A funny little thing happened to me on Friday which I am inclined to make too much of. See what you think.
So I’m attending a rather fab workshop all around finding a niche for your coaching practice. For those of you who aren’t coaches, this is a topic which preoccupies coaches quite a lot – the theory being that if you don’t specialise in a particular strand of something which particular clients need help on, you will not stand out from the crowd and those particular clients will not be able to find you. And then you will not get any clients. And then you will not be able to be a coach. And then … this is the really terrible part – you will have to get a job instead.
Which is every coach’s biggest fear in the whole wide world.
For those of you who are wondering what my niche is, this is still a little bit of a work in progress although if you have a look at my home page you will see that I work with people who have a restless yearning deep inside that needs expression – try saying that without making fun of yourself at a party.
Anyway so at this workshop the whole thing kicks off with a game that involves us all standing in a circle. Everyone puts their hand up and then one person selects another person by pointing to them and saying ‘you’ and then the ‘you’ person selects someone else for the ‘you’ treatment and on and on and on till everyone’s got their hand down. Then we do the whole thing again only you have to remember the person you chose thus powerfully exemplifying how even on such a random basis we do choose people for some reason – however unconscious.
Cool game, no?
Well yes, but the only thing is I have had a deep unease around these kind of games ever since the age of seven when I went to Bernice’s party and got in a big muddle when we played something similar – only to music. I arrived a bit late and therefore was not fully au fait with the rules. At some point I was chosen to be the person in the middle and in my nervousness I came in too early with the whole selection thing. A small amount of confusion ensued at which point everyone quite disproportionately laughed their heads off. It took me years to get over the humiliation and injustice – actually I’m not over it as is shown by this whole sad little tale.
So here we are on Friday and the game starts. I’m feeling nervous on two counts – suppose I’m chosen and get the game wrong (as per my childhood trauma) or suppose I’m not chosen for any manner of reasons my saboteurs would have an absolute field day with.
So what way do you think it went?
Oh, the agonisingly lengthy process. There must be about thirty people in the circle so it all takes a while. Everyone’s laughing away and looking round the circle and some ‘muppets’ (popular word lately you may have noticed) get it a bit wrong and everyone laughs along. It’s all so much good natured fun as everyone gets chosen and all those hands go down, and the possibility for me getting chosen becomes less and less. Even when someone looks in my direction they choose my neighbour. I am smiling away as well but inside I am getting a little desperate. Choose me. Choose me. I don’t even care now if I screw up. I’ll take my chances. I just don’t want to be last.
I can hardly believe it but I can – there’s a terrible inevitability to all this. I’m not going to get chosen. I am not going to get chosen. There are only two people left. Me. And the person standing next to me. What’s worse? To be the second to last person? Or the last person? There may be some merit to the latter option on account of singularity I agree, but it still means that no one, not even one person has chosen you.
It is time. The hand comes down, eye contact is made, the finger points… but not to me. It’s over. My lucky, lucky neighbour, popular and wanted, is the chosen one. I sense her relief as her hand goes down and she turns to me because actually there’s no one left to choose. Do I detect sympathy – embarrassment even – in her smile as she looks at me and points? I don’t want her sympathy. We both know that I am not being chosen. I am merely the last sad pathetic being with her pathetic stupid little hand still up.
Later on for reasons even I don’t understand, I decide to make my complete humiliation even more complete by announcing to the group that I didn’t get chosen. More fun, more laughter. You can’t say that I don’t know how to laugh at myself. Well I’d better before someone else does.
Why didn’t I get chosen?
And why you might rightly ask, is a grown woman making such a big deal out of something so unimportant, something so random and irrelevant? Why in fact is she behaving like a seven year old at a kids’ party? When on earth is she ever going to grow up?
And I must be honest with you. Since I wrote this I have hummed and haad about whether I should post it. After all, on a certain level it doesn’t show me in a particularly good light. But despite my slight reservations I see an important lesson.
There are times when all of us even as adults feel left out or excluded from the game. When we feel invisible or unnoticed. Perhaps even unwanted? However mature we become, however grown up and empowered, we all want to belong. We all want to be chosen and included. And when we are not, we feel small and undermined – we most certainly do not feel the strength and power of being OUT LOUD.
And as I think more deeply about what happened, I recall that as I declared to the group that I had not been picked, I detected compassion for me in the room– and empathy. And as that occurred it was as though the group drew me back in and included me once more.
So this is my message this week – if you sometimes feel excluded please find the courage to say so, declare it OUT LOUD. Don’t stay alone and be an outsider – express your painful (perhaps shameful?) feelings and ask for what you need. And please trust that someone will hear you and gather you in.
I am curious – is it just me? Or do you also sometimes feel excluded? What are your feelings when that happens? And how do you cope? Will you share your experience by leaving a comment below?