Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is your need to be liked holding you back?

Researchers have found that the part of the brain that activates when we experience physical pain also activates when we experience 'social pain' or rejection.

Some researchers believe that the brain has two related 'systems': one is to 'seek' new relationships, the other is to 'protect' from rejection.

Interestingly, while everyone has these two systems, one is often more dominant.  'Seekers' are motivated to make new connections - even if this puts them at risk of rejection.

'Protectors' will want to form new relationships, but will do this with caution.  They are motivated to avoid pain, and some might avoid relationships or sabotage existing ones to prevent being hurt.
  (For more information see Dr Roger Covin's book, The need to be liked.)

Start today

If you're a 'protector', be aware that you may be complicating your life because of your need to avoid rejection:
  • Perhaps you take on too much and burn out more quickly, because you struggle to say 'no'. 
  • Perhaps you avoid difficult conversations in personal and professional relationships, complicating problems and creating stress.
  • Perhaps you let people down, because you spread yourself too thinly in an attempt to please everyone.
  • Perhaps you feel resentful of others who have more time or freedom than you do, because they have firmer boundaries.
  • Perhaps you hold yourself back in your career because being a manager sometimes requires you to do or say things that aren't designed to win you friends.   
  • Perhaps you hold yourself back in your personal life, by not letting others get close enough to risk hurt.
The great irony is that people tend not to like people who have a strong need to be liked!  The constant need for affirmation from others, the 'giving in' and the lack of decision-making in order to please everyone can become quite wearing.

What's the solution?

Learn to be comfortable in your own skin.  Like yourself, and your need for others to fill that void will lessen.

Be true to yourself, even when it's uncomfortable... and watch as saying 'no' becomes easier and you prioritise the things that matter, improve situations through tough conversations, please the right people when it matters most, liberate your time, expand your career and experience deeper, more lasting relationships.     

What's not to like about that?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lessons from the Vancouver Riot Kiss

It was the kiss that captured the world's imagination.

Romantics, the media and advertising companies (who are now desperate to use the image) were bowled over when a young Canadian woman was knocked down and injured by riot police only to have her Australian boyfriend - barman and stand-up comic, Scott Jones - deliver one of the world's most unlikely, passionate and brilliantly-photographed kisses.   (See it here.)

Scott explained that Alex, was 'somewhat distraught' having been caught up, literally, in the ice-hocky riots.  He kissed her 'to calm her down'.

We all have times when - faced with stressful circumstances - we find ourselves in an unresourceful state: panicking, going blank, becoming emotional, creating 'drama'.

The conscious mind has a habit of going around in circles and sometimes needs to be snapped out of an unproductive state and into a mood and perspective where progress can be made.  There are times when we need to tell our brains: 'STOP! This is going nowhere!'  Scott's unexpected kiss had that effect.

A dropped coin on the ground, the sound of a plate smashing, screeching tyres, a fighter jet flying overhead... all of these can distract us from the track we're playing in our minds.  Once we are snapped out of it, it becomes more difficult to return to the previous state - the pattern has been interrupted and something must change.

Start today

If a situation or meeting is becoming intense - if you, or someone else, is stuck in an unresourceful pattern - find a way to 'break state'.

If you can't scramble a fighter jet and don't fancy an impromptu kiss, try humour.  Even asking something as innocuous as 'do you smell popcorn?' can 'break state' enough to interrupt the patterns in the mind so that they jump to a new, more positive track.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Find your inner gumboot fairy

I was chatting with someone recently and she said, whimsically, 'I just wish I could release my inner hippie at work'...  (She works in a male-dominated, uniformed institution where hippies are not usually seen unless they're out the front, protesting.)

When I asked if the person she lets others see is the Real Her, or someone else, she reluncantly admitted that it was the latter.

Lots of us do this.  If we keep other people at arm's length, they're more likely to find us acceptable.  Less likely to notice our flaws.  We're more likely to fit in - and one of the top three fears most people have is of 'not belonging'.

Another friend sent me the photo, above, of her two-year-old daughter in a fairy dress and gumboots and the caption 'one day she will conform'.   Sadly - odds are that she will.

Start today

Who is your inner 'gumboot fairy' and when was she last seen?

Think of your 'authentic self' - the person you were originally, before layers and layers of 'conditioning' by the world shaped you into the person you now let other people see.

The Real You believes in herself and is 100% valuable and confident.  She wants to be authentic in every situation.  She thinks she looks fantastic in gum boots!

She doesn't doubt and second-guess, doesn't conform or shape herself to fit someone else's idea of 'normal'.  This authentic version of yourself won't put up with a situation or pretend things are better than they are, because that isn't being true (and that's exhausting).

Imagine the effortlessness of living when there's no more 'act'.  Think of the freedom of being YOU in every situation... hippie, gumboots and all, and having confidence in that person...  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Want the antidote to fear?

A good friend and colleague of mine, Audrey Thomas of Ajile Focus, reminded me last week that the brain cannot process both fear and appreciation simultaneously.  Fear exists to keep us on guard to escape dangerous situations - without it we'd waltz into calamities unwarned.

The idea behind 'gratitude journals' (where you write down five or ten things that you are grateful for each day) is that, if you are firing up the 'appreciation' sector in the brain, the fear sector can't work.  Not only that, but - just as fear breeds more fear - looking for positives breeds more positive thoughts.

I thought I'd try this out on Facebook on Friday night (exciting life that I lead!) by asking the women in my online mums' group to post five things that they're grateful for.  We're so used to posts on lack of sleep and teething troubles that it was a beautiful change to spend some time focusing on the simple things that bring us happiness.

One lady in particular has had a rough time over the last few months, and that day in particular.  Her partner has been in and out of hospital ever since their baby was born, having developed a persistent infection following surgery after a work accident.  She was finding little, other than her baby daughter, to appreciate.

Minutes later, though, her life seemed to change.

While we were all chatting on Facebook, she opened her laptop computer, which she'd taken in to hospital earlier in the day so her partner could use it to pay some bills.  To her surprise, up popped an electronic 'sticky note', containing a beautifully-worded marriage proposal!

It is said that what you focus on, you get.  My friend's life hadn't really changed at all - the proposal, and the future it promised together, had been there all afternoon.  The only change was that she'd switched on the computer and noticed it.

As soon as she started focusing on her happiness, she started finding more and more positive things to be thankful for and was able to post them in her list.

Start today

Often, we let the 'bad stuff' take centre stage.  The good things in our lives are there all along - and they're not always in our line of sight because we're not looking in the right direction.

Make a choice today to focus on the people and things, the experiences, qualities and opportunities that you are grateful for, and write these down.  Watch this list grow, the more you focus on it.

If we can choose which part of the brain we engage - the part that processes fear or the part that processes appreciation, is it really any contest?