There’s a odd thing coming up for me these happy, successful days. We are on a major winning streak – SheEO, New York, speaking gigs, awards and so on (you will love what’s coming up around the corner for that matter, but I digress ;-), and the above comments are just a few of the supportive sentiments that our community have shared. Feels great, am I right?
Having just shared some thoughts about failure, let’s talk about success. The good times, the parties, the spotlight: woo hoooo! Absolutely. We have worked our asses off and are deeply grateful for every bit of recognition that comes our way. And.
Here’s a story about a very recent success that actually conjured up some of my worst demons, what it took to have a dance with them and then let them go.
I don’t know about you, however I can find myself occasionally slipping into the old, yucky, comparison game, particularly in the social media milieu. You know: my inside vs. your outside. You always win, by the way: and you didn’t even know that you were playing!
OK, so, yeah, yuck. We all have them: the voices, gremlins, inner critics, whatever you want to call them. Like rats in the basement, the only way that you are going to get rid of them is to turn on the lights, admit that they’re there, and get down to business. I went with demons this time for their alliterative value, however that’s more credit than they deserve.
Several weeks ago Suzanne and I were invited to attend an event that was billed as “A Celebration of Women Entrepreneurs” by some treasured colleagues over at BMO Bank of Montreal. BMO is actually doing an extraordinary job at recognizing the value of women, and women entrepreneurs in particular these days, and have been putting their money where their mouth is in the form of supporting SheEO, among multiple other initiatives. Check it all out here.
Normally we have a practice of essentially taking turns attending the events that we are invited to that allows us to have personal downtime, family time and so on. The event was on a Friday night, and happened to fall just under 24 hours after I was scheduled to return from Paris (pauvre moi!). Knowing that I might not be feeling 100% awesome (I wasn’t, as it turned out) and that Suzanne would attend, I took a pass.
Something different was going on though, and I kept getting emails encouraging me to come. I am a total sucker for enthusiasm (Lunapads and G Day job seekers, take note!), and agreed to attend on the condition that I could bring my Mom, who has been a customer of BMO’s for over 60 years, which of course was more than fine.
All good! Lovely reception, thought-provoking keynote, and then: awards! What awards? Something-something Innovation something Global something and then over the speakers comes our story, no names, delivered in the third person by the MC: we are the honourees and are invited up on the stage.
Wow, how wonderful! How exciting! Suzanne is closest to the mic and says some eloquent words about our work and expresses gratitude for the recognition. Would I care to add anything?
For reasons I am still trying to come to grips with (demon foreshadowing hint!): actually, no thanks: she nailed it, I’m good. Big smile, a wave and hand-over-heart gesture were all that I had in me. No “Thank you so much!”: nothing audible at all, in fact. It all passed by in an instant, and the next thing I knew, there I was back in my seat feeling like a spoiled child.
Enter THE DEMONS!!! Here are some of their soundbites: “That was the lamest performance ever”, “You looked like a total @$$hole”, “You let down Lunapads, your business partner, BMO and your esteemed colleagues who fixed this all up for you in the first place”, “Is that all you’ve got? Your Mom was there, for Pete’s sake!” We are talking demon fiesta, a demon freaking Christmas.
Nothing like feeling like a loser when you’ve just won an award: Score one for you, Demons!
As painful as it is for me to recall these feelings, writing this post in actually my way of shining the light into the dark basement and saying enough. I don’t know where these voices come from, and am uncertain that knowing would necessarily make then shut up and go away in any case.
As it happened, I was scheduled to connect with my wonderful SheEO coach MJ early the following week as I was still churning over the previously described scene, who clued me into the neurological fact that, thanks to the flight-or-flight response, our adult brains are “velcro for the negative and teflon for the positive” (as opposed to children, who track success, not failure). Good to know. But what to do about it?
Part of my unchecked baggage has to do with feeling ashamed of my privilege and wanting to shut things down when I feel like I am receiving “too much” or taking up too much space energetically. Like, say… “undeserved” awards, as a random example. Hmmm.
Processing things with a friend, skilled Coach or suchlike can go a very long way, but ultimately I knew that the work was up to me. I sat with MJ’s insights and my crap for a while, and then noticed the large, lovely crystal vase that I had made into an albatross – my award – sitting on the mantelpiece, sadly empty.
There are a bunch of posts about my enthusiasm for gardening over at the Lunapads blog; let’s just say that I enjoy growing things. There is something so wonderfully tangible about it, and also accounts for my predilection for in-person conversations, products and other more-physical, less-abstract pursuits.
Without thinking twice about what I was doing, I went into my garden, picked up my shears and helped myself to a brilliant, generous mass of some of my most treasured favourites: calla lilies, delphiniums, foxgloves, rose campion and even a late peony.
Flowers may seem like an unusual weapon of choice with which to fight demons, however they gave me the permission that I needed to forgive myself and enjoy something that I was worthy of. Nature and its creations are a far more potent power than we normally credit it with, and for me at least, using the vase in such a deeply personal way was the perfect tonic for me.
Thank you BMO, Nature, Mom, Suzanne, and the amazing community that is and supports women entrepreneurs in their blooming, whatever shape it takes.