What does your 8 Year Old Self think of you?
I was in Zurich airport last Thursday at the end of an intensive leadership development programme when one of my colleagues, Gillian, asked me a question:
“Tell me the first 3 words/phrases that come to mind that best describe how you see the world?” “Full of adventure, extraordinary, tough,” I responded.
Gillian then explained the meaning behind this psychological game: the words we choose describe who we are in ourselves, i.e. our inner self influences how we perceive the world.
The next day I was given the film: ‘The Kid’ (starring Bruce Willis, directed by Jon Turteltaub, 2000). It’s about a highly successful image consultant, Rusty, who is within 2 days of his 40th birthday when he meets up with his 8-year-old self who is very unimpressed with the ‘loser’ he has become: “No wife, no kids, no dog and a job where you help people lie about who they really are so they can pretend to be someone else.” The film is both poignant and funny as Rusty has to, literally, face himself and his values and change his life before it is too late.
Synchronistically, one of the assignments I give my coaching clients is: ‘Write a letter from the person you are now to the child you were at 8. Tell yourself what has happened in your life and who you have become.’
It has been a beautifully sunny weekend here in London and I have given myself the time and space to reflect. As I walked around Kensington Gardens I thought about the words I had used to describe the world: ‘full of adventure, extraordinary and tough’. I asked my 8-year-old self what she thought and this is what emerged:
If my 8-year-old had met my 39-year-old she would have felt ok about what I was doing but she would have been disappointed with the woman I had become. I had become very dutiful, over-controlling, fearful and was stuck in a victim mentality. I had also stopped dancing and writing, both childhood passions of mine. I’m not sure my 8-year-old would have liked me very much.
Life throws us many curve balls and I have since been forced to stop and face myself, making choices that have brought great change. It has not been an easy path and I have experienced many tough times as I have consciously changed from my ‘Adapted’ to ‘Authentic Self’. But, and this is what makes my heart sing, I increasingly experience the world as extraordinary and full of adventure. I would hope that if my 8-year-old met me now she would be happy enough with the ‘what’ and the ‘who’ I am becoming. Above all I think she would want to dance with me!
So how about giving yourself time over the next few days to reconnect with your own 8-year-old self? Remember what you were like and what you loved to do. And then choose one thing your 8-year-old would love and just do it!