Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You hereby have permission to forgive yourself.

I was working with some pros the other day in early season training, and we were talking about the idea of meeting someone where they needed to be met.

One of the people in the clinic, (we'll call him Fred, but that's not his name) has been teaching on Aspen Mountain for almost forty years. He has a depth of experience with customers that is awesome, he builds relationships beautifully, he is well respected in the ski school.

One day, about twenty five years ago, Fred had a customer whom he couldn't connect with. He tried several different things, and none of them seemed to work. He passed the client on to another pro, who was very successful with her.

Rather than pointing a finger endlessly, look in the mirror, find the lesson.
Since that time, Fred has wondered what went wrong. He has been carrying forward a feeling of guilt at not being able to connect well with this guest. He failed in his attempt to build a relationship with her, and it has been haunting him.

In the clinic, Fred realized that he hadn't been able to let his client have as much control over their relationship as she wanted, and so she wasn't able to walk toward him. He couldn't see where she needed to be met.

And that's okay.

Over the next couple of days, I realized that there was a common theme emerging here. Ski instructors are a group of incredibly dedicated, talented pros. They work hard, they love their clients, they give their clients everything they have to ensure a great lesson experience.

When it doesn't work out, it hurts. The instructor feels like they have failed. They feel like they are wanting for some reason.

In this moment, you have choice. You can choose to see the lesson you need to learn, and take it, and grow from it, or you can take your "failure" and push it in front of you from that moment forward.

That's called letting your story define you. Lots of times we do this because we feel obligated to acknowledge our lack. We don't want to put down the mistake we made because we need other people to know that we know we made a mistake, and we are truly sorry.

The problem with pushing your story in front of you, and letting it define you from that moment forward is that it keeps people from seeing you, and it keeps you from growing. You are stuck. Behind this moment in which you didn't behave the way you wish you had. That's a heavy burden, and it doesn't help you.

If, instead, you are willing to look at that moment, and search for the lesson, (perhaps in Fred's case it would have been "Look carefully at what she needs in order for her to be able to hear me. Decide if I'm willing to give it or not."), be willing to "take the hit" of ownership and accountability. This will sting for a moment, maybe even for a few days.
My story defines me, and I need you to tell me I'm okay.

But if, at the same time, you can thank yourself for being willing to look honestly at what you can change in order to do a better job next time, and truly embody that moment, let that lesson shape your future behavior, you can grow.

And the act of being willing to learn can give you permission to forgive yourself. "I wish I had done that differently. But I didn't. The lesson is X. From now on, I will be more cognoscente of X when it shows up."

If you can look at guilt as your conscious asking you to learn the lesson, once you have agreed to learn it, you can let go of guilt, shame, and wishing. You can fold your growth into your understanding of who you are and how you function, and you don't have to push your story ahead of you, being defined by your mistake forever.

When we push our stories ahead of us, let our stories define us, we ask everyone in our sphere to continually re-define us so that we might take the power away from our own self judgement. We build a need for constant contradiction of that judgement, in order to feel good about ourselves.

Unfortunately, what this does is make the guilt feel deeper, feel secret, and we begin to feel like a fraud. Even if it was a mistake that was only made once, or made many times, but now we have made a change in our behavior, having people validate that we are good, when we secretly think we are bad makes the problem worse.

We begin to rely on the feedback from others as our only compass of our self worth, but we don't actually believe it is valid and true, so no matter how many validations we get, we are left wanting.

How, then, do we heal?

That's better. Be a good parent to yourself. Take the lesson and live again.
By accepting who we are, and what our experience was and is in this moment. It is okay that you had a learning experience. It is okay if you don't feel great in that moment. You are allowed to go through the spectrum of emotions, but once you have found your lesson, forgive yourself. Let go of your need to feel guilt, to cary your story forward. Let the mistake go, like a helium balloon, floating up into the sky. Keep the lesson. Lose the guilt. Grow.

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