I recently read an interesting book by the well-known “Instagram Psychologist,” Dr. Nicole LePera (check out my book review in coming months). One key concept that spoke to me as I was reading, was what LePera describes as the 3 aims of our life:
To Be Seen.
To Be Heard.
To Express our Authentic Self.
So many of us grow up in childhoods where we are never seen. Potentially, we are ignored, passed by, not given the attention from family or friends that is so vital to our self-worth. Sometimes we may be picked last, lose a class election or cut from the soccer team. To not be seen can be detrimental to our view of Self. This only follows us through life. As we begin to grow, we may be overlooked by lovers, excluded from social events from friends or lose the job to someone far less qualified. And I know, some people will claim that life is not fair, that losing is part of life, and I agree, some of these difficult things will happen to us in life and they build character, but for the sake of this blog, let’s just look at the impact they can make (because difficult times are part of life) on Self development and maybe consider I thing or two about how we as people handle the "difficult things."
*Side note - the need to be seen is so obvious in modern society - enter social media and the like button...
One great example, a friend of mine experienced, of not being seen, was during job advancement interviews when he was going from therapist to administration. One thing to say right away: he didn’t get the job until the THIRD opportunity – after both predecessors quit or retired. This is a great example of how he was not seen (and not because he didn't "win," but how it was handled), but then learned to cope with it the second time around, giving him such a great lesson about life.
So, the first time, he was considered, in a sense, but not given much visibility in terms of the news. I remember his boss at the time alerting him to a position that was opening in Administration. He expressed interest. He and his boss had discussions and talks. A week or two passed. It was not until his weekly Team Meeting (surrounded by his peers) that they were informed of the new administrator! He wasn't given a heads up, wasn’t interviewed and eye contact was avoided during the announcement. Ouch. He sat with his insides flipping upside down and could feel his energy body vibrating. During the meeting he was a bit more vocal about things he didn't agree with in the realm of front line work (You can't blame that old Self, coming from a place of pain, but he probably could have been a bit kinder). After he left the meeting he cried in his office.
The negative self-talk ran rampant, he told me. "I wasn't good enough. I might never be. I wasn’t considered. I wasn’t seen."
Luckily he was surrounded by a very good group of colleagues and peers as well as his own therapist (bless her heart) – mind you the biggest reason he went to therapy was job related! His therapist played such a good role in teaching him self-worth, communication and self-care. Regardless, he coped, and returned back to doing what he was doing, continuing to do a good job.
The second time, was much easier on him This time he was seen (ah hah!) but not truly heard. He had been working for the organization for 7 years at the time. He excelled at what he did, had great patient interaction and few if any marks on his file. This time he actually got an interview. Different position, same-ish management. The interview went spectacular – however, he did make one fatal error during the interview, where he expressed that management was more important than leadership – totally what he thought the management team wanted to hear, but not what he truly felt. He saw the mangers as mangers, navigating people, assisting in crisis, but not really connecting to staff beyond their role of "worker." His gut told him leadership was far more important but he went with his ego because he thought it was what the interview team wanted to hear. Leadership is crucial because when people see other people leading and getting in the trenches they respect you far more because they know you understand.
The farther you move up the chain, the farther you move AWAY from your people.
When people don’t feel connected with, seen, or heard, it creates big issues within teams of all sorts. We need strong leaders, but should keep in mind the need to connect – and also realize experience does always mean, “I know best.” This is one of the key things that Yoga has taught me. I will forever know and not know. There will always be room for everyone. I will pick up keys and knowledge along the way, and give my keys away, and then I will pick up more. Innovation will always trump experience – because, as one of my favorite yogis put it, “Our ancestors are dead.”
