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Twenty Ways Your Outer Child Sabotages Your Success in the Workplace:

June 1, 2011 2 comments

Susan Anderson © May 2011

We all have an Outer Child – a hidden nemesis that is always interfering in our best laid plans – especially when we’re trying to advance.

Outer Child is the part of your personality that acts out in self-defeating patterns – that puts its foot in your mouth at a business meeting, , breaks your diet, and gets attracted to all the wrong people.

Outer Child’s antics really kick up at work.  Consider this:  The workplace creates a giant stage on which to prove your adequacy, find your position in the in the pecking order, and gain recognition and approval you’ve been craving since junior high school (admit it).  Work, then, becomes steeped in all of your emotional issues – both conscious and unconscious – a lot of them stemming from that most primal, universal of human fears – abandonment.  Overtime, you invest the workscape with more and more of your hidden insecurities, egoistic needs, and dreams.  This investment of primal emotion creates a fertile breeding ground for Outer Child to act out in ways that block your efforts to move forward.

Here’s how it works: You have an Inner Child, an Outer Child, and an Adult Self.  Your Outer Child acts out your feelings – your Inner Child’s feelings inappropriately.  Outer resorts to knee-jerk reactions and outmoded defense mechanisms that have become maladaptive.  If you have a lot of self-defeating patterns, it means your Outer Child is too strong, your Inner Child is too needy (of your attention), and your Adult Self is too weak.  This is reversible!

The first step in overcoming your Outer Child’s interference is to take its inventory – keep tabs on what it’s up to.   Do any of these traits describe your Outer Child?  Or a colleague’s?

  1. Outer Child prefers to go on facebook and read blogs than to take future-oriented actions.  Ha!
  2. Outer Child procrastinates.  It lives by the creed, “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”  In Outer Child-speak, “till tomorrow” means indefinitely… or never!
  3. Outer Child is a hedonist – a slave to the need for immediate gratification. This explains its penchant for procrastination.  Outer likes tackling the more pleasurable, effortless, familiar tasks first, and puts off doing the more challenging tasks till “tomorrow.”  Outer likes doing what it likes.
  4. Outer excels at avoidance.  Outer is adept at avoiding things that are difficult, unfamiliar, and anxiety-producing.  Unfortunately, these are usually the very things that help you gain forward motion in your career.
  5. Outer Child gets learned helplessness at the most inconvenient times – especially when there’s a new learning curve with some new computer program… 
  6. Outer Child is an attention seeker.  Its motto:  “Negative attention is better than no attention at all.” 
  7. Outer Child is a master rationalizer.  Outer rationalizes that you are justified in your work slowdown, as you are conserving energy for a big initiative just around the corner.  Or that it’s prudent to forestall taking a positive action, as this gives you time to build better thinking-momentum and enhance your readiness.
  8. Outer Child avoids confrontation.  Outer will leave you at the short end of the stick to avoid risking anyone’s anger and disapproval, even if it’s someone you can’t stand.
  9. Outer would rather switch than fight. Outer is famous for appeasing both sides, letting conflict grow, leaving people fight it out for themselves.
  10. Outer Child hunkers down in the comfort zone and refuses to budge, even when your “Adult Self” absolutely vows to push forward into unfamiliar territory. Nope, Outer isn’t ready.
  11. Outer Child schmoozes, fraternizes, and clowns around when you should be setting boundaries and establishing your role.  Outer undermines your work persona.
  12. Outer Child is passive.  When action is called for, Outer would rather become obsessed about what you should be doing and harangue you with guilt about it – anything to avoid actually doing it.
  13. Outer Child becomes testy and critical when it sees coworkers taking actions you should have taken, especially when they get good results.  Outer’s sour grapes are a convoluted form of shame.
  14. Outer Child has social issues. Outer over-socializes when you should be creating credibility or taking leadership.  Conversely, when Outer feels intimidated by someone’s power or position, Outer under-socializes instead of forging bonds with key people.  Outer keeps you out of the power block.
  15. Outer Child grovels for approval rather than ask for what you want, i.e. a promotion, even though years of groveling has proved fruitless.  Outer Child likes banging your head against a stone wall.
  16. Outer Child is a people pleaser, making it easy to be taken advantage of.  Outer people-pleases when you should be establishing your power.
  17. Outer Child talks about people behind their backs.  Outer hates it when people talk about you behind your back.   Back biting is Outer’s way of “coalition building.” Colluding with a colleague about disliking another employee often backfires and undermines your trust-quotient in the workplace.
  18. Outer over does it – over teases others or over competes and gets you into serious conflict.  You vow to clean up your act, but when you’re not looking, Outer swoops in and pisses someone off.   Outer Child has OPD – Obnoxious Personality Disorder.
  19. Outer Child displays false cheerfulness to hide your boredom, low self-worth, or depression – whatever – interfering in your ability to seem real and grounded.
  20.  Outer Child can squelch you. Outer tries to keep you under the radar to protect (over-protect) you from standing out and possibly getting judged or criticized, or deemed inadequate.  Invisibility is not in your career’s best interest.

