Though it is a mindset and state of being that unifies us, we each experience it in very different ways.Safety and security are a big part of what defines the human condition. That is, as long as the world keeps spinning and life keeps on the way we want it to, we feel safe and secure.
But when it doesn’t, we’re thrown off our game. We suddenly feel the intense need to fix what’s broken and change what isn’t working. We want to get things back in alignment, partly to prove that we are right in the way we are living and partly to feel a sense of security and comfort.
So what happens when we discover that something that used to work for us—something that used to help us right the wrongs and rebalance the cosmos—no longer suits us?
When I was growing up, I used humor to fight the discomfort of being the middle child. I liked to tell stories, crack jokes, and make people laugh. When something wasn’t right, when the world felt too still and silent, I used humor to find equilibrium. Being entertaining and charming was how I made my way in the world.
Later, when I became an entertainer and a dancer, the skills I’d honed as a child served me well. I enjoyed the spotlight; I knew how to make the story my own. I was able to rely on my early successes and use them later in life.
When I started coaching, I realized I could no longer rely primarily on those skills; while humor and charm are absolutely positive traits and can serve very well in social interaction, I needed to develop other skills that would help me get to the heart of what I needed to do for my clients. Simply being charming was not going to help other people leverage their strengths and gifts. So I had to really stop and consider, Who am I now? What am I doing? Who do I have to be in order to support this part of me?
I had to accept that my deeply entrenched way of being, the actions and habits that righted so many wrongs in my past, was no longer enough, in and of itself. Every day I had to recalibrate my actions to the skills that were helpful and beneficial to being a coach.
"Who am I now? What am I doing? Who do I have to be in order to support this part of me?"
The human condition is something that we wake up to every day. It is the constant rattling on of our internal conversations in response to insecurities and threats. When we recognize that something is threatening our comfortable way of being, we have to truly assess where the threat is coming from.
And more often than not, the threat is not a physical one. There are not tigers chasing us up trees. Instead, we feel perceived threats to our survival—our livelihood. And these are especially prevalent in the workplace. When we feel insecure about something at work, it can feel immediately threatening as we worry about our future success and stability.
This fear then begins to spiral. We see signs everywhere we go that our world is spinning out of control—in sideways glances from our colleagues and unanswered emails from our bosses or clients. We begin telling ourselves stories about these perceived slights. And the stories become bigger and bigger.
But the great news is that the internal negative conversations don’t have to end in quitting your job and moving to a new town to avoid former colleagues at all costs. You can reshape the story whenever you are ready. You first need to acknowledge what happened and consider what is true about the event. You’ll need to be honest about how the situation makes you feel and what emotions are really behind the story you’re telling over and over in your head. Once you can take responsibility and be accountable, you can reframe the story. Maybe someone who had an eyelash in her eye accidently gave a sideways glance. Maybe the emails went unanswered because the boss had a parent-teacher conference.
Once you reframe your experience, you’ll discover that you can make all those internal stories disappear. You don’t have to rely on worry and fear to get you through tough experiences at the office. You can rely on yourself, instead. You can experience the human condition on your own terms.
Your safety and security are constructs within your control.