Thank God for Richard Dawkins. Had he not told us what to think as regards fairy tales many of us might never have known. The problem with fairy tales, according to Professor Dawkins, is that they are potentially harmful to children because they “inculcate a view of the world which includes supernaturalism”.
“Statistically,it’s just too improbable” for a frog to turn into a Prince.
Now, I have always rather admired Professor Dawkins. There is a great deal to admire. However,if this is a serious pronouncement, I must take issue with it.
Children, as a breed, are not stupid. They can be gullible but, generally, they are not stupid. It is in their interest to believe in magical beings bearing gifts for them – like Father Christmas, and the Tooth Fairy. What's more, most parents of very small children actively encourage their children to believe in these myths. In reality, Father Christmas is mummy's and daddy's big, red, white-bearded helper; he only rewards virtuous children who toe the family line. Children are bright enough to know you don't look a gift-bearing magical being in the mouth. (That’s one of the things they learn from fairy tales, no less!)
But do children really need to be told that it's “statistically too improbable” that a frog will ever turn into a prince?
I don't think so.
And I don't believe that is the most important issue.
As I see it, the damage that fairy tales do is not about that kind of statistical improbability. It's about teaching trusting little girls some toxic myths about love that can have a long, long half-life.
Let's stick with the frog-prince thing for a moment. It's essentially the same myth that underlines Beauty and the Beast: the love of a good, humble, virtuous girl will be enough to transform a lower form of male life into a much more appealing form of life.
The statistical improbability is far too great to make it a good belief to hang your happiness on.
But a lot of women do.
They believe that behind the bad, or nasty, facade there's a wonderful man just trying to get out.
It's a truly misguided kind of optimism. In fact, it’s the same kind of optimism that might lead someone to buy a box of eggs from the supermarket in the hope that if they provide those eggs with the 'right' conditions, they'll end up with 6 dear little chicks.
Sadly, nice little girls, and nice women, do not possess some kind of transformational magic wand that will turn losers into perfect lovers.
Unfortunately, they tend to be the last people to realize that.
So, they unconsciously take Beauty and/or Cinderella for their role model. They don’t make it their mission to go around kissing true green frogs. But they may well kiss quite a lot of human pond life.
And Heaven help them if they meet anyone masquerading as a Prince. They’ll probably start warbling: “I know you/ I walked with you once upon a dream”.
Will it turn out happily as it did for Sleeping Beauty?
Statistically, that, too, is highly improbable.
So, here’s the thing: unlike Professor Dawkins, I don’t think too many children are likely to be harmed by the “supernaturalism” of fairy stories. But generations of women have been harmed by the simplistic and misleading view of relationships peddled by fairy tales.
Perhaps we need to teach children something useful about the way that most relationships work.
Have you ever noticed how quickly your fight-flight-or-freeze reflex is triggered? Something – or a couple of things, or three – come out of the blue and, because they represent a challenge to you, you respond by going into overdrive. Fight, flight, or freeze. In the blink of an eye, “It” – whatever “It” is - can turn into a survival issue
It's been one of those weeks at Kaszina Towers (actually, one of several); a week fraught with drama. There really has been a lot going on with an on-off house move, an elderly parent in and out of hospital, a very sick dog (now, happily restored to rude health) and much more besides.
My fight-flight-or-freeze reflex is easily triggered. Having been brought up in an environment that was always on High Drama Alert, I can slip into Drama Queen mode at the drop of a hat. This week, there's been an avalanche of hats. I could have had a field day with them, all.
In the event, I couldn’t be bothered.
It would have taken up too much energy for no useful purpose.
The problems all had/have to be dealt with.
Doing my best Drama Queen routine wouldn't help. Just because I can, it doesn’t mean I should. Ranting and raving to the best of my ability, might drown out the actual problem, in the short-term. It might even end up impressing an audience – provided they were securely tied into their seats before I got underway. (Otherwise, they might just vote with their feet.)
