The Power of Projection

How often do you make up stories in your head about what others are thinking of you? About what they might think of your decisions, hopes, and dreams?

And how often do you let that stop you from making moves in your life?

This week’s letter is the third and final installment in my Power Series. We started with The Power of Intention, exploring the “why” behind your vision or goal.

Next we explored The Power of a Plan to help you with your “how.”

Now it’s time to address the most common fears that stop us from playing bigger in the world: judgment and criticism, and to use The Power of Projection to cut these off at the pass.

I love projection like I love procrastination and clutter. No, I’m not a masochist! I just see how much we can learn about ourselves through these seemingly frustrating behaviors.

Whatever you feel others might think is likely what you already think of yourself.

And therein lies your power.

You can’t change what others think or say but you can work on loving that part of you who says you’re too dumb or too young or too old or too fat; that sweet, young part of you who is scared of change; any kind of change. Even change for the better. She’s so scared that she’ll say awful things to you to sabotage you.

The more you can hold space for your fear and remind her that she is more than enough; when you can show her you truly believe in her by taking risks and making space in your life for your dreams, the less you’ll care about others’ opinions.

And the less you care about others’ opinions, the less frightened she’ll be.

And the less frightened she is, the less often she’ll talk crap and convince you to stay small.

Because she now knows you’ll take care of her as you step out and shine.

When I first started my business 15 years ago, this was something I had to regularly get in check.

Who would hire someone so young to help them redesign their lives?

How can I, a young woman at 30, provide value to this older, established, successful business man?

How can I sound older on the phone? 😉

To build up my confidence, I’d give myself pep talks before getting on the phone. I’d remind myself of past successes; of my inherent ability to cut through the noise and get to the heart of the matter; of the quality of the coach training I’d received.

Then I would get on the phone, fear and all, and focus on connecting wholeheartedly with my client. And 9 times out of 10, the session was a resounding success. (That 10th time I was too caught up in my need to provide value so I would end up being more focused on myself than my client.)

The pep talks, plus the courageous acts of getting on the phone despite my fear helped me believe in my abilities even more and yes, to handle the inevitable question, “How can someone your age help me?” (Sometimes I’d navigate it with a little humor: “What can I say? I’m an old soul!“)

I still and likely always will deal with some fear of criticism, but today, being confident in my abilities, I take a different approach. When I struggle with this, I pull out that powerful Theodore Roosevelt quote that Brené Brown recently made well known again:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This quote reminds me that I’m not interested in the opinions of those in the “cheap seats,” as Brené calls them — those in the stands casting judgment but who never put themselves out there.

It also brings me to a place of compassion for those who are too scared to take risks or make the moves necessary to create the life they dream of. That’s when I go to my other saving grace which is my mantra of “She’s not an asshole. She’s just wounded.” 🙂

When I find myself getting caught up in the tales I’m telling myself, another tool I reach for is The Work by Byron Katie.

When wrestling with a thought or story, she suggests asking yourself four questions to “put it to inquiry:”

Question 1: Is it (the thought or story) true?
Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?

That fourth question is the doozy, in my opinion. If you were to clear out that thought clutter, eliminate that story you’re telling yourself, who would you be? What would you be free to do? What would you be less afraid to try?

Identifying what you’d now be able to do is key to understanding why you might hang onto the fear of what others might think. If you’re afraid of putting yourself out there, hanging onto this story clutter is a great excuse for not doing it.

“What will people think?”

“What will they say about me?”

Giving in to those fears will overshadow your life at every turn. But when you realize that what really needs your attention is your confidence and your belief in yourself, that’s when you reclaim your power.

Projection, procrastination, perfectionism — it’s all clutter which, when looked at inquisitively, can teach you about the root of your self-sabotage so you can then heal it at the source.

So the next time you find yourself fearing what others think, stop and ask yourself, “Is this, in fact, what I think of myself?” or “Might I be using this fear to stay small because I’m scared to play big?”

Dig below the surface and I bet you’ll be surprised with what you find.

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