What does your “elephant” look like? He’s not sitting in the middle of the room; the form that everyone ignores or steps over. I would venture to guess that yours is not a literal interpretation resembling a Disneyesque version of Dumbo. This is a much more sophisticated and metaphorical form. It could be anything from a strong image to something more symbolic of the things/beliefs that may be holding you back. Early on we take in information that supports us as well as that which can be central to stopping us. For example, the screaming parent of the 5-year old who blocked you from riding your bicycle into the street may be behaving very appropriately. In this example, she was acting in the interest of your safety. To extrapolate from that incident that you are not trustworthy or it is never safe to ride a bicycle in the street or that you make poor decisions or even that you can never master a skill appropriately…that is the trap. Conversely, if the message you take forward as an adult is that there is a learning curve and it may be different for all of us, you may be more patient with yourself and with others. Taking proper safety precautions might include scheduling lessons with an instructor or ensuring that a facility is licensed. If you have limited your physical activities for fear of being injured or you lack confidence in your athletic abilities, it’s time to check in with your closet elephant again. Keep in mind that he/she may be very convincing; that in fact its presence is all for the sake of protecting you. While the intention is not in and of itself malicious, it is very keen to maintain the status quo, and that is not in your best interest.
If your elephant is still in the closet:
• Stop taking peeks
• Open the door
• Coax him/her out with a handful of peanuts
Oftentimes, the simple act of bravely confronting what you deem to be so uncomfortable is a huge step in calming the messages down. In my case, the day prior to any speaking engagement is the time when I hope the organization will call to cancel. It is reminiscent of school days and praying for a snowstorm. In the beginning, these thoughts took longer to manage, but after years of doing the work that I love, speaking to groups, those feelings no longer hold the power they once did. In fact, I often smile noting that they are something to acknowledge and release; not unlike an old friend checking in on my evolving growth. As you too reframe, adapt and adjust, that elephant will take up so much less room in the closet that you may actually be able to use it for storage.