Still, at the end of the rant, the problem(s) will still be sitting there waiting to be dealt with.
Drama-queening does not magically conjure up a rescuer - or a reprieve - out of thin air. It doesn’t terrorize problems into submission – more’s the pity. It just leaves you feeling worn out.
So, I got on with it.
Calm and self-care have to be the way to go.
When you have to square up to difficulties, it makes sense to be as fit as possible to deal with them.
Normally, a raft of measures works best to keep you fit to face afflictions. Taking care of yourself, and actually employing the therapies and modalities that you know work for you are good ideas. Being kind to yourself works, too. That doesn’t mean shoes, handbags, or even gym visits. It means showing yourself the kind of care and compassion you'd show another person whose friendship you value. You know it’s the best way to go with them. So, why would you do anything less for yourself?
Finally, how about taking a leaf of Elizabeth Gilbert's book – she of “Eat, Pray, Love”?
When times are tough, why would you not eat what nurtures you, pray to whoever – or whatever – you believe in, and keep your heart as open to love as possible?
Stay calm, you're worth it. And be sure to do the things that will keep you calm, and functioning as well as possible.
Have you ever been to one of those workshops that’s largely – if not exclusively – female?
What does that tell you?
I was at one of those workshops the other weekend. It was one of those workshops about getting your gifts out there, to the largest number of people. And guess what?
It was 100% female.
It was 100% made up of women who wanted to get their message out there. Extraordinary women with extraordinary stories, and extraordinary gifts and talents.
And you know what?
They’d spent years, and years, not daring to put themselves out there.
They didn't know how to share what made them extraordinary. In fact, when they talked about their uniqueness they did it in such a dull way that it was really easy to turn off.
Do you know what I'm saying?
They were talking about the nuts and bolts of what they did. They were using lots and lots of abstract words and phrases – like 'spiritual teacher' and 'feminine energy' and 'inner resources' and 'empowerment' and 'miracles'.
All buzz words right?
But not great at conveying the What's In It For Me factor?
When it comes down to it, that's what we're all looking for, isn't it? What do I get out of putting my trust in you, rather than the next person? What is really in it for me?
Yet, being women this talented bunch were visibly uncomfortable with the concept of sharing what they – as unique and special individuals – had to offer.
They were even more uncomfortable with uncomfortable with sharing the gift of who they are.
That's women for you.
We do it in every area of our lives, don't we?
We play so much smaller than we truly are.
We do it in relationships where we say: “I don't expect you to love me for my gifts, and uniqueness, my quirks and frailties. I want you to love me – and I'm prepared to work to make you love me – by being as nice, and modest, and self-effacing as I possibly can be.”
And we do it in the areas we are most passionate about; in the areas of our dreams and aspirations. We say:
“I have this gift-thing. But because I have this gift thing, and it's an integral part of me, it can't be worth that much. Besides, it's not really about me, anyway. I'm just this conduit-thing. It passes through me, without having much to do with me. So, when I have to talk about it, I'll just talk about it in an abstract way. I feel more comfortable like that. And you're bound to understand what I'm talking about, since nothing I have is terribly special. I know it’s not special. It can’t be special – because I have it. Whereas you're special. So, you're bound to be able to fill the blanks, and make sense of what I'm not telling you... Won't you?”
It can be really hard for someone to hear what you're not saying.
How – and why – should they hear what you're not hearing?
Did you know that you OWE it to them, and yourself, to share that awareness?
Do you have any idea how your gifts will grow, when you’re prepared to step up to the plate and put them out there?
What’s your plan for 2014? Are you prepared to take that leap of faith? Or will just carry on playing much smaller than you know you are?
Have you ever had the thrill of discovering a 'little'' restaurant, or tea-room? Have you ever discovered a 'little' service like a dress-maker, or alteration hand, or even – in my case – the wonderful computer repair guy who's kept me sane...ish for the past 5 years.
