This last year of entrepreneur life has been a whirlwind and there are many words I could use to describe the past twelve months. Some that I have used are wonderful, fulfilling, blessed and one that kept coming out of mouth was squeezed. I have found myself saying that word because I was experiencing the feeling of being squished in from different sides. But why? I love what I have created in my professional life. I love all of it. Every last detail, so why would the word squeezed keep coming to mind?
Therapists have a tendency (at least I do) to “therapize” ourselves and probably over-analyze our own thoughts and behaviors. While I was recently trying to understand how a career that I love so much was also causing some level of discomfort, it finally dawned on me. You know those moments when the answers flood in and you hear yourself saying something like, “Of course! That makes complete sense.” What was the root of this epiphany that I had about the word squeezed?
It’s that my two main entrepreneur brands compete with one another and as they collide, I am the middle point of contact. Ouch. No wonder.
The Two Brands
What are my two brands? I am the owner and lead therapist of an award-winning counseling practice, and I wrote a best-selling book. Both my work as a therapist and the book focus on the recovery from the types of abuses people don’t usually notice happening around them. The hidden poison of psychological abuse. Heavy topic, right? But I absolutely love the work I get to do; both in private practice and in writing the book. So how would these two squeeze together with me in the middle? It centers on the concepts of micro versus macro. The small reach and the large message.
The small reach
I officially opened the counseling agency in 2009. I took my final license exam April 1, 2009 and the doors of my practice opened May 1, 2009. I am not a wait-around-and-think-about-things type of gal. I had two years of finishing my professional license to ponder and twiddle my business thumbs. I was ready for entrepreneur life and passing the exam gave me free rein to go after it. From the beginning I knew I wanted to build what is known as a “boutique” counseling practice. Keep it small, don’t take insurance and the clients get the privacy of not having to go through office staff to make an appointment. When clients call, they get me. I do all my own phone calls, scheduling and follow up. There isn’t the experience of a crowded waiting room full of people to see one of many therapists in the same office. No secretary calling back to schedule and the first point of contact with me finally happening at the appointment. I dislike that model very much.
The owner of a boutique counseling practice is intentional in keeping things from feeling like a medical office. It is created to be an experience that feels like going to chat with a close friend, but with all the healthy professional ethics and boundaries firmly in place. I purposefully started and have fought to keep my counseling agency small enough to stay quaint and full of personal attention. I have no plans to ever change from that model.
The large message.
Now enter in my second brand. My book. I launched the book almost one year ago today and it has done better in sales than I ever could have imagined. It has been a best-seller on Amazon, featured in international news and lifestyle press, audio rights acquired and released by a well-known publisher, and our first international translation is slated to be released this fall. Side note: the first language translation will be in Italian so I am unabashedly jockeying my family to book a trip to Rome and Naples next spring so we can go visit the publisher. Sounds like a great excuse to see Italy!
With the launch of the book, my message about healing from hidden abuse (also the title of the book) has gone literally around the world. At www.healingfromhiddenabuse.com we maintain a list of available book studies. The list currently has 118 book studies in 8 countries, including 37 U.S. states. Press coverage about the book and my work has been featured in outlets like Business Insider, Teen Vogue, Bustle, Romper, PsychReg and PsychCentral. I will be a featured speaker at the national #NoMeanGirls conference October 2017. I even had to hire a publicist and am truly blessed to have Bolt Public Relations (Dallas) join me in the quest to spread awareness about healing from hidden abuse. I couldn’t maximize the reach without the incredible Bolt women. There are many other macro aspects to the book, but you get a glimmer of what has gone on this year. It has taken my breath away at times; both in excitement and exhaustion.
Small reach versus large message. That is where my two brands collide. The look and feel of a boutique practice and the international exposure as a genre author. I am the center point in which these two meet. The word squeezed makes a little more sense. My dilemma as a entrepreneur who loves both brands is how to maintain these two competing worlds.
What is my point in sharing this with you; besides using this space as my own form of therapy to see it all in typed words? The actual main point is that I am 100% I am not alone in feeling like two aspects of life collide, even though you may love both. Where can we see this happening? Marriage, parenting, work, or any other environment where we find ourselves squeezed by different demands. What are we to do to thrive through the pressure?
