The reason I’m not homeless after basically taking a year off from writing is that I have been doing a lot of coaching. I say career coaching, but honestly, no one over 30 has a career problem. All problems that look like career problems are really something else.
But the only coaching most people can justify spending $350 on is coaching that will lead to making more money. So people hire me to talk about their career and they realize they do not have a career problem. After talking with me for ten minutes. So with the remaining 50 minutes I do career coaching about non-career problems.
I love talking with the people who call. It takes a smart, curious, brave person to set up a coaching session with me. If you read this blog for even just a tiny bit of time you know there will be no beating around the bush. A lot of people cry. And I tell them, “Don’t worry, a lot of people cry. And anyway, I have Aspergers so I can just ignore it.”
Well. If they want me to. Or I can express empathy. But for sure no one is signing up for a coaching session because they heard I’m great with empathy.
I get lonely. I spend all day with my kids. They say interesting things, like, “Mom, why are you so forgiving to everyone in your life? I think you have Stockholm Syndrome.” But in spite of that, or maybe because of that, I need to talk to adults; I need to talk to someone who I don’t cook dinner for.
Actually, I have had a few people over for dinner and in-person coaching. They begged, so I tried it once, and I liked it. I charged double. That might be why I liked it. But it’s fun to cook dinner and talk about someone’s life.
I coach a lot of people at Google, and sometimes I keep in touch. One of those people is a woman who recently had a baby and is trying to figure out what path to take moving forward. Google is not particularly family friendly. Of course they say they are family friendly, but there are no people at Google moving up the ladder while being the parent in charge of young kids. There are people moving up the ladder with a stay at home spouse, or a team of nannies.
Anyway, this woman I am corresponding with is obsessed with what other people are doing with their kids. I get that. I am always looking around at who is doing what so that I can do it that way, too. But when you spend your whole life competing – in school for grades, then at work for titles and for money — and then you have a baby, it’s disorienting when you start looking for the competition.
She has found the alternative ways parents who cannot compete at work can continue to measure themselves in order to find external validation. For example, sleeping through the night (nice for parents; irrelevant for the future happiness of a child) or getting into the right preschool (this woman has discovered schools don’t like to take kids with IQs higher than 130 because they are too much trouble to deal with).
Anyway, I confess that I love the information she digs up, but I think it’s messed up that she’s obsessed with finding another way to compete. And, on top of that, I think I am aiding and abetting in her misguided attempts to find another way to get external validation now that she has a kid. I feel like a heroin dealer. Every time she brings me fascinating data, I tell her she is fascinating, and then she does more.
Being a new mom is lonely – you don’t really have a solid new identity to hold on to, and you don’t really have any mom friends yet. New mom life is a life unmoored. I think probably she is just lonely and she deals with loneliness by seeking external validation.
Not that I, too, do not want to be fascinating. I want you to think I’m fascinating. But in the sort of trusted friend kind of way, or at least trusted paid friend so that you’d want to talk to me but you’d know that if you paid for a coaching session I would not divulge everything about you, like I am in this post.
Well, I am not divulging everything. I mean, there are thousands of women who fit this profile. But the truth is I asked her before I wrote about her, and she’s thrilled because she wants to be doing something that matters.
I have found that the most messed up people I coach are the ones who most need external validation. Another interesting thing: all S types need external validation. They care about rules and duty and want admiration that they are approaching those important markers with competence. They want acknowledgment for doing the right thing.
But I don’t coach many S types. They are concrete thinkers and not particularly interested in analyzing themselves or planning the future. People who I coach want to make sure they have a plan that will allow them to self-actualize. S types won’t even read this paragraph. They will get to self-actualize, quit reading, and go to the gym. Or the garden. Depending.
So I coach N types and you can imagine, the NTs do not give a shit what anyone thinks of them. I am like, the most insecure NT in the history of the universe, and I still let you guys write in the comments section that I’m a narcissist idiot and I’m destroying my children. So really, trust me that NTs do not need external validation.
This leaves the NFs. I coach mostly NFs and their number-one problem, no matter how old or what stage of life they are in, they want external validation. But the people NFs want external validation from are the NTs and the NTs don’t care about anyone enough to give them validation. This is not to say that NTs do not give praise. We do. In order to move things along. And, for the most part, we are horrified when someone thinks we need external validation from them.
So I coach NFs about how to not be so concerned about external validation and just do their life. The people who have the hardest time doing this, by the way, are INFJs, because they are reticent to admit how much they seek external validation; you can’t solve a problem if you don’t admit it’s there.
Still, my favorite people to coach are INFJs. Because they know so much about everyone but they have big blind spots about themselves. And, as someone with Aspergers, I have a good understanding of the blind spot thing. A blind spot means you don’t know you have a blind spot, so when someone tells you something is off, it’s mind-blowing.
For an Aspergerian (is that a word?) it’s mind-blowing to hear, for example, that people care if their socks match. I mean, now it’s not mind-blowing, but when I was not matching socks, it just never ever occurred to me that people care. It’s so much work for so little reward. That was my thinking.
The corollary for an INFJ is they are shocked to hear that half the world does not care about values. The INFJ feels they are winning the competition for living life according to one’s values. So they are shocked to hear that the rest of the world isn’t even in the competition.
For the INFJ it’s not enough to live according to their values. They want to be recognized and respected for that. The INFJ will say, “Everyone wants respect.” Then they will be shocked to hear that is not true.
We spend so much time trying to find out what the game is, and find the rules, and then win. School is like that, and money is like that, but for the most part, the rest of life is not. So the hardest thing in life is to get an internal compass that allows you to measure yourself against your own values and your own goals. You have to find your own, internal way to validate your choices in life.
I, for example, do not want your respect. I just want you to read to the end of this post so that I feel like I had a conversation. Because it’s midnight and I don’t have a call lined up from Australia tonight, so I’m lonely.