Negative girl, positive world

Next week my son starts training for his new job, and I could not be happier or prouder of him for this effort. After 11 years doing retail and coaching running groups, he has finally gained enough traction in something else to pursue and land a new position. I have unshakeable faith he can do anything he wants if he really wants it or needs it, so I am happy for him and looking forward to his achieving new and different types of success.

M, on the other hand, has his own concerns. We both understand our biases about work and how different the kids are from both of us in temperament and tolerances. And I think in many ways M views work and any sort of work hierarchy as a cesspool full of back-stabbers waiting to happen. While I am not saying that view is completely off, I know our approaches and responses to working in such environments differ. For my son, I see this as an excellent opportunity. What he does with it, how he handles it, what he learns from it are good avenues for personal growth.

For my children, I have always been among their most ardent, fervent, and loyal fans. My belief in their abilities seems to know no boundaries, yet are tempered with a sense of practical realism. If C told me she wanted to be a rock star, I would suggest the world might not yet be ready to embrace her singing voice (none of us can carry a tune in a bucket). If G indicated he wanted to play professional football, I would say he needed to bulk up to be a better match for the much taller, bigger, burlier competitors. I am not a believer in squashing dreams, merely presenting the practical facts and potential obstacles to be overcome on the pathway. Thankfully both those scenarios never materialized.

I do not now nor have I ever wanted to control their lives or fix all their problems. My hope as a parent was to raise responsible kids who understood how life truly works so they could learn to manage their lives and the obstacles they would face as independent beings. Hopefully by letting them make mistakes and learn from them in the relatively safety of growing up they were prepared to be independent beings, and for the most part they went off and blossomed as individuals. I believe in and support my family and my tribe of friends, and while I might not always agree with their objectives and pursuits, I have their backs, always. And if I cannot get behind and support them 100% in their endeavors, at the very least will not stand in their way.

For anyone in my realm, I do not think they see me as a negative influence. Only if they are working with me on something I am trying to change or improve upon does that aspect of my world view become more apparent. And I have hated it. Either I come across as some sort of broken bird who depends upon the kindness of strangers or I am that negative, naysaying voice that is a fountain of excuses or reasons why something cannot or will not work.

J’s comment yesterday about “don’t complain don’t explain” was another example of the universe coming together and everyone I speak with on the same or very closely related wavelength. This piggybacked an an earlier discussion about “deserve” and “deserving” and how entitled that tends to sound.

Early in my career, I toiled as a civil servant. From a security standpoint, it was a great job and career. From a me living a satisfying life standpoint, it was a soul-destroying, drive-me-to-suicide type experience. The motto there always seemed to be “there’s never time to do it right but always time to do it over” drove me stark, raving bonkers, and it was repeated routinely with a chuckle every time a big project was delayed or ran overbudget because of mistakes or errors or miscommunications or whatever the reason of the day was for the problem of the day.

With work, I do pretty well. I feel competent and confident in that competency, so I tend to just get my work done and move on to the next issue. However, interpersonal relationships at work have not always been rainbows and unicorns. I have had my share of crappy supervisors and bosses, and a commonality is that they were negative, mean-spirited, unhappy people in general. I have had supervisors that were nit-pickers on steroids, magnifying every single mistake into a nuclear-class error waiting to bring on the demise of the firm or a lawsuit at the very least. I have had supervisors with completely unrealistic expectations for mere mortals and they seemed to live to point out all the ways I fell short. I have had extraordinarily unprofessional bosses and was grateful the one time I was actually fired from a job.

All that experience with bad bosses taught me how to be a fair and supportive supervisor. I want a team that is loyal and supportive, works hard and gives their best effort, and my personal feeling is no one does that when they have me pointing a gun at their heads with one hand and a bullwhip ready to lay on the lashes in the other. I am still close to people who have worked for me in the past – now successful entrepreneurs or managers in their own rights – and they have very kind words to say about me. They would be astonished to know how crippled I have felt by my own insecurity and anxiety while doing battle and advocating for them with those we directly supported in the workplace and higher up on the corporate food chain.

Negative girl dichotomy with a positive worldview … for everyone else. That is slowly changing. Like one of the continents moving, it seems like it has taken an eternity to get me this far, only to have a sudden shift happen seemingly overnight.

I have these new habits in the pursuit of better health. With the exercise, I expected to experience some physical change and perhaps acquire some additional energy and stamina for life’s pursuits. For the most part I have received those benefits.

What surprises me it the uptick and need to pay attention to and improve/adjust my mental and emotional well being.

I give trainer J a significant share of the credit. Not just his “glass half full – let’s find a smaller glass” outlook. He is also scary smart and a philosophy major, so not just another pretty face with bulky muscles. TM believes part of the draw and tenements of my successful partnership is our modern day mind meld, in that J and I converse about topics other than current thinking or best practices for building muscle and getting leaner. Our conversations range from current events in our lives to the business and business side of gym and fitness to politics and what is trending in our world these days. I love exposure to new topics and random fields of interest to those around me are thinking about and discussing. My sense of community embraces the idea of interacting with those who improve me. I truly believe their thinking and ideas make me better, more well-rounded person.