After the launch of the book and the speed at which it took off, I had to quickly assess where my daily work life priorities were going to be. We all have a limited amount of capacity and must make decisions about what will get our first fruits of energy. For me, that lies with my counseling clients. That does not describe the people who email asking questions, or even calling in for an appointment. In the world of therapy, a client is someone who has filled out their necessary paperwork, come to the first appointment and we both have decided to continue in the therapeutic relationship. A client is not someone who emails asking questions. A client is not even someone making an appointment. The therapist/client relationship and professional obligations start after the first appointment.
As you assess the collision of two competing interests in your life, what will be the priority that will receive your first efforts? Write it down somewhere. Remind yourself that you have chosen to make this area your focus. We do this so when other things come creeping into the schedule, it can serve as a grounding point to get back to business.
Since my true clients are my first professional priority, I had to figure out how to set boundaries so I could meet my obligations to real life, in-office clients. One area that helped with boundary setting was to establish an auto-reply on my work email. The word “inundated” does not even begin to describe what my in-box turned into after the launch of the book. Since I had established a boutique counseling practice, I did not have the assistant infrastructure in place to help me manage the new workload. Since I love owning a small counseling agency, I have no interest in changing my business model to fit the demands of others. Some emails are really nice. Some are really mean. Some are just weird and real weird ones are reported to law enforcement. I waste no time with nonsense. The auto-reply has helped me tremendously in sorting through the emails from true clients, those that are looking for more information and those who want to be ugly to me via email. The auto-reply gives all the necessary information of what next steps people can take. This boundary has helped me beautifully.
Now that you have established your priority, what boundaries need to put in place to help you stay focused on what is most important?
Stay humble and authentically grateful
I strongly believe in the mind/body connection and the power of what we put out into the world with our attitude. Just because we might be going through a time of success, does not mean it will last indefinitely. Actually most things do not. Everything is a season and we must embrace, love, enjoy and be really present in the good moments. Even though I have felt squeezed at times this last year, I quickly felt the overwhelm but then replaced it with soul touching gratitude. I am lucky to do what I do. Sure some days are busy and I need more coffee than is probably healthy, but it is a season. I want to embrace it and feel every moment. There will be a day for retirement, but that day is not today so I will enjoy as much of the roller coaster now as I can!
What will help you remind yourself to not take your season for granted, thinking it will last forever? What can you do to fully appreciate where you are right now?
My hope is that you can enjoy being squeezed by things in your life and learn to recognize them, set limits and embrace every moment!
Keep dreaming big.
Disclaimer: For those of you who know me and my work around healing from abuse, please note that this blog is not about clinically abusive people (aka narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths). This series on adult bullies is about the other type of difficult people. The average garden-variety type of folks we run into out in the world.
The Different Types of Adult Bullies
What happens when we run into adults who don’t know how to treat other people? Our reactions can range from explosive anger all the way to deeply internalizing the ugly messages that bullies send us. Why do bullies exist in the adult world? As kids, weren’t we all told that schoolyard bullies would one day “grow up” and realize the error of their ways? I know I heard that mean kids would grow out of the need or desire to bully and yet, I see adult bullying in too many life situations.
There seems to be a few different variations of behaviors from individuals who clearly are old enough to know better, and yet, roam the adult schoolyard looking for someone to kick in the shins. Over the course of several blogs, I am going to share with you a few of the types of bullies I have either experienced myself or have been witness to through other people.
The Bitter Bully
I have personally come in close contact with this bully. It is one who appears in the form of a friendly face that is all good with you until, wait for it, the seed of bitterness comes to full harvest. What causes this person to shift from a caring friend to a snarky person who you cannot associate closely with anymore? Bitterness usually shows itself when the adult bully feels threatened by you in some way. Perhaps you stepped on their toes by achieving success in “their” self-designated area of life. It’s as if they have metaphorically tinkled on a bush like a dog to claim it as their own and you dared to come sniffing too close. You hear the low growl and turn to see their teeth showing. They don’t like you anymore. Suddenly you’re now annoying and they have numerous previously unspoken complaints of you. Their view of you has changed but the only thing that is new is your success.
