I want to share a few thoughts on a pretty sensitive topic – the trauma we carry in our bodies, and how it shows up in our workplace experiences.
You see, for the past fifteen plus years I’ve been supporting women leaders of every age, class, race, gender and sexual orientation to advance in their careers. And while each of us have lived through very different experiences over the course of our lives, the bottom line is that most of us have lived through at least one experience –either interpersonal or societal, or both–that could be characterized as traumatic.
For some of us, many.
What do I mean by a traumatic experience?
- Adverse interpersonal childhood experiences like neglect and physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse
- Larger scale community or group traumas including oppression, violence, war, genocide
- Workplace traumas like discrimination, invisibilizing, gaslighting, exclusion and harassment
- Medical trauma from illnesses, injuries, surgeries or childbirth
- Environmental traumas like natural disasters
And why does it matter that we talk about trauma in the context of coaching, professional skill building and leadership development?
Because the physical, mental and emotional experience of un-integrated trauma can play a significant role in our ability to take the new actions that are required for our next level of leadership.
And, because when we are responsible for leading others, our un-integrated trauma influences our perspectives, and the kinds of relationships we build, and the default culture we create around us.
The imprints of trauma (large or small) that we still carry in our bodies, minds, language and action-based habits can impact our:
- Ability to set clear boundaries
- Comfort in facing difficult conversations
- Confidence and clarity in decision making
- Capacity to embrace and/or interact with power and authority
- Empathy for and trust of others
- Ability to trust and value ourselves
- And more
This is one reason why traditional check-the-box leadership training (and coaching) approaches don’t necessarily work in a one-sized-fits all way…
For example, while ‘just saying no’ might be an easy next-level move for one person to make to improve her time management –for another person, NOT saying no may have meant the difference between life and death.
What’s more, the experiences we go through in the workplace need only be 5 or 10 percent similar to an earlier traumatic event to trigger the same kinds of emotions, and/or put your entire body-mind system on guard.
Therefore, it is critical that we have some understanding of what imprints we are carrying (both consciously and unconsciously) in order to truly lead well.
I wholeheartedly acknowledge that this is a tricky conversation to have in the workplace setting.
But it’s also why the work of Guts & Grace has been so transformative for the clients we serve –
Because rather than try to ‘stick on’ next-level leadership skills like a band-aid on top of un-integrated body-mind imprints that still linger from the past, the Guts & Grace coaching and training approach includes an acknowledgement of this territory as part of our path toward sustainable professional growth…
So that nobody – and no parts of our bodies – get left behind.
If you are reading this email and something resonates, I invite you to take two minutes today to acknowledge yourself.
Take a deep breath. Place your hand somewhere on your body that you feel could use a little extra energy. And (even if it seems kinda woo) take a moment to think, feel or express out loud some sincere gratitude for that part of your body – or to the earlier version of you who went through something hard in the past.
You are not broken. But you may also not yet be whole. It can take some time to reclaim the parts of ourselves that get lost, hurt or betrayed along the way.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect – but also permission to face them.
I have not yet met a woman who didn’t find that this type of sincere self-acknowledgement paid true dividends in the long run.
I honor you. I trust you. I believe in you.
If you want to break through to your next professional level, and you need to consider, acknowledge and/or face your past in order to get there, I invite you to apply for a Guts & Grace Coaching discovery call this week to start mapping out your next steps…
If I can help, I will. If not, I’ll share a few resources or some other recommendations to help you take a next step.