Facing Your Fears, One Eggshell at a Time

We all have our strengths – and our weaknesses

The problem comes when we buy into the opinions of others – and let their voices drown ours out.

How many stories have you heard about children who were told they weren’t good at something – and never bothered to pursue it?

Obviously, we can’t be good at everything. And it’s helpful to play to our strengths and to know our limits.

Then there are those gray areas. You know the feeling. You’re not confident about your ability in a certain area, and someone else calls you out on it. As fate would have it, this often happens in a very public way.

Pushing Your Buttons

Why do you react so strongly? You may say it’s because they pushed your buttons. If you weren’t on heightened alert, though — and already critical of yourself on the inside –your buttons couldn’t be pushed.

We all have fears of one kind or another. There are primal fears of lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!) And there are fears of all kinds of things, both rational and irrational. What I want to focus on here are our fears of interacting with one another.

What Will Other People Think?

Many of us walk around, filtering every comment and action before taking it. We wonder what someone else will think if we say this or do that. Sound familiar? If so, you’re probably exhausted from all the rehearsing you have to do!

Here’s a tip: do one thing you’re afraid of every day. Our fears hold us back in so many ways. They lead to procrastination and worry. And they can take their toll on our health — mental, emotional and physical.

Some fears haunt us within the recesses of our own mind. Some are not even valid. If we’d just take the first step toward addressing them, though, they’d likely vanish.

People Do What Works

Remember — you teach people how to treat you. I learned this concept in a seminar years ago, and it has proven true for me in so many ways – both professionally and personally. People do what works. And if you’ve reacted one way so many times, it’s expected.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of this can be healthy, and predictability helps us to get along. It’s just those instances where you have that feeling in your gut (aka soul) that chips away at your own integrity that can be damaging over time.

A Simple Phrase

My husband, John, and I have a phrase we use to bring up uncomfortable topics. It’s a signal to the other person that we’re being vulnerable – and that we’re asking for a little extra consideration. (OK, I use the phrase way more than he does). It’s only three words, and it’s made such a difference in our ability to communicate about anything and everything.

The phrase is “no more eggshells,” symbolizing the act of walking on eggshells about something. By saying this up front, we already eliminate any extra emotional “charge” that may come from bringing up the sensitive topic.

It paves the way for more objective communication, less defensiveness and more authenticity. And it serves as an advance signal to the other person that reassurance or forgiveness may be in order.

Your Living Laboratory

So, if you accidentally scrape the car bumper or leave shopping bags in your trunk to carry into the house after everyone is gone, you may have a fear of bringing up said topic. Maybe you were late picking up a child from day care, forgot to book those tickets or committed to an event prematurely and need to back out of it.

Have any of you ever forgotten to relay an important message – or (gasp) accidentally sent an e-mail to the wrong person, resulting in damaging circumstances?

While these may not seem like monumental matters, they can add up and take on a life of their own. As a result, we give them way too much power as they nag at us from inside. And the anticipation is worse than the actual event. (Carly Simon was right).

Whether it’s eggshells or some other mechanism, you may want to invite your significant other, children, parents, siblings, co-workers or friends to adopt something that helps defuse difficult situations and head them off at the pass.

One of my friends shared that her parents used to yell out the word, “jelly,” when things got too heated in a conversation. That signaled a timeout — and a revisiting of the topic at a later time when heads were cooler.

Consider these suggestions as your own personalized song sheet for facing the music. You’ll get things off your chest much more quickly – and be able to move on.

So, pass on the eggshells – and please pass the jelly! It’s a great recipe for peace of mind.