Advancing your career involves overcoming your self defeating patterns through a step by step program that heals primal abandonment and strengthens the coalition between your Adult Self and your Inner Child.  No matter now obstructive your Outer Child, you can realign your psyche and put Outer in its place.

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How Universal Fear of Abandonment Can Undermine Success in the Workplace.

May 27, 2011 5 comments

You don’t even know it’s happening – it’s that subtle.  Twelve principles for moving forward in your career and healing from the inside out at the same time.

Susan Anderson © May 2011

The raw human nerve of abandonment can tingle during the course of normal work day – even when you’re unaware of it – when you feel ignored, unrecognized, or dismissed, or sense any hint of disapproval, criticism, or rejection.  These feelings are not the problem; they are givens.  It’s how you handle them – how you let your Outer Child (your self-saboteur) act them out in self defeating patterns that can hold you back.

The underlying fear of abandonment is a major trigger for Outer Child’s self-sabotage to spring into action with its knee-jerk defenses. This subliminal fear has many facets, and your ever-active, ever-intrusive Outer Child is always at the ready to react to each of them in defense mechanisms that have become maladaptive. These default defenses interfere in reaching your adult potential:

Fear of disappointment gets you to set your sights too low.

Fear of failure gets you to become passive, unmotivated, stuck in underachievement.

Fear of success gets you to hold back from excelling in order to avoid the competitive backlash….

Fear of rejection – difficulty handling criticism – gets you to avoid standing up for yourself, making you easily passed over for promotion.

When you’re afraid to assert yourself, speak up for your rights, take a position, it’s because you’re afraid of breaking the connection – afraid to ask for “too much,” lest the powers-that-be get annoyed, judge you, or heaven forbid, want to get rid of you – and there you’d have abandonment.

Rejection sensitivity:  Fear of abandonment manifests in difficulty handling criticism and heightened sensitivity to rejection. You make an excellent suggestion at a meeting, for example, but it is passed over in favor of someone else’s suggestion – someone with less substance but better able to gain approval than you.  You feel abandoned and self condemning all at once.

Whether or not you are conscious of underlying abandonment fear, it creates a background tone which keeps you slightly on edge and hyper-vigilant, constantly warning you: “Don’t rock the boat.”  This undercurrent of abandonment fear, though subliminal, inhibits you from properly showcasing your skills, talents, and competence.

Abandonment fear can silently subvert your efforts to manifest self worth.  For instance, your self esteem can say, “I’m valuable in this job” and your self image can say, “Everybody likes me and sees I’m doing a great job.”  But your fear of abandonment, lurking beneath the surface, can trump this by saying “But I don’t want to express my needs because they may like me less.”

Fear of abandonment leads to codependency.  A co-dependent employee can be easily taken for granted by employers and fail to get properly rewarded.  This employee, driven by the fear of losing ground (abandonment), manages to communicate to her employers that she’ll continue doing a great job even if they were to give the promotion to someone else, because she just LOVES doing work for the company.  So the promotion goes to someone less deserving but who, by contrast, has communicated that he is moving onward and upward – with or without the current company – and must to be given incentives to stay.

