May 5, 2022
By Dave Bushy
“Do you need to find your center to discover your confidence, or do you first find your confidence in order to be centered?”
I asked a client this question once during a session.
It first elicited a look of surprise, then a slight smile, followed by a long moment of reflection and silence. I sat quietly attending to the client, providing time for that pause to allow self-reflection and a building of awareness.
The answer began to emerge in a series of statements interspersed with thoughtful looks from the client:
“Well, I guess I never thought about it…”
“I think I’m always confident, but then again your question makes me think that I am not sure what being centered means…”
“Maybe they are both so interrelated that I didn’t notice the distinction.”
The conversation continued:
“What does ‘being centered’ mean to you?” I asked.
“Well, it means I experience a feeling of firm ground, understanding the issues I am facing and the people with whom I interact,” the client answered.
“Tell me more” I said.
“Well, the times that I feel the least confident often occur when I don’t understand the goals of a meeting, or people ask me questions for which I am not prepared. And then I try to come up with answers and I get nervous and search for words.”
“And what do you experience when that occurs?”
The client held a hand to their stomach and said, “I can feel it in my gut – it feels like it’s churning.”
What ensued was a wonderful process of discovery by the client, who began to realize that the “centeredness” they sought was inextricably linked to confidence. The moments when the client began to feel their confidence slip was felt in the body – knocking them off center and resulting in a feeling of imbalance and self-doubt.
A major shift occurred for the client, who began to realize that the lack of confidence stemmed from the unattainable: the ability to control the narrative and to always have the answers at the ready.
“How could you always have the right questions, or even the words you need?” I gently probed.
“I guess I can’t.”
“And how could you look at it differently, instead?” I asked.
“I guess realizing I don’t need to have all the answers for everything and making a confident choice associated with it”
“Please tell me about those choices,” I continued.
“Well, I could admit to myself when I don’t have the answer. I can simply own up to it and instead ask clarifying questions or ask for guidance. For example, if someone is presenting something to me and asks, ‘What do you see here?’ and I’m not sure, it would make sense to say, ‘I’m not sure what I’m looking at here. Can you please help explain it so I can better understand your question?’”
“How do you think the other person would react?”
“You know, people like to teach others about what they do – it could strengthen our relationship.”
“So what choices do you want to make?”
The client related: “I don’t have ‘to have” the answers. And the ‘to have,’ while important, is minor compared to ‘having to always have the answers.’ That is the liberating part. I now understand in this moment that it’s okay with ‘knowing what I don’t know.’ No one expects me to know everything!”
“And how does that sit with you when you say it?”
“It’s okay ‘knowing what I don’t know.’ No one expects me to know everything. It’s me who was putting that burden on myself!”
“It’s funny, but admitting that I can’t know everything – that makes me feel both confident AND centered,” the client exhaled a noticeable and refreshing sigh, combined with a smile.
We explored those feelings a bit more in our session and built on the themes that had begun to emerge.
For my client it began as a process of concentrating on one particular experience which then transitioned to a broader focus on confidence and the need to feel centered. It was a session filled with exploration and discovery for the client and another place where powerful questions served as the best tool to deepen the client’s awareness of the real driver behind their emotional experience. It was a meaningful session for both of us.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a an ICF-certified coach who was trained at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC). He is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry.
Photo courtesy Didgeman at Pixabay