Lettuce in your teeth and other Premier problems

From Deb Rae, Deb Rae Solutions

I was working for an organisation where my role was to advocate to the government about housing needs in my community. I managed to get a seat at a state-wide housing forum in the capital city. I prepared really well – I knew all the key issues for my town and what message to get across at the forum.

I didn’t know anyone else at the forum – they were mostly mayors, property developers and politicians, including the State Premier. I listened and barely talked in the morning session, then went to have lunch by myself. Halfway through my salad sandwich, I heard someone say my name and I turned around to see the State Premier talking to me. I literally froze, with my sandwich halfway to my mouth. But my mind was racing!

Why was the Premier talking to me? What could I say to make me sound really clever? OMG, have I got lettuce in my teeth?

While this is all happening in my head, I could see the Premier’s lips moving, but I had no idea what she was saying. I just heard the end bit when she said “What do you think about that for your town Deb?”

And I said “Umm…”

There was a long awkward silence. Then someone important looking interrupted, whispered something and the Premier had to leave.

I had prepared for hours, travelled 1000km, was approached by the one person who could really make things happen for my community, and I said “Umm…”

Why hadn’t I just been myself and said what I really thought?

I eventually realised that in this interaction with the Premier, I wasn’t REALLY THERE. I didn’t even hear what she was saying. I was too busy having my own conversation with myself, in my head. In fact, I completely ignored the Premier and focused only on myself. Would I sound clever? Was any lettuce in my teeth?

I discovered that when I focused just on myself, I amplified all my fears. A great analogy of this is a torch, (check it out in this Marie Forleo video). When you shine the torch on yourself, all that gets seen is you. And it’s not a good version of you! You look grey and old in the torchlight. And everyone can see up your nose!

When you shine the torch outwards though, you see other people who have their own stories to share. Or you can shine the torch on any topic you want to focus on.

The torch can only shine on one thing at a time – the topic, the other person or yourself. Your brain is the same. You can’t focus on your own anxiety AND the topic of conversation at the same time – you have to choose one or the other.

You’ve probably done this before. Think of a time when you had to stand up for your kids. Or you were telling someone about something you really believe in. In those times, you don’t care about anything else, including yourself. You could be sweating with nerves and feel sick with worry but you’d barely notice. The torch is focused on your child or your passion, not you. Your brain is too busy helping your child and getting your message across to take any notice of your anxiety.

You can do this every day. When you feel the anxiety start to rise, take a second to take your focus off yourself. Then decide where you really want your torch to shine.

And you’ll never worry about talking with your State Premier or lettuce in your teeth again.