I am going to see my therapist on Monday at 10 am.
You’re thinking “big whoop. Why is Sue in my inbox telling me about her therapy appointment? Almost everyone I know who CAN get an appointment with a therapist right now has one on the books.”
Here is why I’m telling you: I got so shy, defensive, and even disingenuous around this development that it felt like a useful share.
You see, I attend a standing meeting with a valued, long-term client at 10 am on Mondays. When my therapist emailed to say she was completely booked but had a cancellation at that time, this is the text I sent to the CEO and the EA:
Hi. I have an opportunity to get to a medical appointment that’s hard to get on Monday at 10 am due to a cancellation. I normally would say no because of the senior team meeting, but this is a high-priority thing. My inclination is to choose to say yes and to do the pre-read so I’m caught up. We don’t have an agreement that I’ll attend 100% of these meetings, but I still want to be there. Tough choice. I don’t see any other conflicts coming up in the next 3 months, so I’m going this route. Please let me know if you have feedback on this choice.
I sat with this, and I noticed I felt out of integrity and below the line. Look at all the defensiveness and slippery language in this text. I use the term “medical,” which is technically true, but I saw I was manipulating the circumstances by using that word. I point out that we don’t have an agreement on full attendance, which also is technically true, but can you see how I’m using it to support my argument? Yuck. I shared that I was conflict-free for the next three months. Another point I made to shore up my conviction that I’m right. So although I’m ostensibly owning my decision as a “choice” (versus a “need to,” “have to,” or obligation), all of the evidence I’m using undermines my genuine ownership and agency here.
When I sat with this for a few minutes, noticing I was below the line, I realized I was shy about telling these valued Conscious Leadership collaborators that I was going to see a therapist. I am a PROFESSIONAL COACH, and I AM EMBARRASSED about this? In all of my approval seeking and hiding around this decision, I was undermining everything I practice as my job: authenticity, vulnerability (when it’s safe, as it is in this case), agency, and 100% responsibility.
So I quickly sent this message:
I’m noticing that I feel out of integrity. I want to talk to my therapist about some stuff in my personal life, to get more alignment on things. All therapists are impossible to see right now, but mine (whom I haven’t seen in a year) has this one slot. If you really knew me, you’d know that as a coach I can be lazy about getting professional input because so many of my friends are good at coaching. Deep breath. That’s the appointment I’m going to take. It feels important to me, and I will be a better resource to you for having made this choice. <3
This was an improvement. It’s still imperfect. See how I mention that I haven’t seen my therapist in a year? Aren’t I great? So strong that I only need to see my therapist once a year! But it was an improvement in the context of doing my work and embodying the work of conscious leadership.
High-performing people who begin the journey of conscious leadership can get caught up in the perfection of living a full-time life above the line. I always say that doing this work is like learning to walk. We toddle. We fall. We get up. The work is to more quickly notice that we’ve fallen, to appreciate the little one in us who slipped up because we’re still learning, and to pop up faster. For me (not for everyone), this moment in time was a slip-up around one of my core patterns: looking tough and independent.
When I notice myself presenting myself to the world with a bias toward strength, I look again. What I most want is to be known, in the fullness of who I am. Tough, strong, independent, emotional, and sometimes confused, misaligned, and in need of support.
📷: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash