WHO ARE YOU, REALLY?
In a changing world, norms, expectations and personal realities are shifting too. How do we keep up? How do we stay clear about you we are? How do we remain authentic when everything around us is telling us, who we should be?
The best answer I can muster for myself is to allow myself to evolve...and give myself permission to be who I want to be. Over the years I have learned that I am only good at being me. It is too much work for me to bend, fold, stretch and figure out who others want (or expect) me to be. The pressure was too much, so I removed myself. I now operate independently. I make a conscious effort to remain true to the essence of who I am. I will admit, it's touch, sometimes it feels easier to just fit in.
Fads come and go. Most people want to keep up with the "Joneses" as well as stay up-to-date with the latest trend. So, the question becomes, how do you be yourself if you are at the point in your life when you are still trying to define yourself? (For many of us, figuring out who we are is an ongoing process. 😏) So, how do you resist going along with the tide? How do you differentiate yourself and walk your own path to achieve joy and self-love?
My goal is to help us both refrain from claiming a distorted version of ourselves. I do understand the idea of being yourself sounds so easy. I know, I too feel the pressure of complying with the various versions of myself to fit what others expect of me. I get strength from the fact that I know when we are not operating from a place of authenticity, we are not operating on full cylinders. I find women are not working in a positive optimum space when they are one person at work, another on the phone with their child's teacher, another with friends, another with family, another with our partners...and the list goes on as well as how we present in our businesses.
For example, in my personal life I am spiritual. I am kind, gentle, loving and patient. One of my greatest attributes is my ability to show empathy for others. I am generally supportive and work hard to maintain a space of positive influence. I look to create synergy and maintain good vibes. As a parent, spouse, friend and daughter I worked hard to meet people where they are with love and acceptance. However, it took me a long time to bring these qualities over into my career. In my professional life, I tended to be strong and demanding. I was less patient and I often put my expectations and time-table on others without consideration of their pace. As a leader, I set goals and moved the team through with laser-focused precision. I had to learn that teams are made up of individuals with unique personality traits and quirks. Team members present at work with varied skills, communication skills as well as culture and life experiences.
A director that reported to me often complained one of her team members was late all the time. I advised her to follow the policies and procedures for coaching and documenting tardiness. After a few months, the director was fed-up and requested to terminate her subordinate. It was only because that employee, (I'll call her Jane) was scheduled to be at work at 8:30 and was 15 minutes late every day. Exactly 15 minutes - everyday. Of course, this gave me pause and the fact that she was outstanding in productivity, one of the best on the team, that I decided to talk with her before termination.
In this conversation with Jane, I discovered that she had a young son who took the bus to school. HIs bus came at 8:15 am. She tried to drive him to school but the drop-off started at 8:25 and her commute the office was roughly 30 minutes. As Jane started to cry explaining her hustle everyday to get work on time and the anxiety it caused her, it catapulted me into the essence of who I am. In an instant I became empathetic, I too have been a single mother so I understood that panic of juggling parental duties with work responsibilities. I also chose to share a small glimpse of my story to show her that it is possible to have a career while taking care of a family.
My goal at this point in the conversation was to put my management hat on by offering her strategies to manage her work life - I changed her schedule to start her work day at 9:00 am and with a 30-minute lunch instead of an hour so eat she can still leave at 5:30 pm. I then shifted to my spiritual-self by suggesting meditation, yoga and journaling to help Jane manage the other life stressors that she shared with me. At the end of our meeting, Jane was relieved, inspired, and motivated. Her happiness made me feel good. Jane's hardships reminded me of my own journey as I reflected for a moment about just how far I had come in my career. Finally, Jane's relief gave me the confidence to know that her performance would be off-the-chart, now that she is not in fear of getting fired.
I share that story to say that being true to my authentic self served me well in work. My approach to leadership shifted. As I empowered and supported individual employees, my team grew stronger and more productive. It wasn't necessary for me to follow the lead of my supervisor by being dominate and strong because that's the way he leads. I could in fact be empathetic, kind, caring and inspirational for employees. I define my own leadership style.
The influences of others, are powerful in shaping our lives. They are constantly working to force us to conform. If we aren't careful, it becomes a slippery slope for us to become who others say we should be. Society is the biggest culprit working against our authenticity trying to force us to fit within preconceived notions and stereotypes. We must do our best to resist the myriad of voices speaking over our lives.
The drama heightens as we come to understand that all of these expectations and demands are often speaking louder than our own inner critic. We all know the detriment those inner negative voices can be on our self-esteem, self-worth and courage. Many of us have an inner critic that whispers words that fuel self-doubt. They are the root of our insecurity and self-worth. At this point, we have an all-out assault on our psyche!
Fentimans is a family-owned business in 1905. I've never tasted the brew but I support the promo, "She Believed She Could, So She Did," so they have earned an honorable mention.
