My clients have a lot of things in common. They are brilliant, college-educated, women of color recognized as passionate changemakers. Another thing my clients have in common is an unbelief that they can have the career that they desire. Their disbelief shows up in various ways including confusion, inaction, and overworking. Another way their disbelief manifests is self-sabotage. I’ve found that ignoring yourself – your intuition, desires, and needs – is often the first stage in self-sabotage.
The reason I can recognize, call out, and help resolve the lack of confidence and self-sabotaging behaviors in my clients is that I had to learn to overcome them in myself. What people around me saw was a passionate social work professional, an effective leader, and an ambitious woman. They did not see my procrastination, enabling, exhaustion, or doubt. I was exactly where they are.
Here are a few examples of how my self-sabotage played out:
Ignoring My Intuition: Tickle Me Elmo
I went to Kmart with my daughter on Thanksgiving in 1996. We both love Sesame Street and got very excited when we saw Elmo on the shelf in the toy department. I picked him up. We squeezed his belly. Elmo began to giggle and vibrate. We didn’t like it. I put Elmo back on the self and because he was still giggling and vibrating, he fell off the shelf and onto my head – literally. I remember our strong negative reaction and thinking to myself I can’t believe Elmo just fell on my head. I stood in disbelief a little longer thinking about the whole experience before moving on. The next week Tickle Me Elmo was the hottest toy in America. People brought him and sold him online for 10 times what they paid for him. I sometimes still wonder what Elmo was trying to tell me LOL.
Ignoring My Desires: Cereal Restaurant
For those of you who don’t know, I love breakfast food. Pancakes are my favorite, but I will eat cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yes, I still eat Frosted Flakes, Cap N Crunch, and Golden Grahams regularly. About a decade ago I was standing in my kitchen and remember thinking to myself ‘unlike most people, my indecision about dinner is because I can’t decide which cereal I’m going to eat’. I remember thinking there must be other people like me who love cereal and want to eat it any time of day (as the image of the cereal dispensers that hotels have available for breakfast popped into my mind). A couple of weeks later I saw an article on a new cereal restaurant.
Ignoring My Needs: Adult Coloring Book
Between 2000-2007, I facilitated a support group for mothers and would also lead workshops and host special events. I also wrote newsletters and created and distributed workbooks to my case management clients on a variety of topics. I led a session on “bring out the kid in you” stress reducers and began to include coloring pages in my workbooks. My clients loved them. I thought it would be great to create an inspirational coloring book for adults to help them relax. I had a younger cousin sketch a few drawings – and never went any further. This was years before the adult coloring book phase we have today. I still haven’t created that coloring book.
I don’t beat myself up about “missing out” on any of the things above. When I think of them it is a reminder to do what I am truly passionate about. To trust me and make myself a priority.
Take a moment to think about what you are being led. Dedicate the time, effort, and energy to the things you truly believe in – including you! You’ve already taken care of everyone else.
Elevation requires you to stop ignoring your intuition, desires, and needs.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, escorts high-performing women of color in mid-level social work and human services leadership through promotion to senior leadership. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.
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