It's funny how often we used the word 'little'' in connection with these little-known treasures.
The question is: do you want to be one of them?
Do you want to be one of the best kept secrets in your field?
I don’t know if you know this, but I trained as an Alexander Technique (AT) teacher, back in the last millennium. Now, the Alexander Technique is pretty amazing. It changes lives. Massively. Clients of mine who'd been crippled by chronic back pain, for years and years, became pain-free, and could get back to living a normal, active life. Some of my clients were able to say “No” to invasive back surgery, because they stopped needing it. They were able to give up their pain-killers, and still look and feel way better than they had in years.
But here's the thing:
I wasn't anything special.
Most Alexander teachers have extraordinary stories to tell.
That's why there are a lot of people who are devoted to their 'little' Alexander teacher.
With so many successes, does it strike you as strange that the Alexander Technique – which has been around for 120 years, or so – is still a Best Kept Secret?
The problem is that most AT teachers have a real problem: they’re brilliant at what they do...
They're Too Modest to Market.
They think that Word of Mouth will work, for them, like a forest fire. They imagine that the AT is so great that people will just flock to them.
It doesn't work like that.
It's one of those things that drive me mad. In the course of a year, I meet so many outstanding Best Kept Secrets, who are Too Modest to Market themselves. They have issues around their worth: do they really deserve the success their gifts can bring? They have issues around money, and beliefs that they don't really deserve to make money. Least of all for sharing their gifts!!!
What happens to these Best Kept Secrets?
The short answer is that they carry on being Best Kept Secrets.
And they keep on playing small. Seriously small. You see, there’s a problem that a lot of lovely people are too modest to recognise: a gift is not truly a gift until you get it out there. 'Out There' is the fertile soil in which gifts grow, and blossom. ‘Out there’ is the only place where your gifts can truly come to fruition.
Being a Best Kept Secret leads to going round in circles, struggling for clients, struggling for income, and struggling for self-belief. It reinforces self-doubt.
Self-doubt leads to procrastination leads to stagnation, and withering on the bud.
Have you ever had one of those brilliant ideas that, after 3, maybe 6, months on the back burner, didn't inspire you nearly as much... And yet, at one time you'd known you could take it somewhere special.
Sometimes the difference between doing something amazing with your gifts and doing nothing isn't very big, at all. Mostly, all it takes is a mind-set shift, around money beliefs, and marketing.
That simple mind-set shift makes all the difference in the world between thriving and just struggling to survive – like my lovely client Leona, who said to me this week: “I’ve made massive headway, and finally shifted something that had been there forever.”
If you want 2014 to be the year that you make massive headway, too, then this may be just what you are looking for.
Have you ever had that feeling: “I've tried everything I know, and I still can't get it work?”
That's what seems to happen at times. especially in relationships, doesn't it? We try, and keep on trying, everything we know. And we keep on getting the same - dispiriting – results.
Back in the last millennium, I trained in the Alexander Technique (AT) – one of the best kept secrets in the Western World – but that's a story for another time. One of the great gifts I got from the AT is the futility of trying.
Working is great.
Applying what you know is great.
Reviewing and rethinking are great.
Trying, on the other hand, is a bit of a stinker.
Trying simply means bringing a huge amount of effort to bear, without thinking about:
a) whether or not trying is the best tool in the situation
b) the lessons to be learned from your previous tries
My wonderful first coach and mentor, Nicola Cairncross, is a whizz at 'computer stuff'. I've made huge progress over the years and gone, I suspect, from a perfect 0% in 'computer stuff' to a creditable 25%. On a good day. The bottom line is I my relationship with technology is still a little ambivalent.
That leaves me with a couple of choices. I could beat myself up for being a slow learner/only gradually climbing the continuum from useless to average. Or else, I could congratulate myself for small achievements (and small mercies) and keep going and learning.
