I have written a number of posts for my blog (four) that I haven't uploaded to the website because the posts have seemed too raw. I promoted the last mini-retreat for moms less than I do usually so I ended up canceling the gatherings in September due to low enrollment. I've been neglecting my friendships and not bringing the true me to the table when I'm there.
I'm feeling messy and pulled in too many directions and, frankly, it doesn’t feel good. I've been thinking that I can't bring the true me to the table because, well, I'm a coach. I'm supposed to have it all together. A client recently confessed that she was surprised to learn that I had stress. I gave her a funny look and she admitted that she realizes that I must have stress – I’m self-employed with a husband who's also self-employed, I have kids, I'm human – but whenever she sees me, I'm calm, cool, and collected.
I guess the stress doesn't show through my well developed, shined-to-a-smooth-finish, sparkly social self.
Our two sides
We all have two sides to ourselves: the social self, which is the shiny side that we want most of the world to see; and our essential self, the messier, but truer part of ourselves. The essential self is the part of you that whispers the truth in your ear, the part of you that's unabashed, the part that knows the direction to your just right life.
Your social self can act as a buffer, a translucent wall that protects the tender you from the outside world - from the mean mom gossiping at the elementary school after drop off, for example. You social self acts as a barrier – you don't want to share your raw, innermost self with just anybody.
Your social self allows you to be there without being bare.
But sometimes, like in my case recently, your social self wall can get in the way of true relationships. My husband wants to know what's going on with me. My friends wonder where I've disappeared to. I’m standing right here, I want to say, but it’s not true. I’m all armored up; I’m not really here at all.
I'm hiding behind my social self shoulds:
- I should have this figured out – I've been trained to help people through times like this.
- People count on me to have it all together.
- I should know better, be better, do better than this.
My social self – and probably yours too – lives on shoulds.
Time for Teamwork
Ideally, your essential self and your social self work as a team. Together, they get you up in the morning. Your essential self daydreams while the social self winds through rush hour traffic to the preschool drop-off and pick-up. They both get you in and out of the grocery store (maybe with a few more delicacies than if your social self shopped alone) so you can get home to put dinner on the table for your family.
If your essential self was left in charge, it would probably take a big detour off the regular route to work to play hooky for the day, wouldn't follow the rules of the road very well, and would probably get distracted in the floral department of the grocery store, forgetting all about the milk, chicken, and crackers on the shopping list.
The social self makes sure the essential self functions in the day-to-day world. The social self follows the rules, stays in the lane, and keeps track of time. Because our culture values logical thought, following the rules, and sticking to the plan, the social self often ends up in charge, navigating the way what you hope is a better and brighter future.
The problem with letting your social self navigate is that if this part of you isn't listening to the softer voice of your essential self. Instead, it's following the rules, taking you down someone else's road to happily ever after, not your own.
The way to get to where you want to go, whether that’s your dream job, your ideal marriage, or an Eat, Pray, Love kind of journey, is to build a team of two: your essential self and your social self. Your street savvy social self knows the rules of the road but doesn’t know the best route. Your wise – but easily distracted – essential self has the map to where you really want to go, but no skills or tools to get there on her own.
Your essential self and social self need to bond as a team. Here are a few exercises to get them to work together:
Dream analysis. Sounds a little wonky and woo woo but your essential self speaks to you through your dreams – and daydreams, too. Give your social self the responsibility of buying a brand new journal and a smooth-flowing pen and start writing down your dreams. By using a dream analysis technique developed by Carl Jung and taught in my life coaching training by Martha Beck, I can interpret what my essential self has to say. My most recent dream had to do with a college parking lot (transitions), a high rise dorm (contained chaos), and a single mattress that I was supposed to replace with a larger one (outgrowing). Just like I interpret my own dreams, I work with clients to figure out what their essential selves are trying to say through their dreams, too. (Come to this month's mini-retreat for moms to learn how!)
Body Compass. Your essential self also speaks to you through your body, like how you know when you’re stressed because your shoulders feel like they’re up around your ears; or when you recognize you’re overwhelmed because your chest feels like you’re being bear hugged by a troll (who’s not very friendly); or when you’re anxious, which makes it seem like your tummy is filled with rocks. You can use these sensations to navigate away from the things that feel like you’re going the wrong way (tight shoulders, troll hugs, and tummy rocks) and toward the people, places, and activities that instead feel like lightness, ease, and freedom.
The Work by Byron Katie. My social self brain is the repository all sorts of rules that I've picked up along the way. The Work by Byron Katie lets me test the thoughts of my social self to see if they’re actually true. When I work with my coach to realize that the beliefs of my social self are mostly false (trying to be perfect does not make me more likable; feeling lost doesn’t really mean that I am; and I don’t need to have everything all figured out, only the next best step), I can better hear the quieter voice of my essential self, who’s always waiting for me to listen, to tell me which way to go.
Want to figure out how to get to your happily ever after? Learn how interpret your essential self's directions in a special dream weavers workshop in October. In this special mini-retreat for moms, you'll learn a dream analysis technique developed by Carl Jung and then make a journal for keeping track of your dreams. Click here for more information and to register.