Which brings me to the concept of what we each deserve, another topic that came up in training conversation with J and migrated to my session with TM. I know that I never deserved what happened to me as a kid; bad things happen to good people all the time, unfortunately. However, I hear all the time from others what they deserve, which many times come across as a sense of entitlement. The more I have thought about it, the more the concept of “deserve” becomes intertwined with the “don’t complain, don’t explain” concept.

How many times have we heard or said we deserve something? To be happy, because we are good people. To be in a relationship, because we are caring and loving human beings. To be out of a relationship, because we deserve a better partners. To have better compensation at our jobs, because we have this much education/experience/skills. Or the opposite end of the spectrum and not winning the lottery in life with our childhoods, we do not deserve our flawed parents or families, our limited educational opportunities, our less than stellar IQ.

I begin to wonder who is the arbitrator and judge of what someone deserves. If there a justice scale out there that sets standards on who deserves what based on some predetermined criteria? Put that way, it becomes kind of a silly exercise. Life is not fair and there is no completely level playing field where each of us gets the same opportunities and same chances to play and to win at the same games. If that were the case I would not be entertaining this discussion right now.

Using myself and my life as the example, I know I did not deserve to be sexually abused as a child, and I truly believe I had no power and no ability to make good or better choices in that situation. I give myself a pass on that one, but I have been through enough therapy and healing to know it happened not because I deserved it but because life is not fair and that was the hand I happened to be dealt.

What has befallen me as an adult, there I did have power and ability to make choices on my behaviors and attitudes and whether or not to be happy. I have never been diagnosed with some sort of physical condition that makes me depressed or angry or prone to bad decisions. I own my poor choices, bad decisions, and really crappy situations as an adult. But I learned from those experiences as well. How to make better choices, better decisions, and extricate myself from crappy situations. Frequently that led to improved or enhanced outcomes, but not always; because again, life is not fair. I can give it my best effort and still fall short; sometimes you’re the louisville slugger sometimes you’re the ball (courtesy of Mark Knopfler’s song, The Bug, performed by Dire Straits).

The negative girl inside my head – she takes choices away from me with her fear mongering, anxiety-inducing propaganda, and irrational desire to control everything in my life. Control – oh my what a Pandora’s box and loaded term. It has become painfully apparent to me in the last 6 months that merely not listening to negative girl is not working out all that well for me. At best it is hit-and-miss, and the miss is usually in the clutch when it matters most. Working with TM again is about finding and using the mute button, turning off the volume rather than just turning it down. I have power in this, power to choose to break a lifetime of habits. “Deserve” is not part of that equation. If I want to maximize my happiness and enjoy peace of mind along with the benefits of a healthier life, I need to strengthen my resolve to curb old habits and choose to turn off the negative noise.

Negative girl does have her place; a greatly diluted version keeps me grounded, realistic, humble, and in touch with my compassion and my humanity. Negative girl will eventually need a new name, but she will have to earn it. I have no idea right now what my criteria will be for granting new nomenclature, and it will be fine when it happens. I am not so obsessed with it that I am burning brain cells creating elaborate plans and schemes for that phase of my positivity journey.

Overall, though, my self-directed optimism soars.

Earlier this week I met with 2 different prospective clients. I thought the meetings went very well, and the proposals I presented were comprehensive and priced fairly for the amount of work involved. However, I was the unsuccessful consultant in both efforts based almost exclusively on costs and hourly rates. One I had opportunity to cut the proposed rates and fees to win the work, I declined to accept their counter (almost 43% lower than my standard rates) and they refused my counter (10% reduction and the set-up time at no cost to them). The other was merely a professional and polite email explaining that they went with a lower cost proposal.

I must be toughening up because I did not take it personally and feel good about my presentations. In truth they were small jobs that would be great for someone pursuing freelance work, but for me with my present workload it is not much of a loss. However, since the opportunities came from a referral source, I feel putting forth my best proposal to accommodate their needs was best. Had I won the work, I would have fulfilled my commitments to them as if they are my most important and influential clients. But I did not, and I am okay with that.

From the effort put forth, I did deserve to win the contracts, and I am worth every penny of the fees I charge. But not everything works out in my favor, and I cannot and will not try to change their minds or to “buy” the work by accepting reduced fees. It was a good experience, my first real negotiation for work. I feel okay about my effort. There will also be other opportunities in the future.

Wow … just wow. What a big change from the anxiety and angst that I would be experiencing over such a turn in events even 6 months ago. The business coaching I have been receiving is definitely paying off for me.

And with all that hearty thought dump today, I am getting back to work. Happy Friday everyone!

 

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