Note: 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.
So I taught this class last week about what to do when shoes are being thrown (when people say hurtful things).
It was a great class. And since there were way more questions than we ever could have gotten to, I want to touch on one that was asked by several people:
“My big shoe-related stuckness is being so afraid of the potential pain of them that it’s very, very hard to move forward on certain necessary projects … which is causing different kinds of stress & strain.
“What can I do when I feel stuck and freaked out in anticipation of shoes — of entering a shoe-heavy space?”
Let’s see if we can help.
Can we just start with how much it sucks to be in a situation where we know there are going to be shoes?
It’s hard enough dealing with unexpected shoes, but anticipation and paralyzing fear is just not fun. I’m sorry.
I do have a few suggestions that — depending on your very specific situation — could possibly help come up with plans to deal with some of that fear.
Okay. Creating safety.
Because that’s the most important thing here.
There are all sorts of ways we can try and do this, but this has to be the focus.
Obviously there are always going to be unknown quantities. Things you can’t possibly be prepared for.
Not to mention the known quantities that you can’t do much about — like your hypercritical boss or your snippy in-laws.
While you won’t always be able to ensure a shoe-free environment, there are still things you can do to create a greater sense of safety for yourself.
Examples! Looking at a couple of different situations…
Fear of criticism — shoes from total strangers.
Say you’re starting a blog and you’re worried about people not getting it. Saying mean things.
There are a couple of practical, “in the hard” things you could do to create more of a sense of safety there.
- You can set up comments so they have to be approved.
You could get a friend to approve them for you once a day so you don’t have to see them. Maybe you trade.
Then after six months or so you can find out how many shoes your friend has deleted for you. My guess is going to be not that many. But hey at least you didn’t have to encounter any of them yourself.
Safety? Now there’s more of it.
- You might also create a comment policy. Or a disclaimer-ey page. Or both. So that it’s very, very clear to potential shoe-throwers what’s cool and what’s not.
Fear of criticism — shoes from people who love you.
You want to write a book or teach a class or sell stuff on Etsy. You want to start doing your thing.
And you’re feeling anxious, anticipating the avalanche of what-ifs and “here are all the ways you might fail” from the people you want to be on your side.
Your friends. Your partner. Your family. Those people.
That’s when it becomes really important to remember that your baby idea is a tiny, sweet thing, and it’s vulnerable.
Which means two things:
- You want to be extremely careful when you choose who gets to know about it and how much they get to know.
- You are going to have to be very clear when you ask for support. Specifically this means saying something like this:
“Honey, I’m guessing that you might have some really helpful suggestions about why this might not work, because you want to protect me. And I really appreciate that you love me and want me to be safe.
And, at the same time, I need to ask you to not give me any constructive criticism on this at the moment, because right now I am feeling very vulnerable.
I need to stay motivated, and what’s going to motivate me — at the moment — is reminders of how smart and tough I am.
At a later date we can talk strategy — right now I’m really needing support and encouragement.”
Fear of criticism — shoes from people who don’t really love you.
People you work with.
People you have to interact with because of stupid, annoying circumstances — not people you would ever willingly invite to your house for dinner.
This is where things can really suck — if you’re in a situation where you just can’t avoid these people and the endless shoe-throwing drama of being around them.
This is where it helps to have a band of allies.
It might be people who carry some sort of symbolic meaning for you — like in Barbara Sher’s trippy ideal family exercise.
- It can be people you know. Yow can count me in on yours.
- Some of your allies will help you come up with smart things to say.
- Some of your allies will serve as reminders that you are loved and adored.
- Some of your allies will be there for moral support and maybe some will be kicking ass for you too.
The point is, you are not alone.
You are not alone.
Even when it really, really feels like you are. We’re all going through this. And we’re all working on our own stuff. We’re in it together.
You march in there, packing emotional protection — and then you go into scientist mode.
You remind yourself that anything they say is their stuff. That the fact that it bothers you is your stuff. And that you are just there taking notes on this situation for your own personal destuckification process.
You’re learning about your patterns. Where you get hooked. Where you get triggered. Which things you perceive as shoes, which things you don’t, and why.
And then you patch yourself up and drink tea and look at your notes. And make preparations for next time.
And maybe the time after that. For the time — eventually — when none of this will touch you because you will be in sovereignty, which is the state (and spiritual quality) of not giving a damn about stupid shit that other people might say.
I could have ended this post right there, but I have another magic trick thingy that’s so useful that I just have to share.
The invisible mentor.
Everyone needs an invisible mentor. They’re like aikido for shoe-blocking.
It goes like this.
