No Foolproof Formula
Sometimes, even if you follow all the expert advice, read all the books, and take all the courses, success is still elusive. This is true in any endeavour, but especially true in the world of networking and interpersonal relationship development.
It can be tough to know the reason why, but there is no 100% guaranteed step by step process for success. The fault might lie with timing, luck, or other external circumstances that are beyond our control. For marginalized populations, this is even more true, as the deck is often stacked against them in a number of subtle systemic ways.
But sometimes, the problem doesn’t lie with outside factors. Sometimes, it’s coming from inside.
Everybody’s Got Stuff
We all have mental and emotional issues. Everyone’s got stuff left over from childhood, from bad relationships, from trauma, from something. No one is immune. And that stuff, if not addressed, can be the sneaky saboteur lurking within that torpedoes all our best efforts.
In networking, we face issues of self worth. We risk rejection. We navigate the challenge of making and maintaining a good impression on people. We have to figure out how to talk about ourselves to others, which can involve examining our motivations and choices. We exercise boundary setting. Each one of these is a potential minefield of personal issues, where demons from our past can rear their ugly heads and render us unable to execute the kinds of simple strategies shared on this blog, no matter how clear and simple the instructions.
When we find ourselves tanking in situations where it seems like we should be fine, there might be something deeper going on. It can manifest as a reluctance or discomfort with something that seems like an easy and logical move. It can show up as the fight/flight/freeze instinct kicking in even when it doesn’t seem called for. It can make itself known in the reactions of others, when we notice many of them pulling away from us for no apparent reason, or if we notice that we can’t get past a certain level of connection with anyone.
Deal With The Stuff Before It Takes You Down
I’ve experienced this myself and have found it incredibly valuable to stop and take a long hard look at what’s really going on. Every few years I go so far as to engage with a professional therapist or counsellor for a few months to untangle some of the issues blocking my success and development. It’s always a somewhat uncomfortable but incredibly important practice and I leave it stronger, healthier, and more self aware.
As a networking trainer, I often reflect on the fact that I can only take people so far if their barriers are coming from within. We get into some potentially heavy stuff in my talks, sessions, and courses, and some people struggle more than others depending on what particular stuff they are dealing with inside.
I’m writing this today in an effort to destygmatize mental and emotional health care. As I said, we ALL HAVE STUFF. It’s normal. In fact, it’s universal. Having stuff doesn’t make you a crazy person or mean you are in crisis. Successful, happy people also have stuff. Facing it doesn’t give the stuff more power. In fact, the more we try to pretend it isn’t there, the bigger and uglier it will get, and the more it will weigh us down and hold us back.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
It’s one of the great tragedies of our society that professional therapy and counselling is financially inaccessible to so many people. If you can afford it, find yourself a good therapist, even if you aren’t looking to engage in counselling right now. You don’t want to have to conduct that search when the time comes that you really need it.
If you can’t afford it, seek out low cost or free options. Although there aren’t anywhere near enough of them, they do exist. I’ll link to a couple of resources available in my hometown of Edmonton below. Check them out even if this isn’t the right time for you to access them. This is a tool you want in your toolbelt before you need it.
The irony of this whole thing is that when we do have strong, supportive networks, they positively contribute to our mental and emotional well being. Isolation is a beast eating its own tail in that it is both a cause and a result of poor mental and emotional health.
So I encourage you to think about your own stuff. Are you grappling with it, or hiding from it? Might you need some help with it? Is it preventing you from making some of the best connections of your life? Maybe it doesn’t have to be.