Spotting a UOF

(For my English usage blog, click here.)

No, this title isn’t a typo. I am not writing about UFOs. A UOF, unlike a UFO, has had millions of confirmed sightings and can be easily spotted. It is the Uh Oh Factor: the fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs that stop us dead in our tracks, generally right before or right after we take a risk.

You know how your mind works: You apply for a job and you pump yourself up for the interview, telling yourself that you are the right person—perhaps the most qualified candidate—and that they’d be fools to pass you up. You remind yourself of how well you have performed in your current position and how undervalued you have been, which is why you deserve that new position.

But then you no sooner submit your résumé and that little voice starts whispering in your ear, “What if I don’t get the job? What if it means I have to travel more? What if I don’t like my new boss? What if I don’t like my new colleagues? What if they don’t like me? What if I have to work longer hours?” And the worst what if of all is the one with the F word, “What if I fail?” (This mindset works similarly with dating.)

All of our what ifs create the Uh Oh Factor: the negative thinking that reminds us of each of our character flaws, every painfully embarrassing moment from our past, every fear that’s woken us up at 2:00 A.M. bathed in sweat. This Uh Oh Factor (UOF), untended to, can instantly overpower our tenuous hold on our still-delicate affirmations.

The volume of our UOF will only go up if we try to ignore it. In short order, we will hear the voices within shouting, “You’re so full of yourself. Who were you to think you could land this job? You’re a fraud, a phony. They’ll see right through you.” Try to push these negative thoughts away and it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole: you have to be on high alert looking for where and how they’re going to pop up again if you’re going to defeat them.

So what can you do when the UOF begins to override your confidence? As Ram Dass, a wonderfully funny Buddhist teacher says, you can practice thinking of your Uh Oh thoughts—those neurotic fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs—as little schmos. Then, instead of trying to bar them from entry, which is futile anyway, invite them in for tea.

Imagine this scene: Three little schmos, looking like Snow White’s dwarves, come knocking at your door. Instead of hiding in the coat closet, you welcome them in, escorting them to the dining room table. Without any need for small talk, you say to the one on your right, “I recognize you. You’re the schmo who tells me I’m not good enough.” Then you turn to your left. “And you’re the schmo who catalogues the imperfections of my body.” Now you look across the table at another one who is returning your grin and say, “And you, you’re the schmo who reminds me of all my mistakes.” Then, with an inclusive sweep of your arm, you announce, “Thank you all for having tea with me.” You look at your watch and then continue, “But tea time is over because, after all, I am a busy person.” You see your little schmos to the door, although they are reluctant to go because you’ve been such a good listener. When they ask if they can come back, you let them know that they needn’t worry; certainly you’ll hear them next time they come knocking. You wave to them as they retreat and then close the door with a sigh of relief.

What you do next is remember to feel grateful that you have learned how to say hello and goodbye to your little schmos. Then you restate your affirmations, call on your support system to remind you of your best qualities, demonstrate behaviors that make you feel good about the person you see in the mirror, and take a leap of faith that these practices will not only keep you sane but will provide you with the courage to take the next risk that your spirit urges you towards.


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About Jane Straus
Jane is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at

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