Cathy is a talented Human Resources executive whose greatest accomplishment will, I think, resonate with many women. When I asked Cathy what she sees as her most significant achievement since getting divorced, here’s what she had to say…
I’ve been separated for over two years now and if you had asked me a year ago I would have said my biggest accomplishment was all the house maintenance. It was all practical stuff but really, it didn’t take very long for me to figure it out. Now I would say my biggest accomplishment is coming to terms with what I bring to the world, recognizing my greatness – the special gifts I have and being able to talk about them.
I recognize now that I am good at being able to listen to people, to help them work through situations and maybe help them to see a different perspective than they would have seen it previously. I don’t think it’s because I’m particularly brilliant or insightful but I do have an ability to ask the questions to help someone search within themselves for the right answer or for an answer that’s right for them.
It’s odd because I’ve always done coaching or counseling work but I’ve never felt before that I was really good at it. I think there are several reasons why it’s been hard for me to embrace these skills. I think society in general doesn’t really value these types of skills: they’re more soft skills, more feminine skills. However, after my husband and I separated, I also changed my job and my new employer really values these talents. I’m fortunate to have an executive coach who has helped me recognize that coaching is a talent I have and she helps me see how I can use that talent on a daily basis. My boss also tells me explicitly that I bring value to the company by coaching employees to see their own greatness, helping them to learn how to manage people in a different way and understanding who they are.
I can see now that I downplayed those skills while I was married. My ex didn’t value them and I definitely didn’t value them myself. Very early on in our relationship, I was required to go to therapy – my brother had passed away – my ex pooh poohed it and thought it was ridiculous, a waste of time and I bought into that. Ironically, I was actually working as a counselor for victims of domestic violence at the time.
Later on, when my ex was considering leaving the marriage, I suggested we go to counseling and his response was ‘you know I can’t handle people like that.’ I thought about that and realized ‘that’s me. I’m people like that. That’s what I do for a living, that’s what I value and that’s what I think is important.’ That for me was a big turning point both in accepting that my marriage was over and in coming to embrace my people skills as a valuable talent.
I also think as women, we’re not taught to talk about what we’re good at and so it is intimidating if we’re put on the spot. Even though I’ve been through all this, I still get a little tongue-tied when someone asks me what I’m good at. Men seem like they can do it with no problem. Now, I try to see it as not being egotistical. It’s just a statement – it’s what you love doing. After all, if a key part of my work now is helping other people recognize their gifts and how great they are, I absolutely need to be able to express that about myself.
Cathy’s accomplishment is a pivotal lesson in the importance of surrounding yourself with people who value and celebrate your gifts. That applies to every sphere of your life – work, love, play. Are there talents and strengths you’ve celebrated since getting divorced? What new paths have they lead you down?
Come back tomorrow to find out what helped Cathy realize she was really good at coaching.