Ask HaviNote: it is almost impossible to get on the Ask Havi list. This person got in by a. being one of my clients or students, b. flattering the hell out of my duck, and c. making life easy on me by being clear about what the question was and what details I could use.

Thanks to the lovely and thoughtful Maryann Devine for today’s Ask Havi. With permission, as always.

The question.

Hi Havi

I can’t tell you how much you’ve helped me between the insights you provide daily in your blog, and the techniques and concepts you put together in your ebooks and audio. Seriously, thank you.

Here’s my question:

I think there are just some things that are not in one’s nature, and there’s no reason to force yourself.

But how can you tell if you are being true to yourself, or just giving in to what feels safe?

Here is a concrete example from my life: I’m an introverted person. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people, or don’t enjoy being with them, or even meeting new people, but it takes a *lot* out of me.

I’m not afraid to stand up and talk in front of people, but it is completely draining for me.

I hear a lot of advice about the importance of face-to-face, and even get great opportunities to do in-person stuff like this.

Part of me says, you should do this, everyone says it will help, and another part says, you just don’t have this in you, and it doesn’t make sense to force it.

p.s. I also think I’m procrastinating about _________.

And an answer.

Ohmygod. This is a really, really rich question that pretty much deserves an entire book to be written about it.

Here’s my off-the-top-of-my-head answer, though: 

Assume for now that you can’t tell if you’re being true to yourself or just giving in. Have that be your starting point.

And then give yourself permission — temporary permission, if that feels better — to not do the thing you don’t want to do.

In fact, let’s make it easier. Selma and I will give you permission to Not Do The Thing, and that way if you have resistance to giving yourself permission, we can sneak around it.

This is how the experiment works.

If you consciously and actively allow yourself to Not Do The Thing, and you consciously and actively observe your reactions, then you’re not “just giving in”.

You’re experimenting. 

You’re experimenting with being kind to yourself. You’re finding out what happens when you do things without guilt. When you — whoah — make a love-based decision instead of a fear-based decision.

And then you pay attention to what comes up.

Removing guilt from the equation makes everything clearer. If you’re not doing the thing just because you think you should, and you’re not beating yourself up for giving in, then you just happen to be Not Doing The Thing.

And then you can find out whether that feels okay or not. 

As long as you’re doing it (or not doing it) mindfully and without guilt, you’ll get the right result. 

The right result? What does that even mean?

I don’t know. But you will. For example …

Maybe you’ll discover that when you allow yourself to Not Do The Thing instead of guilting yourself into it, that you’re not as scared of it as you thought you were. Could be that you were just stuck in resistance mode.

Maybe now you will want to do it, but your own way. And you’ll get some insights into what that way is. 

Or maybe you’ll discover that Not Doing The Thing is not giving in at all, but just gathering the information that will help you find a different way to achieve what you want. 

Or maybe you’ll discover that you really, truly, 100% don’t want to Do The Thing, in which case, good for you. Now you know for sure. Don’t do it!

In this specific case … 

Okay, I totally identify with this one because I’m also an extremely introverted person.

Not only that, but I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person in the Elaine Aron sense of the word, which I suspect you are too. This means, among other things, that we take a lot longer to recover from social interactions than “normal” people. 

Anyway, you have my permission to deshouldify!

Did you know … 

In 2007 I was teaching live events twice a month and in 2008 I only taught a couple live events?

And I made way more money. And had more time. And taught a lot online which was really fun because you can have 100+ people on a phone call while you’re snuggling in bed with your duck … 

So let me ask you a question … 

What would happen if you made a commitment to yourself to help yourself feel SAFE AND SUPPORTED this year in whatever form that took? So you could give yourself permission to just not teach live for a while.

And then you can work on figuring out which patterns are the important ones. Maybe feeling safe and supported will mean that you’ll start taking steps to make live teaching easier for you.

Or maybe it will mean that you’ll want to build in more recovery time. Or maybe it will mean that you’ll want to experiment with teleclasses. 

I would never say “Oh, you just don’t have this in you.”

Because you don’t know that yet for sure. You still don’t even know what you’re like when you’re not swimming in shoulds and guilt. Which means that you can’t know what you want or need yet.

But maybe you’re allowed to not know.

This is what I would practice saying to myself in your case:

“I don’t have to force it right now. Right now I don’t feel comfortable with this, and this is where I am right now.  Maybe it will change. In the meantime, I’m going to go back to this conscious, intentional, being-kind-and-patient-with-myself thing.”

That’s what I think. 

p.s. About _________. No, it’s not procrastination! Absolutely not.You’re obviously thinking about it and processing with it and interacting with it. You’re fine!

And her response … 

Havi, your advice is, as usual, comforting and thought-provoking at
the same time — thank you!

Hearing your recommendations makes me realize that I attach a lot of
“shoulds” to issues around face-to-face networking/workshop-giving/teaching, etc. — “Important People think I should do these things! So, I should, right?”

And I feel guilty when people are generous with opportunities like that — I feel obliged to do whatever I’m offered.

It sounds obvious now, but I really didn’t realize all that, in working it out on my own. Thank you!

And now the part that’s for you.

I know the thing you’re working on isn’t exactly the thing that Maryann is working on, but I also know that you’re smart enough to start applying the principles to your own thing.

So I’ll just say: there is power in consciously, actively and intentionally Not Doing The Thing and seeing what happens.

And there is also power in consciously, actively and intentionally trying The Thing. But either way, at least we’re shifting the focus away from the guilt and towards the “what am I learning about myself here” part.

The Fluent Self