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Boys Don't Cry

Emotions Are Our Superpowers

“Boys don’t cry.”


I was often told this in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I was expressing my emotions, mainly by other males (my lovely father included). I’m sure it was because they were told the same thing when they were young, as a way to “toughen them up” and make them more suitably masculine and “manly”.


This taunt had a doubly potent impact on my developing brain. Firstly, it made me think that there were certain ways that boys “should” act, feel and behave. As a young gay child trying to make sense of the world, this just added more complexity and shame around the already challenging task of understanding how I fit into the world.


Secondly, it made me think that feelings were bad. I mostly learnt to do my best to suppress them, but when I couldn’t, there were extra layers of shame to deal with.


Fast forward a few decades, and whilst I’m OK shedding a tear in front of other people (god help anyone who watches an episode of The Dog House with me), I’m still learning to embrace my emotions. I mean all of them - happy ones (they’re the easy ones), sad ones, angry ones, scared ones, and everything in between. When I say embracing, I really mean that I’m working hard to minimize the self-judgement when I’m feeling (or expressing) commonly perceived “bad” emotions. 


Many years of being told that it was wrong to express these emotions certainly led me to do my best to hide as many of these challenging feelings as possible. Unfortunately, this masterful approach doesn’t make the emotions go away, it just forces them inward. The clever thing about emotions is that they have a canny knack of eventually finding their way to the surface, usually through a misplaced expression, such as a defensive reaction, a protective response (such as avoidance) and sometimes even a physical manifestation leading to illness.


The truth of the matter is, there ARE no bad emotions, and it’s perfectly healthy to express all of them. 


In my adult life, I’ve spent many years learning to not only accept my emotions, but to embrace them as my super powers.




The fact that I’m sensitive and feel things deeply meant I was more likely to cry as a child. Even though I spent the first half of my life disliking my sensitivity, I now understand that it’s a true strength that not only makes me who I am, it also makes me good at my job (well, both of my jobs!).


You see, my sensitivity means that I’m able to feel deep empathy, which is one of the things I most like about myself. 


Empathy is a true super power. 


In my coaching business, I’m required to put myself in the shoes of my clients on a daily basis, understanding their perspective without any judgement. As someone who’s had my design business for over 23 years, I’ve been through most of the challenges that other small business owners face. I know what it feels like to lack confidence, to feel unworthy of charging what I should be charging, to suffer from imposter syndrome and to stress about delivering successful project outcomes. My empathy enables me to really understand the pain that my clients are feeling, so that I can help in a way that leaves them feeling empowered, not judged. 

In my design business, my empathetic superpowers help me to be a really good listener. As discussed in last week’s newsletter, I pride myself on my ability to really understand a clients’ brief - way beyond the simple checklist of requirements and preferences. My ability to read clients emotions allows me to deliver above and beyond anything that their words can express.


Once into the facilitation of a project, we have the (sometimes unenviable) task of liaising with all sorts of personalities, from clients and trades, to contractors, artists and manufacturers. Whilst it’s not technically part of the remit of our job, I find that my emotional superpower helps to keep the peace in times of stress. Often a difficult situation can be neutralised by helping each of the parties understand the perspective/s of the other/s, by practicing empathy.




“But why?” I would ask on repeat in my early years, much to the exhaustion of my poor mother.


Yes, I was a “why” child!


I’m one of 4 children (#2 which probably also explains a lot - hello fellow second children out there!) and my family loves to joke about the fact that I just didn’t know when to shut up and stop asking questions. I can’t even begin to imagine what Mum had to put up with, having 4 kids under the age of 8, but I know she was driven to the point of exasperation from my relentless need to understand “Why?”. 

The need to understand why is linked to another of the innate things that makes me who I am: my curiosity.


Curiosity is another one of my emotional superpowers.


This drives my entrepreneurial spirit, my passion for travel, my thirst for learning and growth, and my fascination with people and their life stories. It’s one of the values I list front and centre at both The Design Coach and MR. MITCHELL. I love learning and I’m committed to helping others to do the same.


At TDC, I’m constantly evolving our offering, listening to feedback from members, seeking new ways to help people learn about business and connect with a supportive community. I’m always curious about how the industry is evolving and about the challenges that small business owners are facing. 


As an example, it’s impossible to avoid the influx of information about AI at the moment and I’m so fascinated by its capabilities and can’t wait to see how it’s going to improve the industry. Rather than running from this new technology as some would have us do, I’m curious to see where it takes us. That’s why we’ve invited TDC friend and RMIT lecturer Hoda Afra to host our next Free Member Coaching on Thursday this week, to teach us a bit about the software capabilities of AI.


At MR. MITCHELL, my curiosity has me constantly seeking out new materials, fittings and furnishings, and inspires me to create new ways to apply them. No two projects are ever the same, which means that every day presents a new set of fascinating challenges and opportunities.




Just as Superman could be overpowered by Kryptonite, when I’m tired and stressed, or my confidence is faltering, my emotional superpowers stop working.


I can identify when this happens, because my ability to empathise is severely diminished, and feelings of judgement (of myself and others) begin to surface. Curiosity is replaced with scepticism and feelings of hopelessness. Situations that I can normally rationalise start to feel overwhelming and my responses are less measured. Most importantly, my ability to understand other people’s perspectives disappears (like Superman losing his ability to see through solid walls!).


To overcome this, I first need to recognise and identify the feelings. Am I tired? Am I stressed? Or is my confidence faltering?


Then I need to address the cause of these feelings (the source of the Kryptonite). Have I been ignoring my basic physical needs in favour of pressing work deadlines? Do I have a major presentation or meeting coming up that I’m worried about, that’s triggering a faltering of my confidence? Have I done everything I can to prepare for this meeting or presentation?


I can then set about addressing these causes and destroying the Kryptonite! Quite often these aren't quick fixes, and require my repeated attention. These are the sort of actions that get priority in my goal setting, and are shared with my accountability partners (personal and professional) to make sure that I'm giving them the regular attention they need.


What about you? Can you identify your emotional superpowers?


We all have them! Like me, you might have previously thought of these emotions as a hinderance rather than an attribute. Perhaps you have the ability to inspire or motivate others with your natural effervescence. Or alternatively, your calm and considered approach provides your clients with a sense of comfort.


What emotions have you been underestimating? 


Thanks to everyone who writes to me each week, providing me with support and feedback about these newsletters - it really does make a huge difference to know that what I'm sharing is connecting with you. If you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please share the love and send it forward.


I'd love to hear about your superpowers, and how you plan to harness them in your business endeavours!


If you're reading this via our website and would like to get a weekly dose of Learning and Wellbeing delivered to your inbox, please subscribe!


Until next week.


Stay well and keep learning.



Andrew and the TDC Team

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