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Meeting Disaster With Presence and a Growth Mindset

Use challenging experiences as a gateway into seeing who you really are.

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Apr 25, 2024
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Last updated on Apr 22, 2024

And in that moment, I was paralyzed and wrenched with pure fear.

You would think in reading the prior statement, I was describing an attack by a sabertooth tiger but the reality of the situation was quite different. 

This was me about eleven years ago. I sat frozen in a room full of people with all eyes on me, waiting patiently for me to say something. I couldn’t. I remember my mind racing but yet at the same time racing nowhere with no ability to string together a coherent thought let alone a phrase. I remember feeling isolated and completely alone.

But then luckily for me, the person next to me spoke up and said something like, I think what Michelle is saying is yada, yada, yada. 

The situation was this. I had been in the middle of presenting to a group of executives, a pitch for the company’s business. I had led the entire initiative and prep for this presentation. I knew the content of what I was pitching inside and out but in that moment, it didn’t help or matter. 

So, what happened? 

On the train back from New York to Albany I searched the internet for all possibilities of what could have caused this disaster. Although there were many returns, one of them being a possible brain tumor, I landed on a panic attack/anxiety and booked an appointment with an Energy Psychologist. 

The point of this story is not the realization of a panic attack nor the experience of being treated by an Energy Psychologist although I learned a lot. Instead this story takes a turn because of the internal work I was doing. Instead of adding another notch to the belt of my inner critic, the work I was doing asked me to look at and feel directly into the pain, shame and unworthiness. It asked me to not run away from, ignore or to hide but to instead use this experience as another gateway into seeing who I really am. And that’s precisely what I did.

It has taken a lot of reading, learning and putting those learnings into practice to even get to a point of being able to put a label on the work I was doing. I didn’t know I was becoming a mindful person until I was and I didn’t know how challenging it would be to practice being mindful until I knew. And I didn’t know how powerful it could feel to get to know who I am and what really matters until I did. 

We did indeed win the work we had pitched that day and I did indeed listen to and act upon on what was being asked of me. I learned that what had happened was the result of me focusing completing and utterly on me, the words coming out of my mouth, what I would say next, and on how I was being viewed by the people in the room. I learned that I held a misguided belief professing I wasn’t as smart as everyone else in the room manifested through a core belief of unworthiness. I learned that it didn’t matter what I knew or how much prep I’d done ahead of this meeting because of the mind and body conditioning caused by believing I was less than.  

I learned that practicing presence is game changing and over time learned that I really am as smart as everyone else in the room and gained the wisdom to know that even when I’m not, I am fully and happily present.

When have you experienced something similar? What was the result?  What did you learn? How did or could the practice of mindfulness influence or change the outcome? 

To learn more about Michelle and the GULF program, see her website, sign up for her newsletter and join the Monthly Mindfulness Women’s Community. Note- The perspective and views contained in this piece are solely those of Michelle Dray and do not represent those of her employer.

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