I have noticed recently how much energy I can invest in hiding things I don’t want other people to see, or even that I don’t want to see myself. I’ve known about this tendency of mine for a long time, but recently I notice it all over the place! It’s a product of all the rules that operated when I was growing up, the ones I learned at home, at school and in church. Knowing there was a rule about it, and not wanting to break that rule, I would go the other way, and invest a whole lot of energy into being the opposite of what the rule said I shouldn’t be. And since I was a really good student, and learnt all the rules really well, I had a lot of stuff that needed hiding!
So where the rule said, “You should be generous towards others,” I would hide from myself and others the part of me that was mean. In fact, I learned my lesson so well that for many years, I went overboard to prove to myself and others that I wasn’t mean. Although I can be very generous, there is also a mean part of me too.
In similar ways, I have hidden from myself and others that there are other parts of me that don’t look so good; the jealous part, the greedy part, the selfish part, the impatient part, the angry part, the demanding part and so on.
What does any of this have to do with running a practice? Well, as I said earlier, hiding all of these not-so-attractive aspects of myself and pretending to be someone that I’m not takes a lot of energy. And when it comes to taking action to grow my practice, the side of me that wants to keep all those unattractive aspects hidden, starts to feel unsafe, and tells me it’s not okay to make myself visible.
Being seen runs the risk of others seeing just what I don’t want them to see. If I ask for more money, maybe they’ll see the materialistic side of me. If I turn down a client who can’t afford to pay, maybe they’ll see the selfish, greedy side of me. If I write an article or give a workshop, maybe they’ll see the part of me that loves to be complimented and appreciated, but can feel ashamed of that need. If I say what I feel, maybe they’ll see the part of me that can be harsh and judgemental. Much safer just to stay in my box and do nothing!
But as I’ve said before, staying in my box isn’t safe either!
Try out this exercise for yourself.
Imagine yourself meeting with a new client for the first time. Picture the room where you work, and see the person coming into your room and sitting down. Before you invite them to tell you why they have come, just pause the picture for a moment. They are looking at you, waiting for you to start the session. What is the one thing you really don’t want them to see in you?
- Is it some aspect of your physical appearance that you feel sensitive about?
- Is it that you have a lot going on in your life, and are feeling somewhat overwhelmed?
- Is it that your financial situation is a bit precarious, and you really need the money you will get from this session with them, and hopefully future sessions too?
- Is it that you have had a recent difficult experience with a client and are feeling somewhat in-adequate or deskilled?
- Is it that you are tired and need a break, and have little space to hear someone else’s problems?
- Is it that you really, really want them to like you?
Whatever it is, we all have something to hide.
How would it be for you if the client could see what you most fear them seeing? What feelings come up for you? Facing our worst fears can help us to release some of the energy we spend holding them so tightly. It doesn’t mean we have to confess all this to our clients. I’m not suggesting that we make the client session about you, or that you are unable to do your job, regardless. Just check in to what you have going on.
What has this got to do growing or running my practice? You might be surprised by how it can help. You see, there are lots of options when it comes to finding ways to grow yourself and your practice. However, we can so easily cut ourselves off from opportunities when we have huge amounts of energy invested in trying to hide parts of ourselves. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but those aspects of ourselves we’re trying so hard to hide? They may be visible to others anyway!
And then there’s the gift. Each of those negative aspects of ourselves has a silver lining. The silver lining of being mean might be that you’re a really good money manager. The silver lining of an unattractive part of our body might be an empathy and understanding for others who suffer with a similar condition. See if you can find a silver lining for those parts you are trying to hide. How might you turn them to your advantage?
If you would like to explore how your shadow may be blocking you from growing your practice, I’d love to help. Please contact me here for your free 20 minute consultation, or to make an appointment.