Leadership Inside Out

Issue 14

What was I thinking?

January 26, 2024

I had a recent aha moment about psychological safety and the ways I was disrupting it for myself. You might be doing this too…

“Psychological safety” is an academic term I first learned of while studying for my masters degree in Learning & Organizational Change.

It is a necessary ingredient for learning and organizational health.

When we talk about “safety” we need to remember that it is a feeling (in our body), not cognitively held (in our thoughts). Do you feel more safe in a car on the highway or in a plane during turbulence? We know the stats, but that doesn’t change the way our stomach turns and we tighten our seat belts in a plane vs. turning up the radio and reaching for a snack on a road trip. Rational thoughts do not drive the feeling of safety.

Do you know what psychological safety at work actually feels like?

You hopefully know what physical safety feels like. But psychological? It’s a different story. As I explore the concept more and more, I’m finding that many of us do not have the language or even know what it feels like.

After years of practicing a growth mindset and learning what it feels like to contribute and work from joy and confidence (instead of fearing and trying to prove myself), I realized I could not categorize the majority of my academic and professional career as “psychologically safe”.

Not because I worked in bad environments or with mean (or unsafe) people. It was an inside job, I did not know how to create safety for myself.

For years, my own striving and internal belief of not belonging or never being enough destroyed my sense of safety.

When it comes to your own inner dialog do you create safety for yourself?

Are you ever tormented with anxiety inducing thoughts,

such as:

“Don’t mess up!”

“Don’t look stupid”

“You’ve got to prove yourself”

“Your best is not good enough”

“You are not as smart as these people”

These thoughts are NOT giving yourself psychological safety. They are hyper driving your stress and anxiety.

A little stress before a performance or deadline will help you focus your attention and energy. And some environments or people may amplify these stressful thoughts, but we need to be honest about where the constant call is coming from.

A chronic inner thought life where you are never good enough drives down your ability to learn, be creative, or feel confident.

If we want to create healthy organizations let us first take stock of the psychological safety we create for ourselves.

Reframing and rethinking the way we speak to ourselves can unlock our potential.

It is difficult to create safety for others if it is not first felt within your own body.

I speak more about this with Cristy de la Cruz on her podcast Somatic Wisdom.

It’s a juicy conversation in which we talk about giving ourselves safety and belonging as we chart out our own leadership journey.

You are worthy of feeling safe as you level up your leadership potential.

Explore the possibility of feeling confident, calm, and empowered, leading with joy and ease.

It is within your power.

I get it, sometimes this promise feels too outlandish, but I’ve experienced it, my clients are experiencing it, and you can too. 😊

Change is possible.

Con Amor, Sonya

A Discovery call is the start to imagining new possibilities of feeling amazing and empowered.

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