Updated: May 10, 2020
I went through my school years not fitting in. I was always different from my classmates, which they did not allow me to forget. I liked reading, which was not an acceptable hobby. I used big words, which meant I must read the dictionary for fun. I wore hand-me-downs which never got me cool points. I was way into fantasy novels and writing poetry and wandering the woods and developing Alexander Dumas fan fiction. I was not a “normal kid.”
You might not be surprised to learn that I was bullied over my differences, but most people are shocked when I share that I developed a bad stutter because of it.. I enrolled in my first college class at the age of fifteen. I wanted out. I was done with not fitting in and desperately wanted to turn the chapter and start fresh.
Through college, I was able to work through my stutter. It is still present to this day when I get into a situation that really intimates me, but by in large, I’ve tamed the beast. I went to classes, developed battle-tested friendships, met a guy, did special projects for my school, earned honors. It was awesome. I found communications and film to be where I fit in. We were all creative and odd in the best ways.
Trying to justify a creative personality with corporate rules and rigid expectations out in the workforce was proved a little tricky when it came to it. I forged my own way, you know, cause I have a problem with being put in the metaphorical box. When someone who gave me an interview told me the position would only be part-time, I looked at her and with all heartfelt sincerity, told her no, it would be full time. I convinced her why and she gave me the job. I machete'd my way through the tall, dense grass of developing a department from the ground up, 5x’d bookings. I learned so much about asking for help at that job.
Then I fell into direct sales. I clung to my recruiter and sales director, wishing to learn all the ways of their success so I could emulate it and have the freedom I desired for me and my new hubby. At the time living in our own place was right at the top of my wish list.
I was at every meeting, taking the most thorough notes, encouraging the new recruits, building my own team, and still, I struggled to keep bookings on my calendar. Nothing I did seemed to work, but I was trying it all.
Months down the line, I was at her house again to gain some insight into why I wasn’t making progress like all the brochures said I would. At this point, I had separated from my steady, paying job so I could focus 100% of my professional energy on this work-from-home business. We were relying on only my husband’s meager desk clerk job for a paycheck.
After I spilled my guts, my hopes, and dreams at her feet, eagerly awaiting some level ten guru wisdom, magic bullet, she turned to me and said, “You’re just not coachable.”
I honestly don’t remember what happened after that, what I said, or even how I arrived home. I was shocked by her response. Not coachable? How was I not coachable? I attended every meeting, supported others when they achieved their goals, took notes, hit the phones, the streets, hustled. But I wasn’t coachable.
It really wasn’t until I started doing to seriously introspective personal development work at the tail end of 2018 that re-framing hurtful statements like this became a practice for me. I had learned about framing in one of my communication classes.
Framing, in the field of communications, is the focusing of attention in a certain area and can be accomplished through language or visual manipulation that ultimately influences the person exposed to the message.
In other words, you set the scene your audience sees and everything occurs within those set parameters. So in life, anything that occurs is a neutral event and we assign meaning to it depending on our outlook.
So, this was about me learning to rewrite my own limiting beliefs. One of my biggest ones, Different Equals Worse or Bad, was a slippery one to manage.
The thing is, I still have to read my rewrite and remind myself of all the evidence I have discovered to support it. I am saying it is a work in progress. You can’t override 30 years of bad overnight. But here’s how I rewrote this nasty little gem.
She said I wasn’t coachable.
I assigned all sorts of meanings to that, tacking all my insecurities, previous limiting beliefs, and all the people who never believed in me to her statement. It wasn’t a fair thing to do. Her statement may not have intended to carry all of that baggage. Come to think of it, that statement was just that statement. It wasn’t an assault on my character or personal lifestyle choices. It was a statement I should have taken at face value, and if I knew then what I know today, I would have been able to approach unpacking that statement in a fully mature and rational way.
If someone said that same thing to me today, this is how I’d break it down:
Mentor: You’re not coachable.
Me: Your style and my style may not synchronize. That’s okay! We can operate differently and still support one another. How can we work together to use our strengths in a mutually beneficial way?
Mentor: You’re not coachable.
Me: Perhaps I missed a vital lesson. What do you feel I could be doing differently to be successful?
Mentor: You’re not coachable.
Me: I have always felt like I take good direction and I am eager to unpack this one because I’m not sure what made you draw this conclusion. What makes you say I’m not coachable?
It’s important to note that if I was having this exact conversation in the heat of the moment, it would be all the more crucial to keep emotions off the table and approach the situation assuming the best of the other person. Assume good intent. Also notice I used the phrase “what makes you say…” in lieu of “why did you say.” This subtle shift in language keeps the emotional weight on the action, not her merit or character. It’ll make a productive conversation easier.
I can’t go back to that moment and clear the air, but I did begin to rewrite the stories that I attached to that statement. One of them being Different Equals Bad. Once I stopped and looked for evidence in my life to the contrary, all sorts of interesting things emerged from the depths of my memory. I turned feelings of self-loathing, comparison, and stifling the way my brain worked into a productive narrative, backed up with real things from my history that supported it.
TURN THE NEGATIVE INTO AN ADVANTAGE
I was so different that I was forced to become resourceful and scrappy in a way my homogenized classmates didn’t need to learn.
I was so different that I had already written a handful of original works by the time I hit my first lit class.
I was so different that when the script for the Spring Play gave no direction at all, I added blocking that beautifully accented a touching moment. That blocking call was so unique that it earned me a directorship on our all-student film project in Los Angeles.
I was so different that when I developed that department, I self-taught HTML5 and CSS5 coding, Photoshop, learned how to draft proposals and business analysis reports. I learned how to network and work with local vendors and municipal centers. I learned our ballroom’s sound system. The accomplishments at that job are still holding strong on my resume to this day.
I am so different that while all of my family punch a clock, I feel like working for myself is the only way to go.
I could continue with the rewrites. I rewrote my worst narrative until I couldn’t’ think of another single way "being different" was really a positive attribute.
So what that she said I’m not coachable? I’m a multi-passionate person who uses the right and left sides of her brain hemispheres. I see things differently and that keeps my circle from groupthink, it keeps things innovative, and upbeat. I am usually the first to extend grace and a helping hand. I offer compliments like I’m a first-shift server topping off coffee. And I think that’s much better than being coachable.