Which approach do you think is the more constructive?
The second one, right?
How much do YOU use the second approach?
Lovely Nicola taught me another precious lesson. She taught it to me specifically with reference to my technological prowess but, dear Nicola, if you happen to be reading to it, the validity of that lesson extends way beyond IT. Nicola taught me this:
“Once you've spent a bit of time trying, and you're still not getting anywhere, stop. Then reassess, and get appropriate help.”
Where technology is concerned, Nicola reckons about 10 minutes will do it.
Admittedly, that's a tad short where other areas of your life are concerned, but the message is fundamentally right.
That’s to say, it works for all areas of life.
If you're getting bogged down – in any area of your life - that means there’s bound to be something you're missing.
The trouble is, if you've been looking for something - and missing - it for a while, then you become accustomed to missing it. Which means not seeing whatever it is becomes an established part of how you 'see' a situation.
I notice this in my clients, and the people I speak to, all the time. They keep on missing The Obvious about their relationships, and themselves.
Like the lovely lady who's spent years trying to get the Law of Attraction to work for her, but doesn't really believe in herself. Or the lady who believes she deserves the wonderful relationship – except that, when it comes down to it, she has a big issue around her self-worth. Nobody's given her permission to feel good about herself, and so she doesn't. Does that have an impact on her relationships? You betcha.
Or there's the talented business owner who doesn't really belief that she deserves the success, and financial rewards she desperately wants. Is that success going to happen any time soon, when she doesn’t believe she deserves it? No, it's not. She might as well be standing there with a big sign saying: “Validation, please don't stop here.”
So, let me ask you:
What are you missing?
What do you know you should be doing, but aren't doing? What do you not believe about yourself that you really need to believe, right now?”
Remember lovely Nicola's prescription:
“Stop. Reassess. Get help.”
It doesn't get any faster, or more effective than that.
What's to stop you from doing that?
Not the knee-jerk answer.
But the underlying fear?
Transformation lies on the other side of letting it go.
“This work is about nice people getting nicer.”
Those words really spoke to me. Can you guess why?
If you're thinking that I belonged to the ranks of those people – largely women – who don't feel terribly good about themselves, you'd be right. So, the words: “nice people getting nicer” gave me hope. Maybe it would work for me, too. Maybe I could get rid of that secret “If-they-knew-what-I-was-really-like... part of me” and become the person I thought I might be.
That was the start of my journey of personal development. (My Long Night’s Journey Into DayJ)
As a coach, I've been privileged to help many other people – largely women – along their journey of discovery.
That journey is not just about nice people becoming nicer – although that, in itself, is pretty impressive. It's a profoundly holistic journey. It's about nice people discovering the treasure inside their own heads - and hearts. It's about nice people discovering who they truly are, as opposed to who they fear that they may be. It's about nice people laying the demons of the past so they can have the rich, full life they deserve. That internal journey is at least as exciting and enriching as any journey you could take in the outside world.
Recently, I've been privileged to work with a Russian lady. She'd have said she was very ordinary. What she is NOT is a supermodel, living and working internationally. But nor is she ordinary – except in her own assessment. She is a 'normal' Russian, insofar as she is living in Russia, doing a fairly unremarkable job. And she is driven, probably more than most, by the pain, rejection, and and self-criticism resulting from a difficult childhood.
Olga was totally convinced that she was ordinary, which meant that there were a ton of things she couldn’t know about herself. She couldn’t know that she is exceptionally bright and emotionally intelligent. She couldn’t know that she is unusually innovative, and entrepreneurial. And, of course - because she, too laboured with the “If-they-knew-what-I-was-really-like...” virus, she couldn’t know that she is a truly delightful woman.
My Russian runs to 4 words. On a good day. Her English is – fortunately – almost as good as mine, which is another talent she undervalued. Olga had always worked on the basis that if she can do something, it can't be worth much. (Now, there’s is a belief that you, too, may just recognise in yourself, if you take a moment to check how highly you value your own talents and abilities.)
