Recently I went on a date with a guy who I described to my mates as “out of my league”.
We had an amazing connection, and I was scared. We had so much fun, but the scared, “not good enough” part of me (you may know him as Neville) decided to subtly make sure that this guy was aware of all of the ways in which I am a catch. (And none of the bad stuff, obviously).
A few days later, my exceptionally wise friend Soph helped me see that growing up, my family highly valued achievement, career, and intellect. I equated succeeding in these areas with receiving love.
So Neville pulled out all the stops to let this guy know (in a fun, playful, and light hearted way, obviously) allllll about my awesome career, travel, achievements and intellect.
While also being sure to demonstrate JUST how humble and down to earth I am. 🤣
As a result, the next time I met up with this “out of my league” man, I could feel something in our dynamic had shifted.
Suddenly it felt more like I was on the pedestal (I’m not sure if I put me there, or he did, or both!?), and now he was a little more hesitant around me.
As someone with a dismissive attachment style, I feel much safer being in the pedestal position – the one that ends up “coaching” or trying to “fix” the other person. From the pedestal, (also known as my concrete tower), I can push them away and distance myself from potential hurt.
Once I’m pretty sure that they’re keen, I often find myself thinking “hmmm, maybe I don’t really like them after all?”
Sometimes the reverse is true and I put them on a pedestal. Either way, as soon as one of us is on a pedestal, I start acting differently.
Either I act more insecure or defensive because Neville assumes they’re better than me.
Or I act more superiorly and disempowering-ly-ly-ly because Neville assumes I’m better than them.
This is a huge shemozzle for relationships and friendships, and something that Sherlock Neville is committed to untangling.
And guys, I think Neville has cracked the code (at least partially), so I’m excited to share our discoveries so far with you.
This is going to seem like a tangent, but… well, it’s not.
Recently I ran a series of corporate mindfulness workshops for hundreds of people at the ATO (Australia’s version of the IRS/ IRD/ HMRC). They were one of the most engaged, attentive groups I’ve ever worked with.
I loved it, and I loved them. I went away feeling like I really nailed it, and that they had loved it as much as I had.
Now that I’ve run hundreds of corporate workshops, I have built up the skills and experience that help me slip into the flow state when presenting much more easily than when I started out.
But there are particular workshops I can think of where I’ve gone away feeling extra glowy, like I’ve really bloody nailed it, and the feedback I receive afterwards is overwhelmingly effervescent. (Does pride trigger you? You might like this post)
I reflected on what it was that made me nail some workshops more than others, and the answer struck me as one of the most important things I’ve ever discovered.
And also shockingly relevant to the aforementioned hot man.
The workshops I most enjoy and thrive in are the workshops where I feel safest to be myself.
The pattern goes like this: I run one workshop, it goes well. Then I come back to run another and then another with the same group.
I seem to get better with every subsequent workshop. I go into the second, third and fourth workshop, KNOWING that this particular audience (e.g. the ATO) loves me, because by then I’ve received their glowing feedback surveys.
So I go into these particular workshops ASSUMING that I will be accepted and welcomed, thus I feel safe, thus I feel confident to be 100% myself and let myself relax into the flow state. Thus I come up with new creative ways to explain things on the fly, I’m more authentic, the workshop goes well and the upwards cycle reinforces itself.
(Pst – as I share in some of my workshops – a flow state is achieved when high pressure/high challenge meets high skill. It’s damn cool. More on that another day).
The workshops that I’ve felt went “really well”, but not “fucking brilliant”, are the ones where I perceived (often before even starting the workshop) that the audience was cynical, and probably likely to judge me.
This most often occurs with a room mostly full of suited, middle aged men (which covers a huge number of the workshops I run), many of whom (I assume) take one look at my blonde, friendly femaleness and can’t help but judge me before I even open my mouth.
With these ATO workshops, because it was online rather than in person (damn you COVID, I miss meeting these legends IRL!)…
and because there were too many participants for video capability, I couldn’t see the participants, so I wasn’t able to make judgements about whether they would judge me! (Thank you COVID – what a handy revelation!)
The interesting thing about this is, when I assume someone is judging me, I present differently, I feel stilted, I can almost feel myself defending my own existence without them ever having done anything at all.
This is NOT me at my best, and definitely not me in a flow state.
The same thing happened the first time I worked at Monash University, teaching mindfulness to our future doctors.
I was genuinely scared of these 19 year olds because I had made the assumption that they were a room full of skeptical, judgemental overachievers that were annoyed that they had been forced to study mindfulness as part of their core curriculum.
I went into those sessions nervous – and often defensive – and it came across in my delivery. From the way it felt, I’d say that many of them did exactly what I expected them to do, and judged me.
This year, I went into the university semester with huge compassion for the students. They have had their 1st year of “normal” university ripped away from them by the COVID restrictions, and I went in feeling so excited to be able to help them learn mindfulness strategies to navigate all the additional stress. (As if first year uni + a medical degree wasn’t already stressful enough!)
And, would you believe it, the tutorials I’m running with these students are going brilliantly, I love them, and they email me and tell me they love them too!
And this is ALL from a shift in MY perspective.
People are how they occur to you.
When you assume that people will judge you, you’ll act all weird and defensive, be a bit of a try-hard, and most likely, they’ll judge you!
When you assume that people will like you, it frees you up to be authentically yourself. When you’re just being yourself, not a try-hard, it’s 1000% more likely that people will like you!
I always thought I needed to work out what other people were thinking, and act accordingly.
But what if instead, I started to practice just ASSUMING that everyone will see me exactly as I want to be seen – interact with them from that place, and see what changes!
Including the hot man.
Whether my assumptions about what people think of me are right or wrong it doesn’t actually matter. Because with one perspective I am free to be myself, and with the other perspective I am not.
So what matters is NOT what others think – but what we THINK they think.
People are as they occur to you.
So from now on, I’m going to practice going into workshops, friendships, and dates assuming that we are equal, that there is no hierarchy, no pedestals, no judgement, and no power dynamics.
I choose to take the perspective that everyone is a brilliant human, and that I am a brilliant human! We are all equal.
It’s time to start untangling the ways in which we perceive the people in our life.
Especially the hot biscuits that scare us.
Let’s start assuming the best, not the worst, and interacting from that place.
It’s going to take a bit of work.
But I’m pretty sure this is the newest route I’ve found to authentically living a Bloody Good Life.