Usually, there is a word.
Some phrase or sentence that when uttered, has the power to leave us feeling small and powerless. Diminished. Childlike.
I wonder what is it for you?
For me, that word is bossy. I have a vivid memory of being eight years old and being called a ‘bossy little girl’ by a teacher.
In that moment it felt like the worst thing I could ever be.
I had asked Miss Scott what time my little brother’s class was finishing.
This was important information to me. My brother was incredibly anxious when he started school, would grip onto Mum’s leg and scream and cry not to have to go. Grandad Harry used to pick us up and drive us each morning to minimise the trauma at the school gate.
For months I spent the morning in my brothers class to help him adjust. I remember feeling the weight of this responsibility, I was navigating the adult world, asking questions I thought Mum would ask. I felt so grown-up.
But I was immediately on the outer with my classmates and lunchtime became a torment of who would sit with me. I ended up making friends with other outsiders, including a girl named Jennifer who had an imaginary dog (sometimes I would pretend I could see him just to make her feel better).
I learnt it was kinder to say what people wanted to hear. At all costs, I shouldn’t make a fuss.
At eight I learned to put my needs second. I found it was necessary to plan ahead and be organised to get my schoolwork (which I loved) done. And when I learnt it was not safe to be direct, I used humour and self-deprecation to make requests.
I did that for the next 30 years to avoid the burning shame of ever being called bossy again.
Last Friday afternoon, Ash and I wandered through the Japanese maples at Westonbirt Arboretum. While Bohdi wandered about looking for disgusting things to roll in, we chatted about those poignant moments of our childhood that reduced us, the words that wielded so much power over our little spirits.
As we wandered through the reds and golds and ambers and rich glossy browns, I was struck by how much colour we had both lost when we came in contact with the confusing adult world.
This is where the seeds of self-doubt are planted. It’s so easy for us to remain bound in place by the vines they weave around us. But when we bring these memories into the light and have a little poke around, we get to see how much choice we still have over events that may be decades old.
As adults we are free to decide what meaning we give those experiences, we can have a deeper understanding of what else might have been going on, we can release ourselves from taking responsibility for events that were beyond our control.
This is how we heal the root causes of our self-doubt, rather than manage the symptoms. It’s how I have reclaimed bossy for my adult self.
Bossiness is organised compassion.
It’s about clarity and leadership and excellence. It’s about getting things that matter, done. It has turned out to be one of my greatest strengths.
And because bossy doesn’t sting anymore, I am not wasting time and energy tying myself in knots trying to avoid ever being labelled thus.
Finding my way through has set me free.
Understanding where the seeds of your self-doubt were sown and healing those hurts is a fundamental aspect of Your Self-belief Map. We follow a gentle process to help you look at the root causes of your Self-doubt, navigate your way through, and cultivate Self-belief. The class size is small, the content is rich, practical and immediately applicable to your life. I’d love to support you.
Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totally ♥ Instagram - join me there?