I digress. So, after that fatal flaw in the interview, which he now thinks had nothing to do with the selection, someone with little clinical experience but overall life experience got the job. Maybe it was good choice! Maybe not? He mentioned that he remember speaking to his boss at the time. They had known he was tired, burned out and wanting to challenge himself and grow others. Alas, he was not heard and told, “We don't know if you're ready just yet. It’s a lot.” Here was a key difference. He didn’t cry. he didn’t head back to his office. He wasn't angry. He made myself heard. He expressed his disappointment in the selection process, said that he was hurt by the choice and a bit let down by someone he looked up to, but as always would do his job as best he could – which he did. Luckily his voice was received and they validated him – and he never held anything against them because it is never a sole individual decision when an organization or cooperation is so large.
However, when we are NOT heard in life we equate that to many things… "was what I said not worthy to be heard? Am I wrong? Do I not have anything important to say? If I am not heard, that must mean I should remain silent?" The latter being how high powered executives and admins want you to function, because the old, “because I said so” works perfectly well when asked “Why?” as they know best, because they're the one sitting high up on the food chain, not you (totally not true!).
So, hear people. Even if you don’t agree with them, really hear them. Validate them. I’m not saying agree with them, but listen, repeat back, express a level of understanding. You may very well be the person who propels them in a direction where they grow and feel supported, safe and accepted.
Now, we move on to door number 3. After another year of front line work, this was it! It was all he had been wanting! Someone had left a vacant position allowing him to advance, and so he threw his hat in the ring (thinking this was something he wanted, now knowing, administration is not for him – for many reasons, none negative, just preferring people work more).
This time he got it! He was seen. He was heard. However, his expression of authentic self was brought into question. Not severely negative more out of curiosity, he was asked, “People here respect you, however, there are some people that you seem to rub the wrong way.” His response back was that maybe it was about those certain people “many of which had departed over the years.”
At work he had strict boundaries, rarely socialized with anyone outside of work, often questioned delegated tasks and was assertive, but never cruel. He also valued his staff and he let them know it regularly. He took the proverbial bullet a time or two, but compromised his integrity more than he wished. But he learned a lot.
What he came to find out was that his mode of expression was not working for admin. He often asked WHY (because he wanted to understand, not be oppositional), and that was not received well. He barely knew what he was doing, and being hard on staff was not his jam. He even remembers a dialogue once where it was suggested that bosses act like parents, sometimes staff don’t like them, but that’s okay. Ugh. This too gave him a gut reaction. He didn’t necessarily have to be liked by staff, but he certainly didn’t want to function out of an authoritarian style of leading. We know this doesn’t work in history… we all know what happens to leaders who function in the “I said so…” mentality – it doesn’t go well in the end. Why? Because people want to be seen, heard and allowed to be themselves.
In ANY realm. In ANY Team. In ANY family. This is true. Can you make all of these things possible? Can you provide people with CHOICE? REFUGE? VISION?
Needless to say, he stepped down from his position after several tough months. He was happy to switch gears and go back to therapy. That felt what truly resonated with him. He could be all the things he needed to be – SEEN, HEARD and HIMSELF! And no shad to any of the experiences he had along the way. He was truly blessed with the majority of his support through out his career. More blessed than burned, that is for sure. And he has total gratitude for the experience and the opportunity he have been given in his life.
This is a lesson in expression. This example is a bit complex, because bosses do have to assist us in growing and learning, so “being ourselves” does not always work. However, the overall idea is that you can allow some expression while fine tuning the “crunchy bits.” When you shut someone completely out, shut them down, or try to suppress them it can cause them to feel powerless. And when someone feels powerless, like they’ve ran out of choices they either project anger outward or depression inward. Both are not ideal and both affect the development of self. When we are not given opportunity to be ourselves, the implied message is “be someone else, because who you are doesn’t fit in here.” Many people will hear that message and think, “Okay, how do I change so I can fit in here?" But try flipping that message and instead ask your, “Maybe this isn’t where I need to fit in, especially when I was born to stand out.”
So, SEE people! Hear people! And by golly, let people express their capital S Self!