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  • Aaron Zaslofsky

Hiding from myself – in work and life

Last Thursday was 235 days in the making.

It was September 12, 2022 – the day the blindest of blind spots was revealed to me. It was the day a seemingly innocuous comment was shared by the master coach responsible for reviewing a coaching session of mine. I’d had the experience previously of a coach viewing my work and providing a critique. So, I expected her to share areas where I could improve and others where I managed the session well. Instead, she opened our conversation with this:

“Aaron, you appear confident, articulate, and strong – not someone who outwardly appears to need help.”

I was floored. Asking for help has been a lifelong struggle of mine, along with sharing my vulnerabilities with others. These are only a few personal struggles on a looooong list.

So, as someone dedicated to the growth and development of others, I took note of the comment exactly as I would have recommended to a client. Then I circled the verbatim, put a star next to it, and also an exclamation point. The rest of the day was entirely unremarkable.

Fast forward to October 27, which was 45 days later. I was having lunch with a friend and something in our conversation prompted me to share the coach’s comment a month and a half previous.

After I shared the coach’s critique – and profound impact on how I now saw myself – my friend asked if she could share some feedback with me. The way she asked told me she had something I really needed to hear. I’ll paraphrase:

“Aaron, when we sat down for lunch you started our conversation like you always do. You were quick to ask about me and some of the personal struggles I’ve shared with you. I’m a pretty private person so after a few minutes of talking, I asked about you. I wanted a break from talking about some painful moments in my life and tried to turn the conversation toward you. You responded by saying ‘we’ll get to me in a bit.’ Then you proceeded to dive deeper into the issues I didn’t want to talk about any longer. A few minutes later, you did the same thing again.”

My intention was to show concern for my friend and the personal struggles she was going through. The impact my questions had was to make her feel exposed and uncomfortable. I know this because she told me how my overeager probing had made her feel.

This whole interaction over a Cuban sandwich stemmed from the assessment the coach provided a few weeks prior. My lunch friend likely felt the door was open for feedback since I had shared the coach’s comment to me about not appearing to need help. My friend knew I needed help in another area and I’m grateful to her for telling me a hard truth.

Upon deep reflection and journaling, I connected the coach’s comment and that of my friend. The common thread was the over-emphasis I place on the life experience of others – whether a coaching client or a friend. For the first time in my life, I discovered that approaching conversations this way allowed me to hide my own vulnerabilities. If I’m always deferential and focused on others, I never have to share of myself and the not-so-good in my life.

On top of that, it suddenly made sense that someone with my tendencies would choose coaching as a profession because it’s one where I not only can withhold myself (to an extent) but should in-service of my client. It’s their show, not mine. That’s what I had always told myself but now see the folly in this former mindset.

The blind spots, reflection, and subsequent changes to how I show vulnerability culminated over lunch with a different good friend last Thursday. Over tacos, I caught myself thinking about making a comment about myself, which came out as a question for my friend. (Read the last line again.) As soon as it left my mouth, I knew what I had done. With that split-second realization, I told my friend what had just happened inside me and changed my question of him to a revealing comment about myself. I showed vulnerability and progress toward shifting a pattern that has held me back in life.

Decades in the making. 235 days later.

P.S., To the three wonderful people who aided in the deeper understanding I now have of myself, thank you. My list of blind spots is now just a little bit shorter.

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