I kept refreshing my email every 5 minutes. Why wasn’t I hearing back from her? She’s probably mad at me...I totally overwhelmed her. I suck...
This was my inner dialogue a couple of days ago when one of my clients hadn’t responded to one of my messages. Eventually I’d tortured myself enough and decided to reach out to her again and ask if she was overwhelmed and if she needed any help.
She quickly replied back and told me she’d been out of town and hadn’t seen my messages but that she was looking forward to doing the work we’d discussed.
So as it turns out she was not overwhelmed. Not mad at me. In fact, the reason I hadn’t heard from her had nothing to do with me at all! Why did I do this to myself?
Can you relate? Odds are your answer is yes because:
A) You’re human. And
B) You’re a creative.
Without information or answers we tend to assume the absolute worst, usually about ourselves. And as writers, all too often our beautiful, though overactive, imaginations can lead us to some serious self-sabotage.
I had ZERO reason to believe my client suddenly thought I sucked. In fact, the same client had just told me she thought we’d be best friends if we lived near each other. And yet my brain chose to run away with a negative story instead of giving both me and her the benefit of the doubt.
So you’re probably thinking, great Kristina, so how do I check myself so I don't spiral out of control?
Here are 3 ways to check yourself, before you wreck yourself:
1) Recognize when you’re spiraling.
The self-sabotage spiral makes you feel like garbage. So if you’re feeling negative energy around a situation, let that be your signal you may be in a spiral. Then ask yourself what story you may be making up around that situation.
Using my example, since I hadn’t heard from my client since our last call, I decided she was feeling overwhelmed and disappointed with me which made me feel awful and paranoid. Once I recognized I was feeling bad I knew I was most likely in a self-sabotage spiral of my own creation.
2) Search for TRUTH.
Self-sabotage spirals are rarely rooted in anything other than our subconscious insecurities. So once you realize you’re spiraling, the most powerful thing you can do is ask yourself “What do I know to be true about this situation?” In the case of my feelings about not hearing back from my client, I actually stopped and asked myself:
Do I know how this client is feeling at this moment? No.
Do I have any reason to believe she thinks I suck?
No. She just told me she thinks I’m awesome.
Then I had information to counter the crazy and bring me back to a healthy dose of reality.
If the truth is I don’t know how my client is feeling but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think I suck, then I was able to decide if I needed more information to feel better or if my search for truth alone was enough to help me move on.
In the case of my client. I felt like I owed it to her to make sure she wasn’t overwhelmed. And, of course, her reply instantly made me feel better for having checked in and asked directly rather than wondering.
Imagine how this could have gone if I’d let this story have it’s way and never chose to get clarity. I’d believe I was a disappointment to my client and imagine what that would do to our relationship! I’d wind up resenting all of the help I gave, believing nothing would ever be enough, and she’d feel the weirdness and likely start being disappointed! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy! Which is why it’s so critical to do step 3...
3) Know your “gut” from your imagination.
Sometimes as storytellers who are deeply intuitive and empathetic, we think “our gut” is the one driving the ship when we’re actually in a self-sabotage spiral.
You’re probably thinking, “Duh! So tell me how the heck to tell the difference!”
Honestly, this is the hardest thing to figure out, but once you do it’s game-changing. The best way to do this is to go back to steps one and two. After you’ve acknowledged you’re spiraling with a negative assumption about yourself or someone else, and searched for the truth, ask yourself what you’d believe if you were giving yourself and the other person the benefit of the doubt. In other words, what would this look like through some “grace lenses”?
If you put on your grace lenses, what do you see? Maybe the person isn’t avoiding you, maybe they’re just busy. Maybe they haven’t seen your message at all. Maybe you’re being way too hard on yourself...
Once you explore all of these options, if your gut still tells you something is off, you have two choices:
Letting it go means you actually decide to make peace with the situation and choose a story that serves you. For example, if I said, “This client loves me. I’m sure she just missed the messages and will get back to me soon.” and was able to stop worrying about it, that’s letting it go.
Addressing it directly means you decide to go straight to the source to get the real story. No room left for your imagination gremlins there!
Is this risky? Sure! What if your imagination gremlins were right and she does think you suck!? It’s possible, but 90% of the time, the reality is much brighter than the story you’ve made up about it.
So the next time you feel yourself caught in a negative story, put on your grace lenses, search for the truth and remember you and only you are the hero of your stories--so choose the ones that serve you and let the others go.