Concerned Annoyed Pushy Person In Your Life: “Oh is that what you’re interested in now? It’s so hard to know what with you changing your mind every two minutes. When are you going to settle down and do something sensible?”
You: “Actually, my artistic mentor is extremely excited about this new direction. We’re not discussing it with outside people while it’s in planning mode, though. I’ll update you on it when it’s something I can talk about.”
Concerned Annoyed Pushy Person In Your Life: “Oh come on, you’re never going to make any money coaching people. How much did you make last year? What are the numbers?”
You: “Well, you know, my business mentor is very firm about me not discussing the numbers with anyone until we hit the target we’re working towards.”
See how that works?
The important thing.
The concerned, annoyed, pushy people in your life are related to your monsters — they mean well, they’re looking out for you, and, at the same time, you’re still hurting from it.
And your invisible mentor is like your Negotiator — the one who can be calm and collected and knows what to say, even when you’re all torn apart.
If you don’t have one, you can go ahead and pretend that I’m yours. Or Selma, if you prefer. I’m sure she’d be great at it.
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process. We’re in it together, so we don’t give advice but we do empathize and pass the snacks around. Mmmmm. Snacks.
This is weird and cool! After this post, we got a note from Avil Beckford who actually has a website CALLED The Invisible Mentor.
She writes: “Washington State University professor Karen L. Peterson defines (link goes to PDF) an invisible mentor as a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from a distance.” Super useful. Thanks, Avil.
I am totally adopting you and Selma as my invisible mentor team! love this post.
In Seth Godin’s Linchpin he talks about the Lizard Brain, which is the part of our brain that is very afraid of shoes, and people laughing and failure and all those things.
Now when I have a Big Idea I write about it on my giant post-it notes. And since I know the lizard is there, I give him his own corner (it’s a boy lizard, I don’t know why) and draw a picture of him and make thought bubbles with all the things he’s afraid of: “People will laugh,” “so and so won’t like that I’m doing this,” “the name is stupid,” and so on.
Then once the lizard is over in his corner fretting and checking the sky for falling shoes, I can move on with my Genius Work (as Seth calls it.)
I’ve noticed that the lizard is getting quieter and quieter. So, I think that doing the work on this, like you suggest, really does work. As does drawing pictures of lizards.
(hi! long time lurker, first time commenter…)
This post really resonated with me. On a personal level, I’ve been wading through some mental chaos and doing my best to make things right, but have been oh-so-afraid of the reactions of my friends and family. What you say about the hurtful things said being “their stuff” and not mine is good to remember. And I love the idea of an invisible mentor! Thanks. 🙂
.-= Laura´s last post … It’s about damn time =-.
Drawing pictures of lizards is really always a good idea.
I love the invisible mentor idea. LOVE it. I need to get me one. Immediately.
When someone comes to you with their 50th tiny little baby, how do you encourage them to just pick something already?
Or maybe that’s not the point. When something’s meant to stick, it will stick. The best way to help is to encourage person to figure out if this one is meant to.
Baby is such a good metaphor, btw. 🙂
-Former Unconscious Shoe Thrower
.-= Monique´s last post … Heart of Hearts, Intuition, Inner Bunny, and Subconscious =-.
Oh, Havi, you make cry–you’re so wise. I have faced some criticism lately and you have helped me face it (ha–you didn’t even know it!) and this post gives me even more support.
Fear of criticism from people who don’t love you is the hardest for me I think… especially when they come in packs. Thanks for the great advice!
.-= Thekla Richter´s last post … Three Small Things: Savoring the Moment =-.
For every time I’ve had a shoe thrown, I wonder how many shoes I myself was slinging at the time? Loafers and wing-tips flying through the air, heel-toe-heel-toe-heel-toe!
I like this. Being able to put the shoes in perspective is like getting a job in customer service. It can be hellish research, but it’s so good to have under your belt.
Sometimes my shoe-throwing is imaginary – as in, the people I love didn’t say *enough* good things, or were strangely silent, so they *must hate it*.
On a side note, I love Barbara’s ideal family idea. As soon as I thought of it, I had three or four people come in straight away.
Reminds me of something Cheri Huber recommends. (I’ve never actually done this but I’ve *thought* about it…)
You write down the things that your loved ones aren’t saying to you.
Then you take a tape recorder (ok, your iPhone) and record yourself *saying those things to yourself*.
*Sounds* really powerful, right?
*pushes lips to the left, looks up to the right*
.-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … How to present like Ken Robinson =-.
wow, this was a perfect post for today. I had the joyful experience of having a shoe rack emptied over me today and this was exactly what I needed to read. Thanks. 🙂
I’m opening up a practice as an “Online Invisible Negotiator Kid” today. (Whoops — somebody’s already registered “oink.com” — gonna have to rethink this.)