This week when Olga and I met over Skype, she had the BIGGEST smile on her face.
She told me how her relations with the world at large – friends, co-workers, acquaintances - have changed. Because she's discovered she doesn't have the “If-they-knew-what-I-was-really-like...” virus any more. Which makes it really easy for her to let people like and appreciate her. Her relationship with her father has also improved out of all recognition. Since she's become aware that he has ‘an unfortunate way of expressing himself’, although his heart is in the right place, they have a much closer, and more harmonious connection. What’s more, she's not just on her way to getting a better job, she now sees how she can set up her own business, targeting an in demand niche she hadn't even realized she was good at!!
Better still, yesterday, she understood something absolutely mind-blowing. She understood how she can go, in a matter of minutes, from the “I can't do X” mind-block to “Oh, wow! So, this is how I take that block out of the picture, and get past it.” Not just once, or twice. But routinely, for any number of different blocks.
Lovely Olga now has the tools she needs to live her life wholeheartedly. Instead of tiptoeing around at the edges of her life, saying; “I'm not good enough to fill that space.”
I have a huge debt of gratitude to my first Alexander teacher to opening my eyes to the idea of nice people getting nicer.
And I'd like to add my own 'twist' to it. Personal development, at best, is not just about nice people getting nicer – that is 'doing' nicer – it's really about nice people feeling far nicer, about every area of their life, and radiating out a different message. Like lovely Olga does.
And as lovely Olga is discovering, more or less on a daily basis, when you're feeling nicer about your life – about every area of your life – you have so much more of value to share. Which means that other people perceive the value you bring much more clearly.
Makes sense, doesn't it
So, the key question is: is that something you truly want for yourself?
This week, I've been talking with another lovely, gifted woman who has Dreams, Aspirations, and one Big Obstacle in her way.
You'll never guess that what obstacle is:
She doesn't think she is good enough.
Actually, it's a bit worse than that. She routinely compares herself to other people, finds herself less worthy and deserving, and she's let this belief become her map of the world. The result is that:
a) this belief feels absolutely true and normal to her
b) she is labouring under the illusion that everyone else feels the same way as she does
At one point in our conversation she asked me: “Aren't you stymied by the belief that other people are better than you?”
Here's how I replied. “Absolutely NOT. I'm truly delighted that there are great people out there. The more of them there are, the better. They do not in any way diminish me. Life shouldn't have to be a comparison website. There are as many ways to be great as there are individuals. Your job is simply to embrace your own way. Being who you truly are is the greatest gift you have to offer. The more you embrace your authenticity, the more you have to contribute to the World.
“Why would you not do it? Why would you settle for living your life as a negative comparison website?”
I don't know if you know that old Mark Victor Hansen saying:
“There is an ocean of abundance and one can tap into it with a teaspoon, a bucket or a tractor trailer. The ocean doesn't care.”
There is more than enough greatness to go round, for everyone. There's only thing that truly gets in the way of you tapping into the the feeling of being good enough to enjoy masive rewards. That one thing is embracing your authenticity.
Being a pale imitation of other people won't work.
Being the shadow of who you truly are is even less effective.
Will you do it?
I am an Abuse Recovery Expert, writer, and Seminar Leader.
I empower women to make changes in their life, believe in their own value, trust their own judgements, and create healthy relationships for themselves.
If you’re ready to put the misery of emotional abuse behind you, once and for all, working with me will fast track your recovery. Together with my ebooks, The Woman You Want To Be, and Married to Mr Nasty, I offer group and 1-2-1 coaching programs, for women who have been in unhappy, unhealthy relationships.
If you would like to apply for VIP 1-on-1 Coaching, you can call our office at (0044) 01707 264984, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be in touch with you within 2 business days.
Here’s to creating and enjoying the bright future of your dreams!