Rock in sea

When I Realised I Was Part of the Problem

Imagine this picture as a metaphor with the rock, representing a strong person – never moving, always there, fully dependable etc, surrounded by deep choppy waters, representing life with its uncertainties and challenges.

If you were struggling, would you be tempted to cling to this rock? Or would you build your own strength, learn to swim and swim in your own direction?

Herein lies a problem; when a leaders’ strength, often a source of great inspiration, turns into a blockage for growth. If this is this case, instead of encouraging someone to swim away from the rock, a better solution might be to remove the rock so that the only response is to learn to swim.

Recognising this in my life, has prompted me to tell my personal story in the hope of inspiring parents, and indeed leaders in any capacity, to reflect on how you could also be hindering (albeit unintentionally) the growth of those you lead and support.

Over the last two years my teenage daughter has been struggling significantly with anxiety, depression and dissociation.

Yes, there have been significant extenuating circumstances – a pandemic with lockdowns & other social restrictions, moving schools in the middle of a pandemic and long COVID to name a few, as well as the usual challenges experienced during teenage years such as raging hormones, peer pressure, social awkwardness, brain fog etc.

However, her ability to cope with these events, be resilient  and work through them, in spite of lots of love, support and guidance, has lessened progressively throughout this period.

Why is that?

We have always had an open, loving and strong relationship. Throughout this period she has shared her thoughts and feelings, we have talked constantly, sought advice and tried numerous strategies from alternative practices such as hypnosis and negative energy clearing with white sage (which made the house smell of stuffing!) to more mainstream practises such as doctors, neurologists and counselling – with limited success. 

One day, at a particularly low point, we agreed we needed a different approach – what could we do that might provide an energetic jolt out of this rut and reverse the negative spiral she found herself experiencing? 

At first we tinkered with changes like swapping bedrooms and borrowing friends’ dogs as stand in therapy dogs but sensed a need for something more – something where I wasn’t there as a ‘go to’ remedy for her – to offload, receive comfort and get a short term burst of ‘oxygen’.

We realised I was part of the problem…

She felt ‘helpless’ and ‘powerless’ to recover. To build her ‘own power’ she realised she needed to unplug from ‘my power’ (something that, for her, was difficult when I was physically present). Unwittingly, I was stopping her from growing and building her own self-belief, strength and resilience.

And here’s the start of her road to recovery…

With the support of family, she moved in with my brother, his twin 9 year olds and dog. This meant longer school journeys and a need to be more self-sufficient, both physically and emotionally.

That was a few weeks ago, and whilst there is a way to go, this did create the shift she needed and the opportunity to build her resilience and rely on herself. She is gradually building skills and getting stronger, and is starting to look forward to life beyond school, something that only a few months ago triggered just despair and more angst.

The point of this story…

This approach is not necessarily right for all, or is even an option – we are incredibly fortunate and very grateful to my brother. Everyone’s journey is different

However, to live a life of success, happiness and fulfilment, we all need to believe in ourselves and have the ability and strength to overcome life’s challenges.

And as parents, educators, leaders and influencers of others we need to ensure we provide opportunities for others to develop these skills and step aside (and sometimes remove ourselves completely!) to allow this to happen.

I hope our story has inspired you. If this has resonated with you and you would like to discuss anything please get in touch with me at [email protected]

Take care x

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