For a whole lot of reasons we’ll touch on as we go, I grew up tying academic achievement with my own self-worth. The better the grade, the better I was. That’s crazy unto itself, but add in the fact that my peer group of friends were brilliant ‘logical smart’ individuals, and you are left with a load of pressure. I compared myself to their achievements so much that I totally skipped over my own valuable contribution to the world. Don’t get me wrong, I resonate with being logical smart – I throw the question ‘why is that?’ at everything and need to know the theory and statistics behind ideas . . . but during school, when I equated being successful with high grades in math and science (which was a struggle for me to obtain) it basically caused me to ignore my even greater strengths of people smarts, music smarts and more.
I judged myself against an ideal that didn’t fit my mold back then. I now understand that our brain has an ever-changing structure and its activity can change too. The brain’s neuroplasticity allows it to grow, decline or go unchanged as we transform with experiences, habits and our genes. In that way, we can grow our capacity to be smarter and increase the number of neurons in particular areas of our multiple intelligences. Change happens when we exercise the brain.
As the saying goes ‘use it or lose it.’
Do you ever feel that pressure to be amazing academically, to the point of using that to measure self-worth?
Fast forward a load of years to right after I had gone through breast cancer treatment. An opportunity arose to attend the Royal Roads University to become a Certified Executive Coach (CEC). Of course I jumped at the opportunity! But in the process an unexpected external trigger kicked in: school = self-worth tied into grades. And here I was thinking I’d accomplished so much in my life that this feeling wouldn’t come back!
Using the Multiple Intelligences Map, I’m going to take you through my reactions, and how I was able to reframe that process for a far more positive outcome. If you can think of a similar situation, walk yourself through that experience as we go, and see if this makes sense to you. Feel free to leave questions or comments if you have a question.
External Event Trigger: Going back to school.
Tendency to delete, distort, or generalize the information: I began to feel the same emotions from high school, with feelings of being less good than others (distorted information). Suddenly there was this need to prove myself again.
Mapped across multiple intelligences: By the time I reached the Royal Roads University, I had more awareness about my other strengths and had built up my self-esteem through coaching. I have a great love for being with people (emotional intelligence smart) and sharing in their stories, I love music (music smart) and have an ear for its complexities, and I have the ability to live with a sense of Spirit (spiritual smart) in every moment. Not bad, eh?! However, my logical smart side, being triggered by that word ‘grades’, wanted to stand up and rule.
I can still remember how this attitude led me to feel inadequate even during that RRU experience. There was a PowerPoint slide presentation that I had created for my RRU team, and a team member said it wasn’t professional. Okay, so I might have indulged too much in the different colours and let my artistic side go just a bit wild . . . in any case, being told I wasn’t professional enough felt like a blow. Forget that I had done what felt right, my logical smart side took a hit to the ego and it impacted my self-worth. Was I not good enough to be there?
I decided to examine my own response which was resonating with my need to do everything extraordinarily well. But was it really such a great setback? So I am not a natural composer of PowerPoint slides, so what?! When I received the feedback, it was devastating and my body felt it – but then, as I was able to review the situation (internal processing) . . . I started to realize that in perspective of my other strengths and that everyone is doing their best, this feedback could help me in the long run. I just needed to get my bruised ego out of the way.
I bounced back. I asked myself how I could improve the situation, and I had more empathy toward my other strengths; anchoring myself in what I was good at like interacting with new friends from the course which helped me speak with far more confidence.
When you become aware of your internal processing of an event that stirs up a strong emotion in you, you are certainly on the right track to create change. The beauty of this communication loop with yourself and how you relate to others is that it can continue to weed out what isn’t working for you. It has been four years since that RRU experience and I’m happy to say that I continue to learn and grow by exploring my thoughts and emotions with my coach. I now respond less to triggers that do not serve me and I spend more time rejoicing in the imperfections of a blessed life. Thank you MC and John!
So, have you ever had an experience that you would like to share with us about how you communicate with yourself or others? I’d love to hear more if you resonate with any of the above, or if you have questions too. Just leave your thoughts in the comments.
Till next week,