'Butterfly Bootcamp': What to do when your butterflies are fluttering up a storm & how to wrangle them back into formation

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Last week I mentioned in my newsletter that I was experiencing some unfamiliar nerves around a familiar experience. I am off to Ireland tomorrow to present at the Fourth Global Conference on Happiness. (Woohoo - exciting!!) And yes I have been feeling a bit nervous about it. Presenting at conferences is not a new experience for me, but the level of nerves I have been experiencing is. So, my daughter Ballantyne told me she was sending my ‘butterflies to bootcamp’!

When my daughter was younger she loved singing. She took lessons and practised singing daily and insisted on entering every competition and audition she could find. She just loved it. What she didn’t love on the other hand - and I didn’t either, was in her words, the scrutiny and humiliation that came from the judgement she felt when she stood in front of an audience and exposed her soul to them. She said she would become overwhelmed with crippling nerves and often, not always, but often, her nerves would get the better of her and as a extreme perfectionist, she would come off the stage knowing she hadn’t done her best, I could see her frustration eating away at her - not a pleasant thing for a parent to witness. 

You might be thinking, why did I let her keep going?! How could I let her expose herself to pain, shame and humiliation like this? Why wouldn’t I intervene? But my daughter is incredibly determined when she wants something, and she has a steely resilience and persistence that was very tested and strengthened during these formative years. If I had intervened, I would have been interfering with her love of and dream of singing and that’s not what I wanted at all - I just wanted to protect her in a 'love bubble', as most Mother’s do and insulate her essence so that she didn’t lose sight of it. Hearing her sing was a beautiful thing. When her nerves were in check, or her butterflies were ‘flying in formation’ as she used to call it, she expressed who she was at her core and that is something I would never want to interfere with. 

I supported her singing and made sure that I was the bubble of love alongside her. I made sure I was there for every performance, there after every audition and there for every judge’s comment card read out. Not so that I could intervene, but so that I could be her pillar of strength and love if she needed me. I could help scoop her off the floor and boost her back to seeing her light when she couldn’t do this alone. 

I believe we all need to find one such a person for ourselves - almost like an insurance policy - someone who will love you and be strong for you when you can’t give these things to yourself. They hold the space for you when you fall down and help you get back up when you’re ready.

Now, many years later, I find that our roles are often reversed. There have been many times in the past few years where my daughter has been my pillar of strength and she has held the space for me to find my way back to my light and my strength. This Ireland trip has been one such time. I have worked and reworked my speech and she has provided me with a very honest but loving ear. More than anything though, she has encouraged me to push past my limiting beliefs, my fear, and my nerves and get my butterflies ‘flying in formation’.

What do I mean when I talk about ‘butterflies’? I mean that jittery feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are apprehensive about yet something to come. Perhaps it’s an exam, a date, a performance, a speech, a confrontational conversation, an appointment or a phone call - you get the picture? When these jitters, or butterflies, get hurly burly out of control and turn into full blown nerves, the butterflies are fluttering up an energy storm and need to be wrangled into formation. Sometimes however, they can be particularly unruly in this wrangling and what we would identify as fear, clouds our ability to re-sculpt the butterfly storm into a butterfly masterpiece.

Fear was a gift given to us purely for the protection of our survival. It tracks back to the very primal fight or flight instinct deeply ingrained in the core of our beings and indicates to us when we need to fight or fly to protect our safety. Therefore, if you are not in danger - real, life threatening danger, fear has no place with you and you can redirect your brain into acknowledging that what you are in fact feeling, is not fear, it is excitement, and this excitement, just needs a little moulding to become your rocket fuel positive energy.

This is where having that bubble of love, strength pillar, space holder, insurance policy person is extremely useful. If you have picked wisely, they will love you unconditionally, they will read you better than you read yourself sometimes, they will always have your best interests at heart, they will know your core desires so that they can help you achieve them and they will be bold enough to pull you up when you are getting offtrack or duh duh duuuh…. self sabotaging - they will double as a super sleuth self-sabotage spy ;) Ballantyne and I are both self-sabotagers so we have to be extra sleuthy and keep eagle eyes on each other when it comes to big hairy audacious goal chasing or getting creative projects across the finish line.

Something I did for Ballantyne during those early years of building resilience was send her ‘fan mail’. I was reminded of this yesterday when she sent me fan mail too! She often reminds me that I did this for her and holds one particular quote from it as her favourite. Her fan mail was addressed to the Ballantyne Haines Fan Club and read like this:

Dear Ballantyne

‘Specially for you…’cos you’re worth it… You are spectacular, a joy to have around, a wonderful daughter, clever, talented, beautiful and all with a great  sense of humour… From your No. 1 fan - MUM

It followed on with a number of inspirational quotes and mysteriously appeared one day in the letterbox ;)

Reading the fan mail she sent to me, I was reminded that giving this speech in no way puts my life in immediate danger and therefore, fear has no place with me right now. What I feel is actually excitement and my body and brain are just misreading it. Yes I have nerves, but really they are beautiful butterflies who have come to remind me how much I care about what I have to say and to support me as I stand up and own my information and my self.

Ballantyne’s ‘butterfly bootcamp’ has consisted of the following:

  1. A love bubble.

  2. Some super sleuth self sabotage spying.

  3. Strength Pillar providing - Holding the space for me to feel my way through the nerves and emotions without getting lost in the process and being there to help me back when I am ready.

  4. Recalibrating my metaphorical GPS, to support my authentic self and pull me back on track when necessary.

  5. Reminding me that it’s not fear that I am feeling, it is excitement.

  6. Showing me the gift of my butterflies’ beauty and potential power.

  7. Being my own cheerleader and cheering myself over the finish line.

So, in conclusion, I hope you will have a think about your inner circle and consider who you might be able to appoint as your bubble of love, strength pillar, space holder, insurance policy person. I hope that next time you feel butterflies, nerves or fear you can step back for a moment and assess whether your safety is in danger, or whether what you are actually feeling is excitement and then you can re-sculpt your butterflies to fly in formation, remembering the gift they are here to teach you.


Gina HainesComment