Have you ever noticed how you can feel really confident on many levels, but just one unsuccessful experience will suddenly translate into you are a failure at everything? It’s crazy really, but sometimes it takes just one pivotal challenge to suddenly rattle your confidence in ways you didn’t even think were possible.
It Can’t Happen to Me
I teach mindset, motivation, and marketing for a living and yet I am still subject to this kind of not so subtle and always surprising self sabotage. Since I’ve bungee jumped and tandem sky dived, I consider myself pretty fearless when it comes to extreme adventures of the very short kind (no trekking in the Himalayas for me, I want to be done by dinner!) I’d been putting off scuba diving for the last four years and knew I needed, not just wanted, to conquer it. So I recently spent a week in Bonaire, a tropical island off the coast of South America, with clients whose home I’d designed in the blind over four years ago.
They’ve been inviting me ever since they moved in and got finished, but I always found something else I had to do. I finally ran out of excuses and decided to take the plunge and move this from my Bucket List to my skill list. It was a rocky start since the guy at Seaventure Scuba Shop in Alpharetta opened with “there are hundreds of ways to die while diving.” Never a good opener. I got a full scuba suit, mask, snorkel, fins and more to take down there with me.
When I jumped online to begin the classroom learning portion, I found myself drowning in a sea of terminology, equipment, rules, and a whole lot more that I found overwhelming, intimidating, and occasionally frustrating. While I may have graduated from a top university, it was a few too many years ago to count and the word quiz and exam struck terror in my heart, as I rapidly translated that to opportunity to fail (in school, anything less than an A or 90 was failure to me, tough to break those perfectionist boundaries.)
The Calm Before the Storm
I arrived on a Saturday and was lulled into a pleasant state of relax by no real schedule beyond dinner at six o’clock nightly at a different eatery, often seaside. By Tuesday my in pool lessons began in earnest and while I was learning the finer points of how to attach and operate all of the (life saving) equipment, I was also struggling with the art of equalization.
Now, anyone who knows me would no doubt chuckle at this idea since I’ve always joked that what makes my world work so well is that I see everything slightly askew and out of balance. I prefer asymmetry to symmetry and never play by the rules. Equalization in diving is a critical life skill, if you can’t equalize, you can’t dive. It’s that simple. I couldn’t equalize. I tried pinching my nose and blowing against my mask, jiggling my jaw, pretend yawning with my mouth closed, nothing worked. Failure.
A Glass Half Empty
And suddenly I found myself looking at my life through gray colored lens, glass nearly empty instead of my usual rainbow colored lens with my glass overflowing. I could only bring to mind any other “failures” I’d experienced including but not limited to making a winning goal for the wrong team in fourth grade soccer, getting C’s in my many college accounting classes, not getting a particular project some eight years ago and a host more. Ridiculous stuff to hang onto but I was firmly entrenched in that mental replay of what I couldn’t get right.
What turned the tide was a long and unexpected conversation with a friend who simply kept asking me what I’d done right and pointing out an entire litany of achievements for me to focus on. Most importantly she snagged me on my word choices, ironically something I typically pride myself on and am forever correcting others. I’d fallen into my own rabbit hole of negative self talk. I’d lost the treasure of who I am and was focused on the missing pieces and the disintegrating sunken bits. Not very pretty.
By shifting my language and eliminating the word “but” so I could break the ugly pattern I’d indulged in that evening of “yeah, but” every fifth word, I was able to snap out of my bad attitude, my failure face, and open anew the window to my treasure. By morning when I did check email, there was a two line life saving message from a friend I’ve not seen in five years but is a master diver. The tip shared allowed me to equalize in a few hours (betting the claritin helped too though I wasn’t congested) and begin my diving experience with new enthusiasm.
I’m betting what I’ve shared here isn’t brand new to you. I’m also betting that you may not have a friend at the ready to help you snap out your negative self talk or even hold up that invaluable mirror so you can see what you are doing. Consider this your mirror and learn the gift of snapping yourself out of this space. Take a piece of paper and begin a list of all you have accomplished. Be sure to include personal as well as business milestone, marriages (and divorces!), children, trips taken, promotions garnered, projects won, clients wowed, and more. Keep this list with you and add to it. This is your treasure list. It isn’t about ego but instead it is about chronicling the visible parts of your buried treasure.
Finding Your Buried Treasure
The list is a simple reminder of the treasure you are, the treasure you have created, and the treasure you bring. Never, never forget that. It matters not what you can or cannot do, it only matters how you perceive that and whether you let that stall you out or incite you to new heights. As a new diver, I’m really not supposed to go beyond 60 feet, and yet my week closed with a dive to 94 feet in a sunken wreck. How totally cool and I equalized multiple times on the way down.
My view is still a bit askew, I like it that way, but my rainbow lens are squarely back in place and my glass is once again overflowing no matter what comes my way. How about you?