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As a professional coach, I have the kinds of conversations that you wish your best friend was trained and willing to have with you: highly intuitive, no bullshit, and consistently relating to you as your best self.

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What Are You Trying to Prove?

Do you ever get the sense that you have something to prove? That you’re smart enough. Experienced enough. Capable enough. Qualified enough. That despite your achievements, you still have to prove your worth. If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading. We’ll unpack why some of us are stuck in the proving loop, AND identify what we can do to get ourselves out. Why? Because you things to do, people to love, and a purpose to serve.

p.s. If you’d rather listen than read, click below.

Especially if you fall into the high achiever camp, you are not typically consciously aware of trying to prove something. You’re churning out results, and moving on to the next project, and climbing the next rung up the ladder and receiving the latest accolade, and that’s just a typical day for you. That’s your “normal.” You’re just going about your life and job as usual, not actively thinking about trying to prove something. Yet, for some of you, in addition to being a naturally inclined achiever with a ton of drive, you may also have a little bit of proving yourself that’s influencing how you show up. It could be that under the surface, thinking you have something to prove is a subversive belief that’s driving some of your high achieving thoughts and behaviors. 

So: how do you know, why does it matter, and what is it we’re trying so hard to prove, anyway? 

Let’s tackle why it matters, first. When I’m trying to prove something, I am inherently coming from a disempowered place. I am assuming there is something deficient about me that I’m trying to overcome, and am employing proving as a strategy to try and “fix” my perceived deficiency, which only serves to solidify that there’s something wrong that needs fixing. Said another way: if there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing to prove. 

Now, on to how to spot it. 

Proving can show up in so many ways, and can look  different for different people. listen for what sounds familiar to you:

  • Working on overdrive to the point of burnout, so everyone knows you can the most and do the best.
  • Not clarifying expectations because you don’t want to ask too many questions because what if your boss thinks you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Re-doing work you’ve already done just to be sure you “got it right.”
  • Spending entirely too much time on projects so everyone will know you know what you’re doing.
  • Defending yourself to your colleagues, rather than trusting yourself enough not to have to defend.
  • Not taking the full extent of your PTO in case your colleagues think you don’t work hard enough or aren’t available for your team.
  • Staying in a high status role you don’t actually feel connected with, because you think it’s what you think your parents or partner expects of you.

What are we trying so hard to prove, anyway? Maybe you’re trying to prove that you are:

Smart enough. 

Experienced enough.

Capable enough.

Qualified enough.

That you ARE enough, and that your enoughness is contingent on what you do, rather than who you are. 

That you deserve to be here.

To whom are you trying to prove yourself?

Male colleagues? Your boss? Your parents? Dead relatives? Maybe you’re striving to prove something to people who don’t even know you. People who have no idea you’re trying to prove something to them. 

What does it get you? Status? Accolades? Acceptance? Burnout? Being on a non-stop hamster wheel where good enough is never enough?

From a linguistic standpoint, “proving” and “approval” sound mighty similar to my ear. It makes sense to me that in trying to prove something, that on a fundamental level, we’re seeking approval. We’re seeking validation that we are ok. That we belong here.

Here’s how I know I’m in proving mode: I feel self-conscious, wondering how others are perceiving me, trying to get everything “right.” I’m focused more on how things appear than simply BEING in the moment, responding with curiosity and creativity. I’m more concerned about the outcome than appreciating the process. Here’s how I know I’m not: I’m present with myself and others. I feel connected and in the moment. In the flow. In what Gay Hendricks calls- in my “zone of genius.” 

When you’re in proving mode, you’re in your head. When you’re able to step beyond proving, you get to access your heart. And from your heart, you have access to creativity. Compassion. Collaboration. You’re able to focus on what you actually intend to focus on or create. And the thing that so many of you are here for: making an impact.

Practices for Shifting Out of Proving Mode

  1. Consider: What if you didn’t have anything to prove? What would become available to you?

2. What would it look like to give yourself your own approval? Right now, as is, without needing to do anything else to earn it?

3. Practice noticing yourself in proving mode. When you create awareness, you create possibility to explore other options.




What Are You Trying to Prove?

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