I find those little dogs with the loud barks to be really funny. Every time I see one, I’m tempted to say, “Dude, the bark isn’t working for you. You’re still little.” So of course I loved the story that Rama Berch, founder of Svaroopa yoga, told a room full of yogis one weekend. Whenever her poodle saw people walking on the sidewalk in front of Rama’s house, the dog ran out to them, and instead of barking, she lay down and exposed her belly. “No one could ever resist giving her exactly what she wanted. Old and young, men and women would stop to scratch that belly.”

The story reminded me of one of my coaching clients, who recently let go of her bark in favor of exposing her belly. When I first met Anna, she said she felt paralyzed and overwhelmed. She’d created a wonderful non-profit but didn’t know how to take it or herself to the next level—the work ahead was daunting. And the fear of disappointing those who relied on her prevented Anna from taking the actions needed to grow the organization beyond a one-woman show. “I feel like I’m running in place,” she told me on our introductory call. “I don’t feel like the organization can function without me, and I’m just one person doing it all. That’s just not enough.” Her voice tense and her speech rapid, I could almost hear the anxiety marching back and forth in her head.

More than anything, Anna wanted to develop the resources and platform needed to realize the vision for her non-profit: creating a healing place for the community. But Anna was also terrified of anyone seeing her as less than perfect and fully competent at all times. She had imprisoned herself in the image of strength she had created, and the amount of pressure was paralyzing.

On our third session together, Anna blew me away. She had started to open up and rely on others. During the time we worked together, Anna was invited to present two grant proposals. Instead of writing the same type of grant proposal she was used to presenting, she decided to start from scratch, asking her board members for input. “It was liberating and powerful,” she said, “to invite others in.”

For her second grant, the sponsoring foundation invited non-profit participants to meet with its executives and openly discuss proposals face-to-face, in order to increase the likelihood of acceptance. Nobody signed up, except Anna. “For the first time in my life,” she told me the day before her meeting, “I’m going in there without my perfect grant proposal already written. Instead, I’m going to ask questions on how to do this the best way for my organization.”

So what transpired between coaching sessions one and three? Anna had been working on shifting her thinking to begin honoring and valuing herself and all that she’d been able to accomplish. From that new place of self-worth, she was able to put her ego aside for the sake of her bigger vision to help others. “I decided I didn’t want to run a personality-driven organization. I started acting in the best interest of the people I serve by being honest about what I can do and what I need help with. And I’m letting people know that I’m only one person, instead of letting them think that I’m running a huge organization.” Anna now sounded confident and relaxed as she described her work.

I was awed, inspired and energized by Anna’s change. Because I knew that what I had witnessed was human potential at its best. Despite our full-grown human bodies, many of us tend to behave as if we are five-inch-tall yappy dogs. And I know that at times I can be the smallest and yappiest of them all. Because we feel so small in a big, scary world, we use an insistent bark as our shield. The bark is the familiar ego, and too many of us get stuck living from there. Rather than making us look big and strong, it keeps us from letting go and allowing our creative projects, visions and dreams to unfold.

Anna and I haven’t had our last session together yet, but I did get an email saying that the grant meeting was “AWESOME.” I tend to believe that this is just the first of many wonderful moments and milestones. The more honest and open we are about who we really are and what we’re trying to do, the more things we wish for come easily and happily along. And the greater peace we feel inside. Thank you, Anna, for proving that the best things happen to us when we expose our bellies to other six-foot humans…even when we may feel five inches tall inside.

Author's Bio: 

rita farin left a 20-year career in marketing to become a full-time writer, artist and certified creativity coach. She now helps individuals unleash their imaginations to bring about new realities and corporations foster creativity in the workplace to improve business productivity. Her blog on transitioning to a creative life challenges traditional beliefs about relationships, spirituality and the creative process.