Louise is hiding. At 40, the multilingual assistant to the company president, she aims to please, smiling at everyone. Yet she confesses that she is depressed at how little she has accomplished. In fact, she snubs her female coworkers and disengages from any new project. The only thing beautiful in her life is her makeup. She experiments with every brand, every look. Suppressing a hidden wish to be an artist, she persists in imprisoning herself. At home, she takes care of her aging mother whose demands on her are increasing. She wears a gold ring on her left hand, a counterfeit wedding band, to ward off what she secretly hopes for -- commitment -- and continues her affairs with married men. She yearns to change, to study something new, to "fit in," and feel like she belongs.
Stanley is hiding too. At 50 he has a floundering consulting company. The anguish of meeting his bi-weekly payroll knots his stomach. He drinks to dull the worry. He barks at his staff and apologizes -- a pattern he smilingly confesses.He vacillates between wanting to build up the company and wanting to leave it to return to his childhood ranch. He fluctuates with his wife too, periodically separating and reuniting. Not able to make up his mind, he delays decision.
What makes Louise and Stanley act the way they do? Because they deeply believe they are unworthy of success, they set up circumstances that prove over and over that, indeed, they are undeserving: no career to be proud of, no associates to confide in, no intimacy or peace at home. Indecision, frustration and confusion in every comer. But Louise and Stanley are not alone. Most of us hide from some or all of what we want.
How then do we extricate ourselves and start claiming our true identities? The answer is not magic and not easy. We have to take charge of our lives, both professionally and personally, by deciding to decide. Indecision, after all, is a decision. Then we can start taking action with carefully devised steps in order to retrain our negatively tuned head and heart.
Louise can put her dream into motion. If she combines her passions for cosmetics and art , she might consider the field of make¬up artistry. She lives in Hollywood, the heart of televi¬sion and film production where the make-up industry flourishes. She can begin with training at accredited trade schools and find one that offers evening classes as well as placement services and access to people in show business. She can design an internship for Satur¬days to get hands-on ex¬perience and her own connections. Meanwhile, at her current job, she can begin engaging her coworkers by changing her aloof demeanor. One lunch or breakfast will crack some barriers. Starting with Job A, which she doesn't really want, she can develop her political skills and learn to take risks, so that she is stronger when she starts Job B which does matter.
By taking these steps, Louise will also be altering the dependency she and her mother have weaved together. She can also take off her gold ring, just on the weekends to begin with, and then gradually increase it until she stops fooling herself, denying her single status. Going without seeing her married friend every other week will further wean her away if she can't go cold turkey. Getting involved in some activities, even on-line dating, will increase her chances to live a more satisfying life.
Stanley must similarly start with a goal. If he decides to commit to build up his business for the next year, he will need more information, resources, and inspiration. By attending a lecture or course on successful consulting practices, say three or four each month, he will discover ways to improve, update and better market his services. By setting aside one day each week to call former satisfied clients, he can reestablish connections as well as ask for new leads. He also has to rebuild his staff's morale. He can ask them to help generate a company action plan for the next year with everyone's strategies for working toward it. He might assign them to read a book on their business heroes, and one at a time at meetings, tell the group what they learned. And he can make each monthly meeting a progress report for the staff, and in turn, the company.
Using the same kind of strategies, he can work on his marriage by taking weekend workshops like the Imago Training or Marriage Encounter with his wife, and agree to work on their marriage with a couples therapist together for a given period of time. It's not easy but it is possible. There will be difficult sessions and periods, but nothing like the exhausting see-saw of breaking up and trying to get back together.
Opening yourself up to healthier behaviors, new risks as well as new opportunities, hard as it is, beats hiding. Here's where a career coach and therapist can make a huge difference. We are worth the investment, all of us Louises and Stanleys.
Make your luck happen!
Dr. Adele, Author of Skills For Success and Launch Your Career in College