anything that made me feel insecure. That’s how I knew I could grow personally. During my first ever public speaking event, I almost threw up. And then I couldn’t sleep for two nights before I went on stage for the next one. The following twenty events were most likely a mess too, and I felt it every time. I knew I was very bad on the stage, but I continued practising and got a little bit better each time until I became completely comfortable speaking in front of people.
The lessons I learned from this made me realise that doing something is not equivalent to reading about it or studying it.
Do you know it, or do you have knowledge of it?
My initial interest in psychology appeared when I was going through personal struggles in my early 20s. I realised I could empathise with people who were also going through difficulties in life. I listened to their problems and hardships of all sorts – business, career, family, personal, and more.
After a couple of years building a coaching practice, I gained a much deeper understanding of people’s’ challenges and what causes them. I could get to the root of things and learned how to apply cognitive behavioural therapy to help people significantly improve their lives. While I’ve since taken the appropriate courses and gained qualifications in the subject of psychology, I hadn’t read about it or studied it at university at the time. But, as crazy as this may sound, I followed my intuition and it worked.
I learned how to help people solve problems and get results, through lots of interaction with a variety of people. Now I’m no longer surprised to see people talking about a subject or a discipline more than they actually know about it. Yes, we think that we know something because we’ve read, heard, or even studied it somewhere.
The reality hits quickly once we apply the knowledge in our own lives. For example, when you go from being employed to running a successful business, you see yourself and experience life differently. You put your “I think I know” through real-life challenges, emotions, and the people around you, and turn it into “I am what I know”.
Seeking uncomfortable conversations
Several times, I found myself in situations where the people I helped were significantly more successful than I was, in terms of money or social status. I was convinced that this was exactly what would help me grow as a coach. Coaching a person who is 15 years older than you, and makes at least thirty times more than you, may feel intimidating, but it’s a fantastic learning curve.
I was confronting my own sense of identity. I wasn’t sure about how a twenty-six-year-old guy, who had just quit his job to run a coaching business, could help a thirty-eight-year-old multi-millionaire. He was surely not seeking money advice from me, I thought. But I knew I wanted to work with these types of people, so I concentrated on proving value. It didn’t ease the difficulty of the conversations I had with them, but it helped me to stay focused and not allow myself to expose my feelings of intimidation.
I didn’t stop there. Once I’d realised that hanging out with people who can intimidate me was good for me, I began hunting student who could challenge me on some level or another. By this time, I believed that one of the most powerful things a person could do, in order to become comfortable in their own social skin, is to embrace vulnerability in moments of pressure, intimidation, or confrontation.
When you’re afraid, show it
Back when we were kids, we were vulnerable almost all of the time. We just weren’t aware of it. We always played the game of being ourselves, but I’m sure you can all recall that moment which changed everything. Someone said or did something to us that made us feel insecure about being or expressing ourselves. After this happens, we find it more difficult to adequately deal with challenging situations or difficult people. We’re convinced that this is who we are and, when challenges arise, we pretend that there’s nothing in it for us, or we avoid the situation completely. And then we mindlessly accept that this is ok.
But it’s not ok, and never will be. Down there, at the bottom of your stomach, you have a different feeling. Have you ever had that gut feeling when you realised you should have just gone for the thing you chickened out of? Stop denying this feeling and start doing something about it. When you’re afraid, slow down and realise that being afraid is actually a sign – a sign reminding you what it’s like to be vulnerable, just like when you were a kid. And in that moment of vulnerability, you get a chance to change things forever.