In fact, to get ahead, it’s almost more important to show self-loyalty – that your own best interests come first – than to demonstrate good skills, talent, and selfless work-ethic.  Self-loyalty is a component of confidence, and as we all know, confidence impresses others more than competence does – at least at first glance.  The ability to exude confidence promotes successful self-marketing, even in the absence of the person’s substantive effectiveness.  Many an incompetent ne’r-do-well has been promoted ahead of many an effective workhorse for this very reason.  Self promotion is able to impress people more than selfless hard work.

People with low self-confidence may feel inwardly angry and resentful when they are overlooked, but are afraid to express it directly.  Instead, in order to leave their friendly connections to their coworkers unblemished by their anger, they blame the unfairness on themselves for being such a wimp.  And so they dig themselves deeper in an ever escalating cycle of self-loathing and co-dependency.

Here are 12 principles to take primal abandonment’s many incarnations by the tail and use them as grist for moving forward in your career.  As we’ve seen, the raw human nerve of sensitivity jangles so easily in the workplace because of unresolved abandonment.  By resolving your workplace issues, you’re actually resolving your primal abandonment wounds – healing from the inside out.

As I’ve emphasized many times before, the principles of healing abandonment and overcoming Outer Child self-sabotage, involve an integrated approach, combining self-nurturance, constructive use of imagination, and action.  They work like physical therapy for the brain – incrementally, over time, with repeated effort.

1)    At the beginning of every workday, tune into yourself emotionally – center in on what’s going on within – so you can be aware of your innermost feelings, needs, and wants as you go about your day, especially the subtle twinges of abandonment fear.  These feelings are sacred, belong to you, and although uncomfortable at times, are what potentially connect you to yourself in a powerful new relationship.  You can’t neutralize abandonment fear by remaining oblivious to it – can’t squelch it, since it is indeed primal.  Only by getting in touch with your human vulnerability, can you tap into its potential healing power to act as a spur.

2)    Prepare to use your imagination, your most powerful, largely untapped human resource.  Imagine that you have a remote control in your hand and that one click changes the channel from the hypersensitivity channel to a new channel where you feel your power.  As if on a screen before your mind, imagine that from your depths, you see yourself step into your power, all of your feelings in tact.  You are still YOU.

3)    Recognize that in adulthood all abandonment is actually self-abandonment – and by ignoring your abandonment wounds, you’ve been abandoning yourself over and over.

4)    Know that the only person who can reverse self-abandonment is You.  It is not up to anyone else – is no one else’s responsibility but yours to assuage your self-doubt and delimit your self-depreciation.

5)    Recognize that if you hand this task over to others – if you continue looking to others for recognition, acceptance, or approval – you keep giving your power away and abandoning yourself in yet another way.

6)    Each time you feel a twinge of vulnerability (feel dismissed or reticent to speak up for yourself), make a commitment to accept yourself unconditionally.  Use any icky self-doubting moment as the basis for practicing radical self-acceptance.

7)    To practice radical self-acceptance, imagine that you have your arm around yourself in a display of self-affection and self-assurance.  Do not squelch your vulnerability or shame yourself for having it, but embrace yourself for it.  Reassure yourself it’s okay. You’re human.  You come first – anxiety and all.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

8)    Know that by giving yourself unconditional love – accepting yourself warts and all (anxiety, fear, reticence, and all) – you are reversing self abandonment.

9)    By looking to yourself for acceptance – by wholeheartedly accepting all of your human feelings, foibles, and talents – you are taking other people out of the loop.  YOU become the best person to give yourself esteem, to approve of you, to accept you.  YOU are responsible for making yourself feel secure and worthwhile, and no one else.

10) Each time you feel a twinge of vulnerability, use it as a spur to plan a positive action, one that is realistic, involves doing, forward working, and career enhancing.  Break the action down into at least three baby steps, the first being so small, that though seminal, will be easy to take immediately.

11)  Imagine yourself taking that action – i.e. a new job initiative, a positive gesture toward a colleague, a phone call to gather information about new employment.

12) At least three times a day, as if on the screen before your mind (your power channel), project an image of yourself as you would like to be – self-possessed, self-reliant, self-assured, and self-deserving.  Imagine yourself to be a person who is willing and able to feel your abandonment nerve jangle during the day without shame or self-censure– and that you no longer look to the outside world for crumbs of approval and recognition. Imagine yourself as taking self-directed actions -directed and moving forward.