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What Happens When The Dog Catches The Car

#empowerment #flourish #resilience #success Aug 29, 2022

Listen to the audio version here: Episode 101

As a kid, I was a Sunday Comics reader. Were you? I used to pull out those pages as soon as the paper arrived! 

I can’t tell you the names of most of them, but I enjoyed the weekly dose of humor, satire, and wisdom. To this day I’m still hit with the sheer intelligence and cleverness of a really good cartoonist or comedian. 

So picture with me, if you can, a cartoon strip. It begins with a scene of a street from the perspective of a porch…over a pair of dog ears - she’s likely sitting on the steps. A car goes by, and she leaps off the porch, giving chase - little puffs of dust in her wake. But as soon as her paws hit the pavement and she starts gaining speed, her mind starts playing various scenes of what could actually happen when she catches the car.  

 Little thought bubbles start popping up like: 

  • Latching onto the bumper and flying along at 60 mph with no safe way to let go.
  • Sinking her teeth into the back tire, and whirling over and over, thump, thump, thump…
  • Or worse, the screeching of tires as brakes are jammed, and she becomes “one” with the door of the trunk.

Never does the image of grabbing the back of the car, digging her paws into the pavement and dragging it to a submissive stop ever enter her thoughts. 

This, my friend, is what self-sabotage looks like. This is where it begins. 

What happens next? Well, I’ve had (at least) all three of those scenarios happen to me in  my life, and sometimes I handled it ok, sometimes I didn’t. The most likely thing, however - and I see this over and over and over as I listen to women talk about the things they want to achieve - is that they never quite make it out to the street, to start chasing the dream. It just kind of peeters out… 

The hardest and most tragic of realities is when the dog backs off. 

She pretends she “wasn’t interested in that particular car anyway,” or “whew, THAT one was just too fast.” There’s also the “I was actually set up to fail, and decided to eject before I got hurt.” And the one we all say “OH MY GOSH, did you see how BIG that car was UP CLOSE?"

If anyone can speak to this topic, it’s me, just putting together THIS episode brought on spell after spell of procrastination and self-sabotage… why? Well, I have a few theories, so that’s what I want to share with you today. 

Many people will tell you it’s all about fear of success. But I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that.  It’s all fear, yes… but of what, really?  

Why are we “afraid to succeed,” and how can we learn to short-circuit those terrible little cycles inside our heads that keep us from achieving what we are both capable of, and created for?

I’d like to share a few of my bigger accomplishments and where self-sabotage showed up along the way, and how I eventually got past it. These examples will give us a framework to apply to your stories. 

For Example:

Weight Loss: I was told, as far back as I can remember, things like “you’re so pretty, why don’t you just lose weight?” “You have so much potential, but you need to lose weight.” “Your weight is the only thing holding you back.” Internalizing those messages did a real doozy on my brain.

I started dieting in 3rd grade, formally exercising in 5th grade, and by my sophomore year in college, I was in full blown bulimia and depression.  So I entered a 12 week inpatient program. I’ve shared before that this was where I found my first “tools” that would help me truly take full control, and uncover my own personal agency… eventually. Of course, at the time, I had ZERO skills to deal with what it might be like to be “so pretty” AND lose weight. Talk about messing with your head!  This was the fear of being seen/known. 

Eventually, after gaining a good bit of control over my weight, getting married, and falling back on my old comfort methods (ie. eating) when things got hard (as a young pastor’s wife), I gained it all back and more… until my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis got my attention.

I knew that the ONLY way to end the self-sabotage cycle (for me), was to completely and totally disrupt it - I needed to do something drastic: I decided to completely change the mechanics of my own ability to consume food, which then forced me to deal with everything else. I had gastric bypass surgery. 

 

New Job: We’ve all been here. Right? This is true of EVERY job I’ve EVER had… including being an entrepreneur. I applied, I interviewed (like a champ, mind you, ‘cause I’m a performer), I’ve been told they were so impressed with my interview, that even though they already had an internal candidate lined up, they were creating a new job especially for me - no pressure there. There are two that really stand out for me in this “catching the car” category… when I moved from Johns Hopkins to UVA as a Grant Administrator… and when I left UVA to be an Entrepreneur.