Just send me $100 via PayPal, and I’ll confirm any inquires that whatever you said I wanted you to do is completely accurate, and I’ve given you strict instructions not to deviate.
For an extra $50, I’ll respond with “Why in the world would you want to ask questions like this, anyway? Did you torture bugs as a small child?”
Gonna make enough to buy me a pet duck and put it on my shoulder.
.-= Dick Carlson´s last post … You Can Out-Teach The Competition =-.
Oh, man! I wish I could draw because I’d loved to put my lizard in his corner and let him have his say…at a safe distance! When he’s finished slinging fears all around, he could chat it up with Inowanna Iguana. They’d have a big party and I could sit back and watch them be happy for a change. 🙂
I really, REALLY love the invisible mentor!! I can see people I’m talking to lifing an eyebrow, “Oh? You have a mentor for that?” So, I’m absolutely gonna take you up on your offer to be an invisible mentor. And Selma, too!
.-= Sherron´s last post … A Name to Grow Into =-.
@Sherron If you want to draw your lizard, draw him. I reckon a non-photo-realistic lizard would be more amusing anyway. 🙂
Havi, I had an emotional, physical response reading this post which tells me it’s interacting with my stuff. In a good way, in this case, so thanks.
Beyond that, I’m feeling reticent, but I would like to strongly suggest that this post makes your greatest hits sidebar; in my opinion it’s worthy.
.-= claire´s last post … Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle =-.
Thank you for such a wonderful post, Havi. It resonated for me on so many different levels. And the thought of having you and Selma as invisible mentors, being able to conjure you that way in the midst of a hard moment, felt so incredibly nurturing and safe. And also a powerful reminder — of how to hold myself in that moment, there are people who have my back, of remembering that I’m not alone, finding a way to hold sovreignity. It’s easier when I can externalize it — so thank you so much for that. I’m off to do my Ideal Family exercise — at the table with you and Selma are Mr. Rogers, and some wonderful additional allies tbd.
Thanks and ever thanks. And big hugs.
Oh my, Selma would be a terrific invisible mentor! I have a feeling she’ll be a busy busy little duck before long…
.-= Josiane´s last post … A (huge!) shift in perspective =-.
I’m really glad that you and Selma have got my back. Thank you.
.-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … This probably shouldn’t surprise me… =-.
hey guys! Hi!
I’m glad to know that Selma and I have new Invisible Mentor roles. That’s excellent.
@Sherron – iguana-lizard party! Whoo! I have some pretty poorly drawn monster pics that are extremely amusing (though mostly only to me).
@Monique – oh that’s hard. Especially when you feel frustrated because you really want them to just choose already, and you’ve probably already invested time and energy in hearing about other babies. Hug to you!
Hmm. I would probably try acknowledging their enthusiasm and then being curious about specific aspects of the present baby (without necessarily committing to anything you can’t do):
— “Wow, you’re really excited about this. I’d love to know more. Tell me a little more about which parts are the most interesting and fun for you with this.”
— “Wow, you’re really excited about this. That’s great! What about this project is drawing you?”
— “Wow, you’re really excited about this. Tell me, how can I help?”
Because it might be that their past babies haven’t worked out because of lack of grounding/support/enthusiasm that paralleled their internal stuff. But it might also be that what these babies are about is a particular aspect or quality that they’re needing.
And if you (and they) can figure out what that is, THAT’S what wants to be nourished and supported, and it really doesn’t matter which baby is the one. Does that make sense? I hope so!
Either way, I’m sorry for the hard. That sounds like a really tough situation to be in.
a) am totally taking you on as my mentor. “my mentor is very clear that this assessment project is absolutely necessary, Mr. 9th Grader!” i was going to go for the funny here, but the more i think about it, the invisible mentor is kind of like giving my Internal Friend a way to speak up for me…
b) i loved the phone call and took about 5 pages of notes that i am digesting. wonderful!
I can’t tell you how much I needed this post today. If I could ask for you to add one more situation, it would be the one where you had a part in setting yourself up for getting shoes thrown at you. You made a mistake, and now you’re getting hot, angry shoes thrown vigorously at you.
Thanks also for the other suggested techniques.
.-= Daniel´s last post … On monetizing the March 2010 Second Saturday =-.
I’ve been pretending you’re my business mentor/counsellor/personal trainer/life coach/all kinds of things for ages. I call you my ‘imaginary Jewish yogi’ and talk all the time about what you’ve advised me to do. ‘Imaginary’ because I refer to the people I hang out with on the intertubes as ‘my imaginary friends’. (Whom I hang out with quite a bit more than my ‘real’ friends.) And I’m aware that I should probably say ‘yogini’ but I get tongue-tied too easily.
