Leadership expert, triathlete and mother of quadruplets, twins and three other children, DeeDee Myers is never without lipstick in her purse. She's always prepared, always presentable, no matter what. In Eighth grade her mother told her that she needed all the help she could get given that she had just one arm.
"That was a big of a grab for me," says Myers. "My reaction was to get really small and invisible. But part of me was curious. She asked me to wear lipstick and light make up. She said, 'This is not fair but people will judge you by what you wear and how you look. Never get fat. Always be healthy looking. Take care of your hair.'"
Her mother was a prestigious banker's wife who entertained frequently. Although she had twelve children she didn't look like a "drudge housewife". The house was always neat and tidy. Her hair was done, her clothes were clean, ironed, and pressed. She had a motto: Always be dressed for company.
This is a script that has played in Myers' head since the day her mother first schooled her on how she needed to present herself to the world. But today Myers has a different take on it. "It's the same script," she says , "I just have a new story. Now I see it as an invitation to always be ready, to extend for what you want, for what's needed. It's a lesson to be ready for anything." That anything can mean stares at the yoga studio and strangers boldly asking, "How are you going to do downward facing dog?"
So Myers shows them and asks if they have suggestions. "At first I didn't know whether I should try to explain or just demonstrate. I allow people to breathe around their own stories." When her yoga class recently undertook handstands, Myers had some moments of confrontation with herself. She got jealous and "pissy" that others could do handstands while she couldn't.
The internal dialog she was running said that this was just too hard. She wanted give up...and cry. Then she said to herself, "You're 55 years old, how can you say this is the hardest things you've ever done when you've delivered quads?"
The other thing that happened inside her head is that Myers coached herself. As CEO of DDJ Myers, Ltd. and co-founder of the Advancing Leadership Institute, she's in the business of giving others advice about how to move through difficulties. So she asked herself what advice she might give herself from a coaching perspective. She said she would try it a few ways and then would ask for help. So that's what she did.
The next day she told the instructor, "I'm going to do a handstand today." She spoke it like a declaration.
Startled, he first said "Good," then asked, "A one handed handstand?"
"No. A two handed handstand one-handed." Now she calls extreme challenges her "Handstand Moments" and she still has plenty of them.
Like the day she she found a little lump on the tip of her nose. She put off going to the doctor. When she finally had an exam the doctors said it was cancer and scheduled her for surgery. She had a young intern and his team working with her and they initially said they wouldn't need to cut to the bone, that it was minor. But that assessment turned out to be inaccurate and she had to return to surgery to have her nose cut to the bone.
"At first I didn't want to look," she said after the surgery. "I had a hole in my nose." But every day she told herself to look, and to find the lesson, to love who you are. She started by taking off the bandaid for a moment. Then for a couple minutes. Then twice a day. Each time she looked she said that she "kept locating who I am and loving who I am. We have to locate who we are on the inside, to find what's good in us."
Deedee Myers is an executive leadership coach who supports sustainable changes for individuals, teams and organizations. She is a motivational speaker and author, teacher and coach on leadership practices, effective coordination in teams and living a life of Purpose and balance. As a former triathlete and ultramarathoner Deedee is well schooled in pacing as CEO of the Advancing Leadership Institute, and mother of 9 including twins and quadruplets.
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