When our youngest daughter was in middle school, she, like many girls that age, experimented with make-up.
With two other teens to deal with, we chose our battles judiciously. The fact that most mornings this precious kid of ours went off to 6th grade with a coating of Loreal Honey Beige foundation so thick you could carve your name in it was something we tried to look past
But one morning I didn’t …and a it just about broke my heart. What was clear to me was our adorable child was so embarrassed by her freckles and whatever else she imagined distinguished her from the norm that she felt the need to hide.
The irony of course was that in her effort to not be noticed, our uniquely gorgeous kid was most assuredly noticeable. You just could not miss the make-up mask.
So that is exactly what I tried to tell her, gently and with love, as we drove to school early one morning. I think it went something like this..
Me: “ You know honey, about the make up.. I just don’t think you are getting the intended effect.”
Her: “I don’t want to have a mom talk right now! (car door slam!!)”
I was not going to let a squabble in the middle school parking lot ruin my day. I returned to my home office and carried on. Clearly my daughter had not been as successful at putting the almost conversation behind her. Right off the bus, she came to my office, “mom, sorry about this morning…. it’s just, well, it’s just that I am going through a phase and I need you to let me go through it my own way.”
Either she was watching way too much Modern Family or this kid was wise beyond her years.
I let a bit of snark slip out and asked how long she thought the phase might last. She of course rolled her eyes and gave me a signal that our ‘moment’ was over.
Yet the learning had just begun.
My daughter taught me, in that stinging and potent way only your kid can, how things unfold, in their own time. Just like the terrible twos are only terrible when you expect a 2 year old to act like they are 5, and brownies pulled from the oven too soon are just pudding, there is a good bit of patience required for change to unfold. Sure practice and intention are necessary, but without the space and grace to let things find their own pace, the work of stage, phase, or age can’t go to work on you.
I think of this often in my work and life. We want to hurry growth and change. In some cases, it might in fact be necessary to expedite doing things differently, especially if safety or profit are on the line. Business can’t wait for Bill to take his sweet time learning the new protocols, Trey’s habit of interrupting has got to stop before someone throws something hard at him.
But those are skills to be learned, not ways of thinking and being that require new perceptions and awareness.
Opening to new ways of seeing oneself, others, and the world takes courage and the ability to step outside of what we know to consider and embody ways of being and thinking that change the frame. It also requires experiencing things and ourselves differently, which is not simply changing the view but letting ourselves be changed by what we see and experience.
Phasing helps with that. As our daughter wisely reminded me, she had to be where she was, live through it and be as fully 12 years old as possible, with all the vulnerabilities of that stage. She just could not be where she was not yet until she was ready. Readiness would have required her to willing to consider that what she saw as acceptable, preferable, shameful, etc. was not the only way to be. She had to be open to the ‘what else’.
At some level I suspect she knew this and also knew that the familiarity of her worldview provided a sense of safety in the midst of an expanse of scary change and uncertainty. Our child was quite clear that she needed to be where she was at and, to this day, I admire her fortitude and wisdom for owning that. She has always been wise beyond her years, for all the many blessings and little curses that come with that. She is my hero in this way.
For the 10 years since what I fondly call the ‘honey beige phase’, I have practiced phasing as a way to approach my own and my clients’ situations. I attempt to gauge what is the work and frame that is accessible currently and what it would take to fully live into, fulfill, the work of that phase. I have noticed that phasing in and out allows for more grace with and less judgment of what is. It also leads to laser focusing of intention and energy. Phasing helps to put things in perspective. It lays out the larger context, the longer game, which takes some of the pressure out of the system- since you can’t be where you are not yet, you might as well be fully where you are. My experience has been that this acceptance makes it easier to settle into a realistic pace for moving forward.
And, let’s be real, the choices are limited. You can be where you are or you can pretend to be further along, but you can’t be where you are not yet.
What phase are you in with our own development (personal or professional)? If you are not sure, consider exploring the stages of Vertical Development, a well researched framework for identifying stages of mindset growth. For more on Vertical Development check out
How might you distill your developmental work to one specific practice or focus area so you can fully live into it and let the experience change you... bringing you to the next growth opportunity? Hint, practice needs to involve all of you, not just reading a book or attending a workshop. It should also involve some level of being outside your comfort zone.
What will support you in doing the work of the phase you are in? How might you set boundaries or ask for what you need in order to do the work of the phase you are in without feeling the pressure to be where you are not?