I’d like to share a post of mine below from July 7, 2010, that still goes to the heart of what I hear in many people concerning their desire for, and fear of, change. “What will I be asked to give up in exchange for moving forward?” Some people fear the loss of approval of people they love; others, the steady income with which they financially support themselves and family; for others, it’s a loss of professional identity, of their selves that others recognize and admire. What is the drive that makes people transcend the fear of such losses? That’s the fascinating story behind all these quests.
“In the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Little Mermaid, Ariel gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for legs . . . Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with change or variety or newness or with improving our condition. The catch is when we are asked to give up our voice in order to move freely, when we are asked to silence what makes us unique in order to be successful.” (Mark Nepo)
I was reading this passage and thinking of clients of mine whose concerns around being professionally successful are really issues about the loss of their voice and of speaking their truths. I wondered, do you really have to give up your voice (the ability to speak your truth) in order to have legs (success and mobility in the world)? That’s an odd condition, I feel, that you would have to exchange one for the other, when, in fact, you need both to make changes that are fulfilling to you.
I’m thinking of one of my clients, a woman in her 50’s who was in a transition from stay-at-home mom to becoming a professional. Her goals in coaching with me were all about becoming successful in her career. Then during one session I commented on the lack of inflection and expressiveness in her voice. I knew she was enthused about her new career direction, so what was this about? I asked her. From this question came a surge of responses from deep within herself that she hadn’t expected, mostly reflecting the way she used to give and do for her family, without questioning what was important to herself. When her youngest child finished high school, she allowed herself to go for a meaningful career, but still found herself giving time and energy to relationships that gave little back to her.
She hadn’t recognized that while she was changing outwardly, she was also changing inwardly-- and that she needed to re-create the conditions of all of her life to move forward in her career path. She needed to create boundaries in certain relationships and become more open in others. She needed to use her voice to claim what mattered to her-- WHILE she used her legs to go forward professionally. Now I can hear in her voice the enthusiasm and engagement she was experiencing in the work she has chosen. She has brought her voice in alignment with her legs and her energy to living a full, rich life of her choice.