The Fear of failing or being discovered as a fraud was so intense in both instances that I froze. I became timid, didn’t stand up for myself, and practically took on a whole different personality. One job was like catching the bumper going 60mph, and the other was like catching the tire and whirling over and over - thump, thump, thump - on the pavement. 

The only way to break through the self-sabotage cycle for this one was to just to - put one foot in front of the other. That first UVA job took me about 8 months to fully get back into myself, and it took me nearly a year to do that as an entrepreneur. 

 

Recently, I’ve had two great examples of how self sabotage can show up in multiple areas at one time:

Last week, we hit the milestone of 100 Podcast Episodes published: This is a big deal in the industry. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen the post I put out with just a sampling of the amount of time and effort that is behind this milestone… including the work done by my producer, and all the guests. So not following through really wasn’t an option. 

THIS episode, however, is #101…guess who’s responsible for the solos… it’s all me. The time it’s taken me to get this one recorded is unbelievable. Additionally, the amount of comfort food consumed through the process… OY! But - what I needed to see was that the fear of rejection or not meeting expectations is so strong sometimes, it can paralyze you too.  UNLESS you have other people or a team working with you to make things happen. Sometimes the best way to break the self-sabotage cycle is to remember who else is invested and decide to make it about them rather than about me

And finally, every entrepreneur’s goal = Pay Myself: This one might sound simple, but trust me, it’s not - it’s something that trips up a crazy number of entrepreneurs. You heard that right. I didn’t want to pay myself out of my business, even though I had cash sitting in the account specifically designated as Owner’s Compensation. This is the Fear of scarcity - not having enough money to pay my bills, and it was overwhelming, no matter how irrational. I think the thing that irked me the most about this one was that I had “decided” (you know, I set goals, decide and then do) that I would NOT fall into that trap like “other entrepreneurs,” I would set things up so that I could celebrate every time I paid myself - regularly, mind you.

 The only way to end this self-sabotage cycle was to call in my accountability sisters. I have a small group of women I just tell things to, in order to ensure I follow through on my own promises to myself. Yes, it still took me saying I was going to do it for THREE whole months before I actually did, and seeing that bank account drop gave me heart palpitations. But I survived, and wrote myself a contract for how much I’d pay myself each month, and set up reminders to do it. 

I also think it’s important to look at two more things based on the original “dog chasing, then catching the car” example. 

Chasing “the car” or the dream or the job or any other goal - isn’t futile. A dog chasing a car down the street is truly a little silly but the reason I talk about the dog CATCHING the car, is because when you really DO chase a dream or a goal, the chances of you achieving it are REAL. So you need to be prepared for what's going to happen in your head, your heart and even your community before you catch “said car.”

You get to choose your own expectations and determine the “make and model” of the car you chase. No one else is going to give you a dream. No one else is going to tell you which dream to chase or what goal you should have. A good mentor might help you determine a career path or educational needs for advancement, but no one but YOU can determine what your goals should actually be. So if you find yourself wanting to point fingers, just remember that excuse of “being set up to fail…” - you choose, my friend. You pursue. If you realize you truly don’t want that car, own it and eject. Otherwise, look inside and determine whether or not you’re trying to pin it on someone else.

So if you find yourself sputtering out on a goal or dream, ask yourself what fear is really showing up for you? The only one who knows the answers is you… and it isn't because you aren’t ambitious. Deep down, we all KNOW there’s more, and we want it. We want to make a difference. We want to succeed. 

People will tell you that they (or you) have a fear of success… but I don’t think that’s even a thing. The fear (like the four I identified in my own life) is something else underneath, but rather than dealing with it, we just blame the easy scapegoat “success,” and everyone nods right along. We all want to blame somebody else.  

For instance, I was on a strategy call with another coach who was totally stuck in her business growth. She couldn’t figure out how to motivate herself to generate the client contracts and revenue she KNEW she could. Keep in mind, I’m NOT a sales or business strategist… but she was seriously thinking about throwing in the towel and going to work for someone else. Finally she said “I just don’t see any other explanation for it other than I’m afraid of success!”  

“Wait a minute,” I said “what does success actually look like to you?” 

Get this - it turns out she had a  definition of success based on her family background that indicated every time someone “succeeded,” they became a royal jerk. They only cared about the bottom line, the money, the viability of their business… and they quit caring about their employees, team or family.

