I got a call from a guy, let’s call him Tom, who was looking for a life coach for his “friend”. As it often happens, Tom really needed some life coaching himself so after interviewing me for his “friend”, he decided to come check me out himself. Tom was in his early 30’s and struggling to figure out what kind of love relationship he wanted to be in. He didn’t know if he wanted a monogamous one or not and didn’t know any other solutions. He thought he was supposed to be in a relationship a certain way, but had no idea what his way was.
His background was that his father was not a good role model at all. He was unavailable for a number of reasons, used drugs and had recently died from a drug overdose. His whole life my client’s mother kept grooming him to not be like his father. She wanted him to be a “good” man but the way she taught him was distorted and through her own lens of what “good” was. He hadn’t had any long-term relationships. The only way he saw himself was through his mother’s eyes. He was always anxious about what others thought of him, especially women. As a matter of fact, his anxiety was getting the best of him.
When we first met, I realized that the way he viewed himself was through the lens of the other and that he had no regard for how he felt or what he thought. He was trying to measure himself through what he thought others were thinking. Many people go through life this way and it makes things very complicated and unsatisfying. Just writing this makes me feel confused and I know it was the same for Tom.
So what we began doing was reorienting him. That reorientation went from, teaching him to change his thought pattern from “what do others think of me” to “what do I think of me?” He began to ask himself the question, “How do I feel,” instead of, “What do they think?”
This distinction might be difficult for some to understand, but from my perspective, it is the most important aspect of living a happy, healthy life. We can only know what we think and/or feel. We will never really know what another thinks or feels. This is one of the tools that I help my clients understand and utilize. The great thing is that as each person understands this and implements it, the better their life gets.
Tom was a quick study. As soon as he began to consider himself first, his world began to change. His anxiety lessened the more he practiced thinking about how he felt first. He engaged with women much easier and was more comfortable. His anxiety lessened. A lot. Dating was not only easier, it became fun. The pressure he was putting on himself to “figure it all out” disappeared and he realized that he would figure it out in good time. In the meantime, he is out there dating, easing through his life and enjoying himself.