Having coached hundreds of people over the years I know the value of having mentors, and in your corner when making lifestyle changes. In his book Hidden Potential, Adam Grant says, “The expectations others hold of us often become self fulfilling prophesies.” When we absorb the expectations around us, those expectations can become our own internal dialogue, even if the dialogue is untrue.

When I was a girl, I gravitated towards sports and positions involving strength because I was told by my “supporters” and peers that I was strong, not graceful, or fast. Conversely I was being told by folks around me and the media of the time, that I was too strong, too bulky, too big. I will never forget my Nonno pointing out my double chin, or the comparisons with my smaller younger sister. There were two things going on here with me, looking back. One was that is was easier to do the things I was innately good at that included my given power and strength. Conversely I was hyper aware of my “too big-ness”, ashamed, wishing, and scheming on ways to shrink my body. Because these two ways of being (strong and small) were very hard to maintain concurrently for me I often found myself living up to others low expectations of me, this is called the Golem effect, which is exactly how it feels if you are familiar with Tolkens’ iconic Lord of the Rings Character Gollum (although it’s a different name and attribution).

I struggled with that duality long into my 30’s, when I finally learned to embrace what I was good at, but also truly find self acceptance in the things I sucked at. I had been holding others expectations so tightly I failed to see that I was the one who’s expectations really mattered and that I ultimately got to choose where I put the energy and excelled. I responded to this with anger, and isolation initially. I told all my naysayers to “suck it” and I used that negativity to channel energy into achievements, all-by-my-self.

The big example of this for me was running, I was told I would never be good at it as a child. I started small and grew my running until I was competing in half marathon distance obstacle course races, and then I even dabbled in straight running races, something I never envisioned myself doing. But in my experience, anger can only take you so far, before it starts to degrade that very foundation it may have helped you build. And, isolation is, well, isolating. It gets lonely when you have no community, no one to share your wins, and struggles with.

I do less and less running these days, partially because, I just don’t love it currently, but also because I realized I was fueled by anger in it’s pursuit. Not self love, not self belief, or self acceptance. Yes, I improved tremendously, I could even call myself a runner, but my heart was no longer in it because I had become more aware of what I do love. I love the outdoors, and a love training, especially weight training. Competing, not so much. I loved the camaraderie and community of team sports, but it was all about my peers, and a few trusted mentors.

In my years as a competitive athlete I had some mentors and coaches who really did believe in me and give me the support I needed to improve. But, I also had many who said things I carried for years that did not support my growth. I once had a coach tell me I ran like I had a piano on my back. How did I make the switch from holding all those outside expectations and making them a reality? One choice at a time. I decided to release the expectations and ask myself what I really wanted, no one else. I decided to release the anger that was eating away at my achievements and sense of well being. And I decided that I had a choice, of who I listened to, who I allowed to be around me, and I got to work on cleaning up my relationships and setting boundaries with those that needed it.

As a child I did not get to decide who my coaches, community, and mentors were. Even as a collegiate athlete I did not yet know I had the choice. So I am here to tell you, you have a choice! You get to decide who you trust to give you constructive feedback. But how? Adam Grant says they should be the following;

  1. Care – They should about you and your desired outcomes.
  2. Credibility – Trusted and believable, but also educated, and experienced
  3. Familiarity – Close to you, relatable and relaxed rapport.

You get to decide who fulfills these credentials, and not only do you get to choose, but you must seek them out to offer the support for your growth. They may be closer than you think already. That choosing is so important because of what this person or community can provide to you support wise. Will they build you up and offer you tools and resources, challenge you in effective ways, or will they motivate you with anger and self depreciation? Once I realized that the reason I excelled in team sports despite my nay-saying coaches, was because it was bigger than me, my team mates were relying on me, I was able to put the pieces together.

Having a person or persons who is looking up to or relaying on your success will drive you. Using nay-sayers as a source of fuel will drive you. And having a trusted mentor to give it to you straight will provide the support you need for growth. We can flip the Golem effect on it’s head by surrounding ourselves with high expectations, folks who believe you will success! Which by the way is called the Pygmalion effect.

My own personal goal in exploring my hidden potential is to be more uncomfortable, and writing these thoughts and putting them into the world are part of that commitment to myself. Because I know all of you are reading it drives me to be more focused, and apply these concepts in useful ways! So thank you for being part of that process. I hope you will join me in the Empowered Community, tell me your experience with others expectations. Are there any holding you back now?


Coach Christine

Share This Story!

christine meditating on outdoor patio

Share This Story!