Well… I wouldn’t want that EITHER! So I asked “what if you weren’t actually afraid of success, but of becoming a jerk?”

After a few seconds of stunned silence a huge grin broke out across her face, and she said “oh my goodness!  That’s it! I don’t want to be like them!” 

Well, that’s easy - don’t. 

These are just a few fears that I know trigger self-sabotage for me. My hope is that you'll hear them and begin to look at your own. Where are you stumbling or stuttering in your business, career growth, weight loss, education, or relationships? Ask yourself what you’re REALLY afraid of.  

To recap - here are a few of the fears that show up when I start to get successful:

  1. Fear of being seen or known - This one showed up in my weight loss story. There are areas in your life that it’s just easier to keep others at bay using some kind of barrier (like excess weight or anger management).  
  2. Fear of failure or being discovered as a fraud - This one is in my new job/career advancement story. If you’re getting promoted or you got a new job, they don’t expect you to know everything. You’re going to have a learning curve. Remember, they didn’t hire to watch you fail. They want you to succeed. It’s not just in your best interest, it’s in THEIR best interest. 
  3. Fear of rejection or not meeting expectations - This is from my podcast story - or any other public facing kind of endeavor like speaking or social media visibility. You have to decide you want to chase whatever dream it is and expect some of these fears to show up. Staying true to what you are really good at and want to do will help mitigate some of the inner conflict.
  4. Fear of scarcity - This shows up in WAY more areas than just paying myself… and if you’re an entrepreneur and you haven’t paid yourself, I feel your pain!  Here’s a thought for you… no one ever got rich or was successful through hoarding. Not even Scrooge.

What fears are triggering you to stop chasing your “car?” What fears are keeping you on the porch? When you begin to identify them, you’ll be able to use some of the solutions I offered in my stories.  I think these are “plug and play” kinds of solutions. You’ll know which one you need in order to break that cycle in your head and heart so you can CATCH that car. 

Here they are.

  1. Disrupt the cycle - do something drastic! A hard reset! For me it was gastric bypass. I needed to disable my ability to eat certain foods in order to make myself deal with thoughts and emotions rather than eat them. 
  2. Just put one foot in front of the other, and push through the fear - I’m a classic Christmas movie watcher, and when I say that phrase, I see the Abominable Snowman walking across the room at the end of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  This is how you learned to walk as a baby. This is how we get from one spot in the room to another in order to shake hands with that one person we KNOW could make a difference in our network. This is how you show up to a new, BIG GIRL job, and learn what you need to do so you can make a real difference.
  3. Remember who else is invested in the dream or goal and decide to make it about them - It’s rare that you chase a dream or a goal that doesn’t include or affect anyone else. When you feel like quitting, or sabotaging the process, take a beat. Stop and think about everyone else invested in it, and how they will benefit if you keep going. There are plenty of times I’m willing to do something for someone else (especially someone close to me) even if I wouldn’t do it for myself.
  4. Find you some good accountability partners and keep them in the loop - I cannot stress this one enough. I have a set of concentric circles of accountability, starting with a small, tight circle of friends who hear all my stuff. Then a larger community who encourage and help me in more general areas, and there’s you! If I tell people I’m going to do something, I’m WAY more likely to do it. That’s “Goal Setting 101.” Find you some people who you trust, who GET you, and tell them what your plans are. Or that you’re scared of quitting. Or that you’re scared of succeeding - yes, use the scapegoat.  Ask them to help you get where you want to go.

This topic is no joke - no matter how funny or cute the “dog catching the car” analogy makes it out to be.  I’ve crashed and burned many times on my way here… and I’m sure you’ve experienced your own “catching the car” or worse “backing off the car” moments.  

Here’s the good news - because it’s your choice, it’s also under your control. Even the times I felt like I had my teeth sunk into the tire thumping round and round on the pavement, the car eventually stopped and I caught my breath and I could move on.  

My passion is to equip and empower YOU. What car are you chasing? Are you sitting on the porch? Oooh… are you latched onto the back bumper and need someone to help you dig in your heel and catch that thing for good?

Well, here I am! I equip and empower female leaders to think critically, create imaginatively and lead effectively - in any situation, team or organization. 

It brings me GREAT joy to watch you realize your own leadership potential as you develop trust in yourself. So how can I help? Set up a 30 min consultation where we can figure out exactly what you need. 

Until next time.

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