I jumped out of bed this morning, eager to get online and see what replies had come in response to my first foray at putting myself out there as a cancer coach on some public forums. I had spent a long time crafting a thoughtful discussion item that I hoped would both incite conversation and help me to get a footing in these online communities.
Imagine my devastation when instead of finding loads of insightful replies, I had one very harsh one from a woman I’ll call Cyber-bully, who basically lambasted me and called me a fraud, insinuating that I had no place coaching cancer patients and should leave it to those who were better equipped (like her).
Suffice to say, that comment brought up a whole mess of things – tears, anger, doubt, a strong desire to quit and massive vulnerability. How was it that cyber-bully could make me come undone with but one paragraph of her pointed words? Very simple. She hit me where I was most vulnerable, perhaps without even knowing it. The one thing I yearn for is approval, so to call me a fraud and tell me I don’t belong is perhaps the most painful things someone could ever say to me. And all I wanted to do was to crawl back under the covers and abandon my idea of ever being a cancer coach.
Instead of responding right away and saying mean things back (cuz seriously, who doesn’t want to do that???), I decided to just sit with her comments a bit before doing anything. I allowed myself to feel the pain of feeling vulnerable and hurt and then, as it passed, looked for different perspectives on how I might respond. Instead of being defensive, I realized that there was in fact an opportunity to educate here, as her unkind comments came from a lack of understanding of the differences between coaching and therapy. And presumably, if a therapist didn’t understand the distinctions, I could guess that a whole lot more people out there were confused too.
Surprisingly, this remedied a lot of the pain because instead of it being an attack on me, I was able to see that her comments came from a lack of understanding. I notice that I often get caught in the trap of assuming that everything is a personal attack against me. Often, when I step back from the situation and explore it from other perspectives, I find that it often had nothing to do with me at all – that I just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time on a day when that person was having a tough time.
I am happy to report that I am not giving up on coaching cancer patients. And although it scares the bejeezus out of me to keep putting myself out publicly with the chance of getting criticized, I know that learning to deal with criticism (and letting go of the need for other’s approval) will ultimately be necessary if I’m committed to getting my message out.
Since I’m stretching and feeling all uncomfortable, perhaps you’d be kind enough to share where you’re noticing discomfort as you play a bigger game in the world… that is, where do you get vulnerable? :)