Maybe your success stepped on their toes and rather than coming clean with you about their internal conflict, it seeps out through their pores in bitterness. Of course, they would adamantly deny any jealousy or bitterness. Didn’t they already tell you they are not an angry person? They are the outward picture of confidence but as an intuitive person, you feel the wave of bitterness and it pushes you away from them.
What causes the bitter bully to emerge from the outer covering of a good friend? I believe it is deeply held insecurities. When people feel overly territorial it is because they are scared that you are taking something away from them; that they will lose the goodness in their life. These individuals may have dealt with scarcity or neglect previously and they are triggered on a subconscious level by you coming to close to their now good life.
Is this your fault? Not at all. Are you expected to shrink back in life just so you don’t push insecurity buttons in someone around you? Never. We do not clip our own wings for fear we might fly too high for another person’s comfort level. Their bitterness and internal conflict is theirs, and theirs alone, to work through. However, it is helpful to pause and ponder the “why” of the bitter bully’s projection outward towards you. When we can cognitively understand why people behave the way they do, it takes the personalization out of it. We stop going over what we did to make that person change their ways with us. We start recognizing that not everyone can stay on the same road.
People say that failure will show you who your friends are and that is true. Success will show you the insecurities hiding in those around you. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. Sometimes success brings a chill of loneliness as people react in different ways and bitter is one of them.
Personally, I would rather be surrounded by a few key people who love themselves and their lives so much that anything I might have going on positively isn’t at all a threat to them. It is also my gift back to them because real friends don’t pour bitterness on one another like acid.
Keep Dreaming Big! (so big it makes people uncomfortable)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens
Almost three weeks ago I published my first sole-authored book. The lead up to launch day reminds me of this famous quote by Mr. Dickens. It truly has been the best and worst of times. Through each season of life we get to glean a little more wisdom and, sometimes, a little thicker skin. Now that I am a couple weeks out of the post-launch vortex, it seemed like a good time to encapsulate some of what I have noticed while running this intense sprint to complete the book and get it into the hands of readers.
As an entrepreneur, there are times when not only the candle is burning at both ends, but in the middle and just about melted down to a puddle of wax. That basically sums up my energy levels during the book project. It was a slow slide into chronically living on fumes. Many of us can recall times when we would have to muster up enough energy to get through the must needed tasks of adult living, and the fluffy extras just dropped off the cliff into the abyss of not going to happen.
When we are in seasons like this, it is a great time to watch ourselves and the attitude of those around us. For our own self-reflection, we need to be aware that our reactions may be more exaggerated because we are crazy tired. Little life annoyances that would have left us shaking our heads before, may now be dealt in ways that are unusual for us. Example? While driving on a busy street that resembles a slow freeway, I was first off the blocks at a light and apparently I did not gun by car’s engine quite fast enough for the lady behind me so she kept incessantly honking at me. When I jerked my head up to look in the rear-view mirror, I saw that she was wildly waving her arms in the manner as if to shoo me forward and then, she gave me the middle finger salute. Oh no she did not! Oh yes she did!! I would like to say I just shook my head in calm, I-have-my-emotions-under-control disbelief and drove my car normal from that point but, I did not. Remember, I have been living life on empty and right at that moment, rude-lady-driver was the tipping point of my patience. So I very passive-aggressively slowed waaaaaay down and continued to check my rear-view mirror to watch this lady alternate between waving me on, to flipping me off again, to then jerking her mini-van into the lane next to me and zoom past. Did I just keep my eyes on the road and my hands at 10 and 2? No, I did not. I jumped into the cesspool with her and we exchanged “friendly” gestures.
Did our road rage stop there? Nope. It continued light after light after light. After a while I started to worry that perhaps she was headed to the same school pick up that I was and good grief, was this rude-lady-driver a fellow school parent?! Oh, please say it isn’t so. Reality set in of just how ridiculous I had behaved in response to this extremely annoying person. Luckily she kept going when I turned left to head to the school and I really felt stupid by my exhaustion induced actions.
Now, being in a busy season does have some benefits. Maybe not the most patient while driving but living on empty can bring into crystal clear clarity who we want to spend time with and who is a soul drain. When we find ourselves very thin on time and attention, we see which individuals are there to walk along side of us and who is there for their own benefit.
When we have nothing to give, the takers seem to vanish and that’s a good thing.
