Relieve Self Imposed Anguish

I don’t typically talk about my kids because well they’re my kids, but an instance hit me so hard as a mother and a coach that I wanted to address just how deep self imposed anguish can run and how early in life it can surface. 

My older son is an absolute sweetheart and well beyond his years. He’s 9 going on 40; a typical first born – conscientious, protective, nurturing, motivated by attention, with an urge to please. When stressed or having experienced a perceived wrong, he demonstrates a fairly high level of self righteousness, immediately followed by guilt and shame for doing so. He definitely leads with emotion over logic or intuition, but is wicked smart and quick to catch on. 

As he ages, the emotional charge continues to grow, and over the last few weeks it’s become much more pronounced. In the instant of a trigger, his emotions are immediately written all over his body. At 9, he hasn’t developed the emotional muscles to deal, and as such, understandably struggles to lift himself above the mental fray and spirals to a point of no return. In the last week alone, I’ve witnessed him falter under the weight of his self imposed pressure three different times. With momma bear protection mode running full force I went into action. 

But Monday night he spiraled into episode 4 and it was obvious a different approach was warranted. So rather than mom mode, I went into coach mode. I simply asked him to share his thoughts and feelings rather than hand out advice. As I expected he had a difficult time articulating what was circulating, but it was also apparent he responded to the coaching techniques. After about 45 minutes, I learned what my coach’s intuition had already told me: he carries a tremendous amount of guilt and shame for who and how he is, but to a level I wasn’t prepared to face as a mother. To avoid the tears I was fighting so hard to hold back, I maintained coach mode and simply said, “You don’t deserve the anguish you put yourself through.” And in that instant, my sweet young man with not a care in the world started to peek through. 

It’s absolutely amazing the amount of pressure we place on ourselves even at a young age. And even more amazing the length of time we carry it around thinking it will never go away; convinced this is “just the way life is”. It isn’t and there are ways to readjust your mindset to experience a new lens. 

  1. Grant yourself peace and forgiveness. Much like my son, you don’t deserve what you’re putting yourself through. You’re a talented human being with tremendous strength and definitive purpose. You’re robbing yourself and the world of both when your energy is focused on pulling you down.
  2. Repurpose your energy. What’s another way you could look at yourself in the moments you default to degradation mode? A useful go-to is to remind yourself you’re still learning and you haven’t got it all figured out (because at no point in your life will you not be learning and let’s face it, no one’s ever going to figure it all out).
  3. Come up with a mantra. I asked my son what he loved most about himself. He couldn’t come up with anything, so I redirected to things he loved about everyone in the family. He rattled those off without a hitch, and followed that with, “It’s really hard to find something to love about yourself.” Yes! Of course it is. We spend so much time tearing ourselves down, we blanket the stuff we do really well and the things others admire about us. We brush it off as things “everyone can do, so what’s the big deal.” We’re all incredibly gifted in so many ways – it’s absolutely a big deal! Immediately following I gave him a list of 3 phrases to repeat when he starts to weigh himself down. In the short days since, I’ve even heard him saying them to himself. 

As a mother I’m still processing this experience. It was eye opening to see that he seemingly felt more at ease with me as a coach vs. me as a mom. As I reflect on that, it validates the importance of truly listening to someone else and not being attached to the outcome (as we typically are as parents). When we attach an expectation, typically [unintentional] judgment comes with it because we’re convinced our way is “right”. In that instant, it was all him. I was there to support him in exploring the thoughts and emotions swirling inside of him with no other motive than to hear and see him. As a coach I’m encouraged by his evident relief and subsequent growth and self discovery. I have no doubt he will accomplish great things, and I’m genuinely thankful to be a part of the experience to help him repurpose his defeating messages to maximize his success. 

Life is entirely too short to live under the weight of self-imposed guilt, shame, anguish, anger, resentment, and whatever destructive emotions you may be placing on yourself. You are a beautiful human with so much to offer this world. You have every right to grant yourself tranquility to step into exactly who you want to be, who you know you can be if you could just get out of your own way. You are unique. You are full of potential. You are absolutely and unequivocally unlimited.

Lauren is a certified professional leadership development coach and mentor dedicated to radically shifting workplace cultures by empowering leaders through self awareness around how they show up and harnessing their energy to lift [others] as they climb. She works with leaders who are in the process of figuring out the most effective way to bring their definition of leadership to life to positively influence themselves, their teams, and their overall workplace environment. She fosters an open and engaging relationship to fully explore what’s going well as well as what’s holding leaders back from stepping into their full potential. Want support in unravelling any self-imposed limiting messages? Fill out the contact form to get more information, Follow LI and FB: @Unlimited Leader, LLC; IG: @mrslaurenammon