For many of us, the most effective way to approach a problem is by analyzing it. It brings us comfort and a sense of control. When I recognized that my Ghost of the Good Girl was haunting me daily, I knew she needed a name.
My Ghost is named Patty Sue. (I’m cringing as I write this. My great-aunt Lee was the only one who called me this as a child – short for Patricia Susan. I hated it then, and I hate it now, but it’s the perfect name for my Good Girl Ghost.)
I started breaking down the thoughts and questions Patty Sue kept bringing up, and I evaluated the effects this thinking was having on my actions. The following “conversation” is a great example.
Patty (the Good Girl): “I’ve completed a twelve-week writing clinic where we carefully crafted an offer for our specific audience. I was focused and committed to the process, and I developed an awesome program. I did this ‘right’ and got a great outcome. My time, energy, and money were wisely spent. Yay, me!”
Patty Sue (my Ghost): “Good work, Patty, but you’re not done yet! There is way more to achieve. The next logical step – and what you should do – is set up a big launch and get this program out to your audience as fast as possible. This needs to be your number-one priority!”
Patty Sue does have a point. In many ways, a big launch does seem like the logical next step. She’s pushing, pushing, pushing – because that’s what The Ghost of the Good Girl does.
I have to admit I fell into this insidious trap and believed her. After all, Patty Sue’s been a constant voice in my head all my life. She’s persuasive, and her sense of urgency is very real.
The minute I finished the writing clinic, I went into action mode. I built a web page for the offer, started talking with trusted colleagues about promotions, and planned my schedule with the recurring program dates.
All those steps felt like real progress, but there was something nagging in the back of my mind.
Every day, I was feeling less motivated, more exhausted, more pressured, and more depressed. I was rearranging my schedule, so I could nap.
And then a wise colleague reminded me of a truth I already knew: I was out of alignment.
Every year, I plan what I want my business to achieve, and I follow those priorities closely. That plan keeps my thoughts and actions aligned and focused on what is most important. It also reduces my stress, because I don’t feel pressured or derailed.
I can adjust the plan at any point, but the foundation is based on one essential ingredient that Patty Sue was missing: What do I really want?
Believing Patty Sue, I tumbled down the proverbial hill of “shoulds.” I started climbing back up that hill toward my plan by reminding myself of what I “want.”
The troublesome factor that led to repetitive napping was more about timing than anything else. Adjusting my plans to include the new program wasn’t a problem. Building the program wasn’t a problem. Launching the program wasn’t a problem.
Feeling pressured and stressed was the problem – and running my business with less stress and pressure is the bedrock of my plan.
High achievers want results. We want proof we did the thing “right,” the best, or first. We are often competitive and disciplined, but we also tend to complicate things and put undue pressure on ourselves.
In high school, I worked hard to be the first-chair flute. First-chair meant being recognized as the “best” and earning the privilege of playing the piccolo, a tiny flute that is notoriously difficult to play. A band or orchestra can only have one piccolo player because the music is so high-pitched the audience can hear it over all the other instruments.
If you’ve ever heard John Philip Sousa’s patriotic American march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” you’ve heard a piccolo. I spent many, many hours of my teen life perfecting this anthem.
Good Girls prove our value through accomplishment and feel a great sense of purpose. We appreciate recognition from others, but it’s the validation that drives us. Craving this significance and validation meant I had to work hard, make sacrifices, remain disciplined, and perform flawlessly. It also meant feeling pressured to compete, not let anyone down, meet my deadlines, and juggle my other responsibilities.
If that sounds familiar – whether it was music, dance, sports, or academics – you’ve experienced the internal and external pressures to perform at the highest level.
I wanted to play the flute and piccolo, be an accomplished musician, and excel in school. Meanwhile, Patty Sue was whispering all the “shoulds” in my ear.
She was pushing, pushing, pushing – because that’s what the Ghost does:
After decades of this dynamic, we plunge into business ownership, bringing with us our ability to achieve and our need for validation. And the pushing continues.
In business, we are time pressured, performance pressured, management pressured, and results pressured. Many of these pressures are self-imposed and unrealistic.
When was the last time you promised something to a client and underestimated the time it would take to deliver? You promised three weeks and were panicking by week two. How many times have you committed to a particular approach only to find you weren’t getting the results you expected? You were mortified, hating to admit you may have made a mistake and needed to change course.
You pride yourself on solving problems in your business on your own. It feels like you’re being self-sufficient and independent, but you don’t know what you don’t know. How do you know you’re not making a terrible mistake?
Your goal, like mine, is to deliver excellent results. All. The. Time.
Regardless of the time, performance, or management issues; regardless of our self-imposed, unrealistic expectations; regardless of our fears and doubts – we deliver. That is a source of pride and validation, but it takes a toll on our well-being. Much like eating only the broken cookies, it can leave us living on crumbs.
Self-compassion and setting realistic expectations are the first steps to overcoming the problem of pressure.
Running your business on your own terms means determining the timing of all activities, aligned with what you want instead of your Ghost’s push for the “shoulds.”
-- Excerpt from Patty’s book, Your Hidden Advantage: Unlock the Power to Attract Right-fit Clients and Boost Your Revenue
Do you struggle with The Good Girl’s Dilemma, feeling haunted by The Ghost of the Good Girl? I'd love to hear what you think. I read and respond to every email personally.
P.S. Are you giving 'invisible' discounts to prospects who didn't ask for them? The anxiety you feel when talking with a potential client leaks out when you slash your price because you're afraid you'll lose the opportunity if you don't.
I’ve broken down exactly why this 'discount dilemma' happens in an exclusive training called The Value Equation, which you can get for FREE by signing up for the bonuses that are companion pieces for my book, Your Hidden Advantage.
Business advisor, pricing expert, and bestselling author, Patty Block empowers women business owners to turn up their power by shifting their mindset, attracting right-fit clients, and boosting their revenue to achieve a more profitable future. Isn't it time to run your business with more confidence, profit, and joy?
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