Often times when we are well-rested we have the energy to make excuses for people’s poor behaviors or attitude towards us. We may fill in the gaps where they failed to do what they were supposed to do and our actions cover up the truth about them. When we have normal energy, we will do the heavy lifting to maybe keep a broken relationship limping along. This can occur among family, friends, or in the workplace. During normal energy times, we may take on more weight than the other person. Now, enter into a season of spinning deadlines or high stress and no way are we expelling time or resources to make a bad situation slightly better. Sweep the issues under the rug? Nope. Have the desire to bounce back again and make something keep going that needs to end? Nope. Going to spend time with people who have shown their true colors? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Your true friends and your true foes become a lot more clear during and after a season of living on empty.
When you have sorted through who is there for you, these people become like little breaths of air in a stuffy room. They shine like gems of many beautiful colors. They are your people and your appreciation of them runs at an even deeper level. Relationally cleaning house is a good thing and a time of being on empty will help facilitate healing changes.
If you find yourself in a tough, busy season, I hope that you will give yourself the gift of acceptance for where you are right now. Make a plan for when your busyness will end so it doesn’t feel like a never ending dark tunnel. If you are working on a project (like I was with the book), I hope it is a huge success for you. Trust me when I say that you will learn about yourself, but mostly about how other people relate to you going after your dreams.
Keep dreaming big!
I had a wonderful time visiting with Alise Cortez on her radio show:
Working on Purpose.
To listen to the show: Click HERE
A Quest to Improve the Lives of People Who Have Experienced Psychological or Spiritual Abuse
“Let’s face it – relationships of all types can really be difficult. That’s especially true when we find ourselves living, associating or working with individuals who use psychological or spiritual abuse as a method of harm. A surprising number of people exhibit various personality disorder characteristics that manifest themselves in behaviors toward those closest to them. Our guest in this episode has a unique window on this world in her counseling practice focusing on recovery from hidden abuse. In this episode, we discuss Shannon Thomas’s choice to enter the field, how she developed her career into her own business today, the six stages she uses to guide her clients toward recovery, her perspective of how and why psychological and spiritual abuse occurs today, and the signs we might use to recognize that we ourselves are in a toxic relationship and then what we can do about it.” – Alise Cortez
The idea that as entrepreneurs we need and want people in our lives who are reliable probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. When we have multiple plates spinning all simultaneously, a business owner must learn to rely on others to help carry the load. If the entrepreneur doesn’t, guess what comes next? Plates start falling and crashing to the floor. Some of those plates represent years of hard work and dedication. Some of those plates symbolize significant portions of our earthly financial net worth. Plates falling means bad things for the business owner and anyone else she or he has along on the wild ride of owning the place. Signing the checks comes with a huge responsibility.
What is one way that a business owner can keep important projects from crumbing into a pile of obvious failure? Be surrounded by Viking ships and not dingy boats. You see, Viking ships are those people in an entrepreneur’s life who are dependable, do what they say they are going to do and basically don’t sink with the weight of normal demands. Viking ships can be employees, contract staff, outside vendors or even people in our personal lives who provide us with the support needed to help us succeed.
As independent as most entrepreneurs can be in their personality, it is super healthy to recognize that we can’t be everything our business requires for it to thrive. Sure, in the wee beginning we were CEO, CFO, human resources and the janitor but as our business grows, that ability to be all things has to shift. Otherwise, we end up being really awful at all the job functions we take on. When the time comes to need assistance in the form of other people, we don’t want to be anchoring ourselves to dingy boats.
You know these types, right? The folks that continuously grumble about their job description or tasks that have been assigned to them. They are, perhaps, vendors who say they will deliver a good quality product at a specified date and it never seems to happen as promised. A dingy boat could also be someone in our personal life who is inconsistent in their care and appreciate of us. They might be that fair-weathered person who shows up when you’re the life of the party but disappears into the water when you try to share the messier side of entrepreneur life.
I sincerely hope that you are currently surrounded by Viking ships who are out there on your behalf holding weight that you don’t need to carry. If on the other hand, you look around and a few dingy boats have or are about to go under the water, it might be time to re-evaluate who you do business and personal life with in this season of the entrepreneur adventure.
Keep Dreaming Big!