I could see his brain rewiring in real time: He no longer believed that his clients hired him because he was always available. He was starting to see that it was safe to wait a bit before responding. It was even safe, in some cases, to not respond to emails at all.
Building psychological safety and allowing myself to feel safe are both things I’ve been working on in therapy that I hadn’t realized were such problems for me before. A lack of feeling safe continues to pop up in different forms, triggered by different scenarios. I’m learning better how to make myself feel safe, but work remains an area it’s challenging to achieve, even now I’m working as a consultant and thus ultimately in charge of my own time, because my financial stability is reliant on finding clients and making sure they’re satisfied with my work. My perfectionism rears its ugly head and I pressure myself to meet standards that are in my own head, not the client’s.
What reactive behaviors do you notice in your business, and how are they stealing your focus?
I’m having a tough time actually living out the flexibility of a consulting schedule; fourteen years of office work have ingrained feelings of obligation to put my own work last, despite the point of consulting being to give myself time freedom and allow me to invest in my creative work.
It’s taking longer than I would have preferred to move past this holdover mentality, but I recognize it for the problem it is. I’m also practicing patience, so while I feel internal pressure to change faster, my therapist and my friends remind me that I’m already moving pretty fast in my new business, and that my personal projects are all behemoths that require a long-term grind before I reach the payoff. I’ve been in the grind so long on some, it feels like I’ll never reap their rewards, even as I slog onwards.
I don’t trust the success I’ve had so far to last; the big project I’ve been working on is winding down and I don’t have much more work lined up. Another facet of feeling unsafe, and another aspect of self-esteem to bolster: trusting in myself and what I can offer clients. I also need to trust in myself on my creative projects, in my abilities and my instincts. This mental work is a practice, requiring effort and time and repetition to overwrite my old mental programs with healthier ones.
Teach your body — and brain — that it’s safe to put your needs above those of your clients.
One way to soothe stress:
Long ago, I read that Glennon Doyle created two lists: One list of easy buttons and one list of reset buttons related to dealing with stress. The easy button list contained things that were numbing quick hits. But those buttons don’t really fix anything; Glennon explained that while they soothed her for a moment, they eventually stopped working. The reset buttons, on the other hand, were soothing tactics that actually worked.
I like this framing. A few years back I made myself a list of activities I called “mindless” as a prompt to do something besides read my phone, but they also weren’t quite right.