‘My imaginary Jewish yogi says I don’t have to do that thing right now. I’m having a nap instead.’ Take that, shoe-thrower.
Havi, I’m so proud to tell you that I put your dealing-with-shoes-suggestions into action on Monday.
A friend criticized my website for being unconventional. I’m sure she was trying to help, but my initial reaction was to freak the heck out. (I’ll admit it: I stomped my feet like a five year old.)
Suddenly an image of your duck popped into my head–no joke–and I managed to file through my mental note cards of your advice. As I calmed down I recognized my friend’s comments for what they were: love wrapped in worry.
So from one more reader–thank you!
.-= Michelle´s last post … How to Write a Product or Service Description that Gets More People to Buy your Stuff =-.
This is fabulous. I am totally using Selma as my invisible mentor. Partly because I just know my kids would be impressed by a mentor duck, and I’ll do most anything to impress my kids. I’m like an actor doing voice work in an animated movie that way. 😉
.-= Amber´s last post … International Women’s Day, One Day Late =-.
Oh, I really like the scientist-mode idea for dealing with difficult situations. I am in here TAKING NOTES! This is just me looking at my stuff!
(I had a shoe thrown on Monday which may or may not actually have been a shoe… you know how it goes. But remembering that this is my stuff, & that I can learn from my reactions, was really useful. As was just giving myself permission to feel a bit rubbish for a while. And now I feel OK about it again! Go me!)
The shoes-wrapped-in-worry thing is ringing a big bell for me right now, as well — my parents tend to do this (“so you’re just doing freelance stuff right now… are you going to be able to pay your mortgage?” NO ACTUALLY I THOUGHT I’D JUST STOP DOING THAT, WHAT DO YOU RECKON?) & one of my partners does as well (“but what if…”). Remembering that there’s concern behind it is a really useful thought.
.-= Juliet´s last post … BBC proposed cuts =-.
This post came at just the right time for me, Havi, having had everything from stilettos to combat boots thrown at me the last few days. I’m sure you and Selma will be very busy now, being Imaginary Mentors to so many people, including me. Ditto Claire’s post about having a physical, emotional reaction to your words today. My imaginary family is already gathering just off stage. Can’t wait to read more Barbara Sher and prepare myself for the next time. And I have to say I love that you recommend The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense — what a help that has been to me, so fearful of hurting other people’s feelings. And now I have Wishcraft too.
Beware, ye throwers of shoes! Ye know not with whom thou contends!
I was under serious shoe combat last week, and I kept thinking about how you have to hear some number of positive things (10? 20? 4,328?) to outweigh every negative thing. Maybe that number will be easier to reach now that I’m doing interviews for my Imaginary Mentor. And now, I’m going to go practice drawing lizards.
.-= Allie´s last post … A Night at the Academy =-.
Thanks for the advice! That’s great stuffs. The baby itself is not as important as the dream behind the baby. Be supportive and detached and things will turn out fine. 🙂
I’m reading a book now called /Becoming a Person of Influence/ by James Maxwell and Jim Dornan. The authors talk about nourishing other people. Providing encouragement and whatnot. Sounds very similar.
.-= Monique´s last post … Heart of Hearts, Intuition, Inner Bunny, and Subconscious =-.
I love your term “the throwing of shoes”. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to hold myself in the face of criticism, and I recently wrote a poem about this very subject:
Please do not critique me
Or give me “helpful” suggestions
About how I can improve my performance
What you call performance
Is my Life
And I am as “improved” in this moment
As I’ll ever be
If however there is a desire in your heart
Give it voice
Set it free
And I will tell you if I can meet you there
Safely within the radius of my concern.
copyright 2010. Isabel Parlett.
.-= Isabel Parlett´s last post … The Four Tools You Need to Be On Message All the Time =-.
This week was the first time that I noticed a shoe being hurled. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no doubt that I’ve experienced before. Who hasn’t? But this is the first time where I was able to see it for what it was and process it instead of reacting to it.
Thank you for bringing all those flying shoes into the light!
.-= Katy´s last post … If You’ve Never Failed, You’ve Never Lived =-.
Hey guys, I wanted to add something that I just found out about — will edit the post too.
We got a note from Avil Beckford who actually has a website CALLED The Invisible Mentor.
She writes: Washington State University professor Karen L. Peterson defines (link goes to PDF) an invisible mentor as a unique leader you can learn things from by observing them from a distance.