Before I go any further, I must be clear about what I mean by standing tall in your authenticity. My intention is not to encourage you stand tall in toxic traits, anger, rudeness and self-loathing. When people who are performing in bad behavior to exclaim, "This is just who I am," really get on my nerves. Although I understand this behavior is a defense mechanism set forth to hide insecurity, it remains problematic for experiencing life's joy. In other words, being yourself does not mean ignoring your bad habits. It certainly doesn't meant that you should be strong in your weaknesses. It isn't necessary to just go with the flow and lean into toxic traits. One of my sisters, who I love dearly, used to always call that poor behavior as, "strong and wrong." 😂
"Being yourself doesn't mean ignoring your bad habits. Standing strong and wrong doesn't serve you well. You can do better. You deserve better."
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Going forward, promise yourself that you will fight the urge to make excuses for not making the changes you are not willing to make. Simply acknowledge that you don't want to be different and live your life. You have the right to be toxic. You have the right to be negative and you also have the right to be unhappy. If you want to be pessimistic, do it. Just do so with the understanding that others aren't obligated to accept the behavior. For everyone else, continue reading...
The gift you can give yourself is to be your true self. You own defining the kind of person you want to be. You decide how you present to the world - on your terms, as best you can.
You get closer to joy when you have a clear vision of who you want to be - and take the intentional steps necessary to actually be that person. Don't allow your authenticity to be covered up with conditioned, fear-based, and people pleasing complexes. Once you visualize who you want to be, it becomes necessary to give yourself permission to be just that. Don't be your greatest obstacle, standing in the way of your authentic joy. Fight off self-sabotage. Thwart self-defeating attitudes. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be free. Seriously...you really do.
We all know about the inner critic that creates unnecessary barriers and obstacles, but there is also an inner voice that quietly guides us. It's that voice that wakes us up with 3:00 am BIG ideas. It's the voice that reminds us of our yearn for laughter, joy and love. If you keep this level of consciousness at center, it will help you let go labels, judgement and false expectations. It will help you release that burden so you can begin seeing yourself in a new light. Let go of the image that others have for you, and begin crafting the identity that is true to you.
Understand the following before beginning the journey to your authenticity:
Here are a few ways to help you be who you want to be:
- Mindfulness. Pay attention to your thoughts. Practice being more aware of your thoughts and the quality of thought process. Never again allow negative thoughts to run rampant in your mind. Set boundaries. Uproot negative thought before they find a permanent home. Trust yourself. You know and understand you better than anyone. Believe in yourself, your skills, your abilities, and your judgment. You've made mistakes and you're not done yet. Forgive yourself and let go. Continue forward on the journey to be who you want to be.
- Please yourself. Shine bright. Walk in your splendor. Be comfortable with your decisions because you are thoughtful and you know what's best for you. Take constructive criticism from people who are genuine and have your best interest at heart. Deny the haters to persuade you to dim your light. Don't allow dream-stealers to thwart your drive. Put nay-sayers on pause as you move on your journey. Stand in your power and do you what's best for you and yours.
- Fall in love with you. Appreciate your essence. Love your body. Admire your mind. Exemplify the uniqueness that is you. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You are amazingly beautiful, if only to you.
- Understand yourself. Learn about your personality and get to know how those traits impacts your life's choices. Be clear about your strengths and relish in them. Equally as important, know your areas of weakness so you can address them head-on. When my ex used to try to sit me down armed with a list of my faults, after a certain point, I would slow him down with my own list. Before I let him badger me, I demonstrate self-awareness by owning my stuff. Believe me, I know me so I am real clear when things are mistakes and when I am intentional. I am clear about all the areas in my life that present as weakness. I work on them daily and moment-by-moment. Again, a process.
- Embrace fear. Be brave. Use fear as a tool to help you pause and check-in to be sure this is the right path. Allow fear to briefly encourage you to review your course of action. Be objective, be honest, be true to yourself and be clear about your principles. If you stand in your authentic self, you will gain courage. I regularly ask myself, "What would I do if I were brave? Would I do this?" If the answer is yes, and that's the only barrier, I just do it.
- Know that you are worthy. Value yourself. Know that you deserve to be happy. You have the right to know joy and experience love. Live your life knowing that you are a good person and you deserve respect. Teach others how to treat you. Set the tone for how others speak to you by speaking to yourself with care.
Transformation is a journey. You are forever evolving. Sometimes the change happens in small incremental steps, they may not always present as life-shattering events. Moment-by-moment, reflect on your decisions, actions, habits and thoughts to see if they are aligned with who you want to be.
For example, I made the decision to reframe from gossiping when I was very young, because the person who is gleeful and shady about someone else's pain or drama is not who I chose to be. Very often, I am faced with upholding this standard because most people don't gossip about the good. As a result, in my adult life I choose not to watch shows on reality TV that relies on the cast back-biting, fighting and undermining each other to win, gain more airtime or get endorsements. This could be seen as a sacrifice because I have to sit out of pop culture conversations about celebrities. It's ok because in the end, dogging famous people doesn't impact my life one way or another. 🤷🏾♀️
I challenge you to allow yourself to transform as many times as you need to be who you want to be, fully happy and free.
What does being happy mean to you? What does your authentic self look like? What are you doing? Share your thoughts below!