I have a scrap of paper in my pencil drawer at the office. I’ve had it since I started at Fame. I don’t know the author, but I smile every time I look at it:
“The efficacy of repression.”
I remember putting it there to remind me that a little mental subjugation is vital to staying the course.
This got me to thinking that perhaps repression’s gotten a bad rap. Or at the very least is strangely underrated. It can be as valuable as any mental skill. How many of us have gotten through a day without a good amount of emotional stuffing and balanced justification?
And I don’t mean the self-medicating kind. Well, ok, a little [adult beverage of choice here] never hurts, in moderation. Repression can be a powerful tool to overpower self-doubt and negative thinking – it can push away life’s crushing defeats and make room for constructive momentum. It keeps you from wallowing in what’s not as it should be (on your end or otherwise). And it frees you to move away from the past in order to focus on a better future. How many of those buggery little thoughts float over your mental transom a day – “I should’ve, I shouldn’t have, I wish I would have, why did I…?” While some of these might lead to practical solutions, most of the time they’re debilitating. An exhausting psychological drain.
Healthy repression is simply shutting off the frequency of recrimination and misgiving. It’s an intellectual Billy Club to subdue useless negativity. Wield it with a vengeance. It’s highest form is the power to contain that which cannot be controlled and an ability to focus on that which can. There’s going to be bad stuff – all kinds of it. At work and at home. There will be the inevitable inexcusable behavior that we thought we should have pre-empted. Guilt about what should have been done, or shouldn’t have been said. Kids are going to be kids. And our people are going to be human. They’re going to misbehave, and disappoint. It’s not always going to be about something we did or didn’t do. Sometimes we’re going to be too lax, or too strict. Sometimes we’re not going to be there to soothe life’s savage wounds. Sometimes we’ll be oblivious to just how savage the wounds are. It won’t necessarily be our fault. Life is harsh sometimes. We can’t protect everyone from everything. Nor should we. If you think about your own life experience, some of the best lessons are the ones we learned the hard way. Nobody’s to blame. Things happen. You learn. You move on, better, smarter and more resilient for it.
I make a habit of telling those around me that should my alleged crimes end up in therapy, I just want to be there to tell my side.
Repression doesn’t just stop the second-guessing. It also lets you let go of things. To not marinate in the morass of insecurity. Truly say buh-bye, au revoir, sayonara to all that ridiculousness.
Tools for healthy repression:
- A loud, positive inner voice – Don’t just shush the subconscious naysayers. Shut them down. They can be loud.
- A team of cheerleaders – Your women folk are usually your best bet.
- Some serious deep breathing – Slowly, in, out. Maybe one more time. It’ll get better.
Resiliency. My fatal flaw.
If I possess a superpower, it’s resiliency. Resiliency is a survival tactic, allowing me to weather the inherent bumps of running a business without too many bruises and scars to show for it. It’s an enviable trait when it comes to overriding economic blows and market condition changes. It’s helped me to put emotion aside and problem solve or strategize on how to overcome obstacles. It also happens to be a very useful skill when it comes to managing overwrought teenagers. Rebounding from an “I hate you” requires substantial emotional fortitude and forgiveness.
But resiliency has also caused me to endure things longer than I should have. Just sticking it out or pushing through isn’t enough. Because perseverance doesn’t always pay. There’s a difference. Being resilient requires being able to look things square in the face and having the courage to make change. Retaining things or people because it’s easier, is just avoiding the inevitable and usually leads to a culture drain and a talent exodus. So how do you tell if you’re just persevering or being truly resilient?
Resiliency versus Perseverance:
- Resiliency is adaptable. Perseverance is static.
- Resiliency is improvement-focused. Perseverance is status quo.
- Resiliency begets progress. Perseverance begets paralysis.
The Power of Resolve
When I first purchased Fame, my client, Mike Patterson said, “Never stop believing in yourself.” It was the best advice I ever received related to enduring hard times. Having doubt is inevitable when you’re a leader. There are so many things that come your way to make you pause and wonder whether you’re doing the right thing. And there are always plenty of people happy to tell you that you aren’t. I think the hardest thing about this role is staying true to your convictions. But being rightly resolute is the foundation to strong leadership.
My daughter Paige was a very intelligent and willful child. She is now a very intelligent and willful young woman, and absolutely lovely, by the way. In the middle of a heated argument with her 13-year-old self, I foolishly asked if she thought she was smarter than me. After a heavy pause, she looked at me earnestly and said, “Actually, I think I am.” (She probably is.) But I responded by saying, “I’ll give you the intellectual high card, but I have more life experience, so the answer is still no.” Resolve.
In Being Resolved:
- Listen to your inner moral compass. It’s always right.
- Remember that feedback isn’t always the truth.
- Adjust your antennae to frequencies that support your beliefs.
Whew. This was a heavy one. Here’s the takeaway: repress your negativity, be resilient to life’s impediments and resolve to believe in yourself, always. (Why does the nutshell version always sound so easy?)