board room

Every board of directors has one….

“Dressed in a navy suit, Dr. Blasey Ford maintained her composure throughout the hearing….”

Oh yeah, here we go again.

Really, New York Times?!?

Let’s ignore the fact that Dr. Blasey Ford’s suit has exactly zero to do with the content of the hearings and less than zero with what the takeaways are. (Unless we’re in the fashion industry? Unless we get a description of what the nominee was wearing? Nah, that’s even worse.)

Let’s take a look at “maintained her composure throughout the hearing.”

Clearly important because we women are a hysterical lot, aren’t we?

Oh wait, that would be the privileged white male perspective, the one that still runs our world: women who show emotion are hysterical; men who show emotion are weak.

When written out like that, it seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Surely we’ve moved beyond that?

And yet it’s not surprising—publicly shaming emotions is just the outward version of what we do to ourselves on a regular basis, isn’t it?

emotion shaming

We feel an emotion rising, and our inclination is to suppress it: I shouldn’t feel this way, why do I feel this way, feeling this way is bad, I’m a bad person … and we’re off to the races toward full-blown anxiety about ourselves in the world.

If you’ve ever recognized this tendency in yourself, you know it can be debilitating. As a health coach, I hear a lot about how people are “stuck” and “paralyzed,” and this often comes down to how we approach (or don’t) our feelings, which feelings are allowed to rule our behavior.

who’s on your board of directors?

In a podcast episode by Christine Hassler with Amber Rae, author of Choose Wonder over Worry, Amber talks about viewing our emotions as messengers whose messages for us can only be understood if we stop running from or suppressing them as if they were demons and invite them in for tea, sit them down, and learn from them.

Marilena Minucci has a similar scenario in which she asks us to consider our inner voices (oh yes, we all have them) as our Board of Directors.

board room 2

Now, if you’ve ever been on a board, you know what that’s like: there’s always that one person—the obstructionist—who thinks of every reason something won’t work, isn’t a good idea, etc.

Most members would happily get this person off the board so they could just get. stuff. done.

From my experience on the boards of HOAs and nonprofits, the obstructionist often points out all the possible negatives and slows down progress because s/he views the world from a place of fear and scarcity and negativity (okay, yes, sometimes just because s/he loves to hear him/herself talk).

And usually that person is trying to protect us from something (which may or may not be a real threat).

the board has voted.

And here’s the beauty of this analogy: there are usually a few people on a board, so the obstructionist can be outvoted!

We have a lot of feelings and emotions over the course of a day, and it’s likely that not all of them are what we consider “negative.”

Marilena suggests that when a negative emotion arises around an issue or event, we ask it into the boardroom and hear it out … and then say, “Thanks for your input on this issue. Let’s take a vote on how to proceed. Ah, the board has voted, and we’ve decided not to take your advice.”

board room

what’s the message?

Most often, our “negative” emotions arise when we are triggered—when a situation feels uncomfortable or even unsafe. Worry is in fact a survival mechanism, trying to protect us from uncertainty about the future or the fear that a situation will play out to our detriment because it has happened in the past.

As I wrote last week, our physical health can hit speed bumps and stop signs that are trying to get us to pay attention to what’s not working optimally.

Likewise, fear and anxiety are symptoms that we are not paying attention to what’s not working on an emotional level.

Are we trying to shut that obnoxious board member up by force, allowing him/her to take over our board meeting, or inviting him/her in, listening to the message, and allowing learning to take place on all sides?

Is there really reason to heed the warning and come to a full stop, or can we proceed with caution over the emotional speed bumps?

Each situation will be different, and being aware that all of our emotions get a vote can make our personal “board of directors” better do their job of oversight and support of our emotional health.

Who is your obnoxious board member (fear? shame? anger? lack of self-confidence?), and what’s the message s/he’s trying to give you?


  1. Cyndi

    My obnoxious board member is Resistance which immediately activates Frustration which then brings on Guilt. I encounter these three during a weekly phone call I have with an older friend who insists on giving advice on all aspects of my life, my parents’ life, my siblings’ lives and my partner’s life. LOL…I haven’t stopped to consider why I resist all her suggestions nor why I get so frustrated with her; it just makes me feel guilty that she drives me nuts after just a few minutes on the phone. She has been this way for years and I’m just trying to bring her a little joy every week by calling. She often does have good ideas but it takes me a few days to get to the point where I can acknowledge it. I will try to pause and look at Resistance/Frustration/Guilt, acknowledge the cycle and DELETE so I can move on.

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      Oh yeah—Resistance is a big one. I love that you’re poking at it…and at Frustration and Guilt as well!

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