On Tapeworms & Head Trash

There’s a book out there called the Screwtape Letters, and it’s about 2 demons whispering into the ears of their victims. When I read it, I always pictured tapeworms… (But go with me here for a second, because there’s some validity to that concept.) We all have this string of lies and doubts that we tune into every once in a while—like some old tape from our childhood. And it’s this “tape of worms” that you should be on the lookout for.

The most anatomically correct drawing of a tapeworm on the internet.

The most anatomically correct drawing of a tapeworm on the internet.

Because you can bet that as soon as it starts playing, there will be timidness and head trash to follow. Ever start a business conversation kinda like this?

“Um… Hi.. Mr. Smith.. do you need a (insert your service or product here)?”

Over here at Paired, Megan and I sometimes find ourselves stuck in some pretty sucky habits thanks to those old tapes of worms.  Habits of being timid.  Shy.  Quiet, reserved, meek, small – whatever you want to call it.  When dealing with clients, prospects, or potential partners, we can have a tendency to shrink.  And I know we aren’t alone in this phenomena.  Many businesspeople, mostly younger, have a tendency to, well, shrink, when around others, who have more “experience” or money or power or whatever.

I was just thinking about it, and I catch myself doing it all the time.  I’ll send an email and pause, wondering if I should address them as “Tim” or “Mr. Smith.”  Now, that may not seem significant to some, but to me, I know it is the little kid coming out in me–wanting to refer to him as “Mr. Smith,” and claim it is because I am being polite.



It is me being meek.  It’s not humble, it’s not polite, its self-deprecating.  Plain and simple.  But how?  Maybe it’s just in my head, but referring to potential clients or partners as “Mr.” or “Ms.” or “Mrs.” (except when they’re significantly older than me, like 70+), is me reverting back to a child-like mindset. It’s me sticking in that old vhs tape of worms and thinking that’s where I’m supposed to be. I’m sure many can relate to this.  But there is absolutely NO REASON AT ALL for you and I to shrink like this.

So, here are a few facts/truths for you.

  1. You are a professional.  Whether it’s a photographer, graphic designer, lawn mower, or pig farmer, you are the expert.   Don’t let anyone (even yourself) tell you differently.
  2. You have the right to be treated as a professional.  (Like addressing people by their first name, you have the right to do that.)  No more calling prospects “Mr. This” or “Ms. That.”  You aren’t eight years old and asking your neighbor’s mom for a cookie.  You are a businessperson looking for opportunities.
  3. You should be proud of your accomplishments.  Since I know that most of our Facebook fans (like-ers?) are entrepreneurs or self-employed, much of this point will speak to them, although, everyone should be proud of their accomplishments.  There are a handful of “sub-points” to this.
  • Firstly, just because something comes easy to you, doesn’t mean you should minimize it as an accomplishment.  When people say “great job on X,” don’t just shrug and say “eh, it’s nothing.” Because it isn’t! They hired you or picked you because they are not capable of doing what you do!  Your clients aren’t photographers or graphic designers or professional hot dog eaters.  What you do is a big freaking deal – if it wasn’t they wouldn’t have hired you.  And I’m not just saying this about paying clients.  I, at least, have a tendency to do this with family and friends.  I’ll make a website or help them with some computer thing, shrug, and tell them “it’s no problem”/”no big deal” or whatever.  But it is. You just helped that person do something that they couldn’t do without you.  Remember that, appreciate it. You are valuable.
  • Second, don’t understate your accomplishments.  Have you ever looked at a random person’s resume, and they have things like “Oversaw the implementation of barcode inventory system”?  What that really means, is that person printed off a ton of barcode stickers and stuck them on boxes.  Trust me, that was on my resume for a while.  Although things may sound lame to you, it is something that you did, that no one else took the initiative to do.

But what all of this really comes down to is that all of us have what Tim Roberts (remember the interrogator?) calls “Head Trash.”  And the first step to conquering it, it’s realizing it.  Identifying it.  So, I challenge you to go sit down, grab a piece of paper and a pen (or pencil) and write down the negative beliefs that are holding you back.  That’s the only way you can start to destroy them.

Note: Yes, I have done this myself – I’m not just telling people to do a bunch of stuff that I’ve never done or tried.  Secondly, don’t be like the typical person and just read this, then “file it away” somewhere and never do anything.  Just think about it for a few minutes.  Because identifying what is holding you back is necessary in creating actions and a mindset where you can drown out the “tape of worms” and focus on the truth.

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