“It felt more like a performance than a chat,” said a trusted Master Coach Training (MCT) classmate earlier this summer. This feedback that accompanied my latest assignment wasn’t exactly news to me. I’d received similar critiques from several of the other members of my MCT cohort on various assignments along the way, from public speaking to teaching a teleclass. But for some reason, this time it really stuck.
Immediately, the oft-cited quote that “how we do anything is how we do everything” came to mind. Damn, I realized…I was doing it again. I was trying to prove myself out of fear that what I have to offer by simply being myself and sharing my experience was not enough.
Just several years ago, I attempted to prove myself by obsessively creating a perfect-looking life. Perfect body, perfect clothes, perfect education and work, perfect homes…and the list went on and on. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was using externals (and the more perfect-looking the better) to substitute for a really crappy self-worth.
All that stuff purportedly made me feel better about myself. And even if I didn’t always feel that great on the inside, at least all that seeming perfection served as a sort of armor that protected me or anyone else from seeing the terrified and vulnerable human hiding behind it all.
But it had been a couple years since I’d stepped off that carousel and cleared my dizzy head of the excess, the binge drinking, the drugs and the high conflict marriage. I’d shared about my journey openly and honestly (I thought) through my speaking, writing and coaching.
Making this “performance vs. chat” realization all the more frustrating was the fact that I’d spent the previous 3+ years training to become and practicing as a life coach, the most woo woo and airy-fairy of personal transformation professions, right up there with spiritual channel and energy healer (all of which I adore, but I was an attorney for heaven’s sake, and this has at times been some strange new territory I’ve found myself in!). In any event, I should have known better by now. Surely I was healed and wouldn’t fall into those traps of attempting to prove myself through externals again, right?
But here I was, still treating not just my MCT assignments, but my entire life more like a performance than a chat. Same song, different verse. Except that instead of education and money, now I was hiding behind over-preparation and making sure every session, every class and every piece of writing was overflowing with facts and evidence. Like an attorney arguing her case, I was yet again trying to prove my worth but in a different way. So now what?
Enter Martha Beck and a class she taught in MCT this past summer on “Writing for Self-Help.” Martha is the queen of self-help (and if you’re not convinced, just check out her numerous bestselling books and her longstanding monthly column in O Magazine). Her advice was that there is so much written these days, if it doesn’t come from “the marrow of your bones,” no one will want to read it.
The marrow of my bones. What the hell would that even look like? I’d barely been able to lay down my armor, so the thought of exposing my fragile marrow sounded like a terrifying prospect…yet strangely it also carried a deep sigh of relief. Armor is heavy and maintaining it 24/7 is exhausting. So I started to consider that going to the marrow might just be where it’s at.
I’m still not quite sure exactly what my marrow looks and feels like. Clearly, living from that place hasn’t come naturally to me in the past. But thank goodness for way-pavers like Glennon Doyle Melton, Brene Brown and Jenny Lawson, who have shown me that radical authenticity is not only cathartic and healing, but radical vulnerability connects us in a way I don’t think much else can. And more and more these days, when I share something expecting judgment or isolation, I am instead pleasantly surprised to hear, “Me, too.”
So I took my classmate’s critique and made an intention to live and write and speak from the marrow of my bones. I have a habit of waiting for perfection, but I’m tired of waiting, and I’m sick of wearing armor. I no longer want my life and work to be a well-planned performance; I want it to be a chat. A fun chat. And I want you guys along for the ride.
Till then, it’s your turn. Are you ready to live your life less as a performance and more as a chat? If so, I’d love for you to tell me all about it: firstname.lastname@example.org.