Archive for being real

Just Be You

October 12, 2009

I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine recently that had a profound impact on me. She had just come home from a two week trip to Israel, where she stayed on the same kibbutz she’d visited many times throughout her life. When I asked her how her trip was, she said, “Mike, it’s a magical place where I truly feel like I can be myself.”

“Why is that?” I asked. She said, “The people there don’t care what I do, about the big clients I work with, or so many of the other things we care so much about here. My only currency when I’m there is who I am.”

As she and I talked further and then got off the phone, it really hit me how much of my time and energy I spend and waste trying to accumulate “currency” in the form of money, accomplishments, appearances, status, connections, and other external things – all in an attempt to have people like and respect me, gain access to the things I think are important, and to somehow erroneously think that by doing all of this, someday I’ll “make it,” (whatever the heck that means anyway). Can you relate?

What if we lived more of our lives focused on who we are, and not so much on what we do, what we’ve accomplished, what we look like, who we know, what we’re striving for, and more? What if, as my friend realized in Israel, the most important thing in life is actually who we are?

Who would we be without our accomplishments (or failures), our degrees (or lack thereof), our bank accounts, our experiences, our titles, our homes, our statuses, and more? As simple of a concept as this is for us to think about and discuss, at least on the surface, it’s actually quite difficult for most of us, myself included, to genuinely separate who we are from what we do (or have done or not done) on a regular basis in our lives.

The deeper question for us to ponder here is really one of the big philosophical questions of life, “What makes me a valuable person?” While this is something we have all thought about to some degree, most of us don’t really engage in this question in an authentic way or on a regular basis. And, when we do, we often think that if we just got more done, lost some weight, made more money, took a vacation, accomplished a goal, had more meaningful work, made it to retirement, or whatever, then we’d be “happier” or feel more “valuable.” Sadly, as we’ve all experienced, this is not usually the case.

What if we could expand our capacity for appreciating ourselves in a genuine way, and have it have nothing to do with anything external? What if just being ourselves, the way we are right now was good enough? Think of the freedom and peace we could experience in our lives (and have at times) by just being who we are – not trying to be what we think we’re supposed to be, in order to get the things we think we’re supposed to want.

Being ourselves fully, takes courage, commitment, and faith. It’s a process of letting go of many false beliefs we’ve been taught and trained to reinforce (that we have to look good, be smart, know the right people, say the right things, have the proper experience, etc. in order to be happy and successful in life). Being ourselves can be scary and counter intuitive, difficult and even off putting, and, at times, lonely.

However, being our authentic self is liberating, exciting, and fulfilling. When we have the courage just being who we are, without apology or pretence, so much of our suffering, stress, and worry in life simply goes away.

Here are a few things to consider and practice as you deepen your awareness of and capacity for being who you truly are:

– Tell the truth to yourself. Think about and own how much of your self-worth is based on what you do, how you look, who you know, what you’ve accomplished, etc. (i.e. the external stuff)? The more we let go of being defined by the external, the more freedom, peace, and power we can experience.

– Appreciate who you are. What do you appreciate about yourself that has nothing to do with anything external? In other words, what personal qualities (of being, not doing) do you value about yourself? The more we’re able to tap into what we appreciate about who we are (not what we do), the more capacity we have for real confidence, peace, and self love.

– Practice just being you. As silly as it may sound, we all need to “practice” being ourselves. We have a great deal of experience being phony or being how we think we’re supposed to be, it actually takes conscious practice for us to be able to just show up and be who we are. We can practice alone, with people we know, and with total strangers. This is all about awareness – paying attention to how we feel, what we’re thinking, what we say, and how we show up. It’s not about getting it right or doing anything specific, it’s about letting go of our erroneous notions of how we think we’re supposed to be, and just allowing ourselves to be who and how we are in the moment.

Have fun with this, talk to others about it, and have a lot of compassion with yourself as you practice – this is big stuff for most of us. And, when we remember that it truly is who we are, not what we do, that gives us real value in life – we are liberated and empowered to be ourselves, which is what we all want anyway.

Where in your life can you (or do you) practice just being who you are?  Share your thoughts and ideas below.

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Speak Your Truth

September 15, 2009

Speaking up and speaking your truth is an essential aspect of living a life of passion, fulfillment, and authenticity. However, for many of us, myself included, it is much easier to talk about speaking our truth than it is to actually do it.

I was talking to my friend Greg a few months ago and he told me a poignant and powerful story about speaking his truth. He was in a grocery store and saw a woman yelling at her kids in a cruel way.

He walked over to the woman and said, “Excuse me, would you please treat those children with kindness and love.” She looked at him and said, “Mind your own business, these are my kids.” Greg replied by saying, “If you were doing this in your living room, it would be just your business, but you’re doing it here in front of me. I’m standing over here with my heart aching for these children as I hear you speak to them like that – so I decided to come over and say something to you about it.”

The woman then told him to stick it up his “you-know-what,” grabbed her kids, and rushed out to the parking lot to drive away. Greg then said to me, “Mike, I don’t know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing. My legs were shaking as I talked to her. I was so scared, upset, and emotional.”

“But,” Greg said, “I tell you what – when I walked away I noticed something interesting, I wasn’t blaming anyone. Normally I wouldn’t have said anything and I would’ve blamed myself for not speaking up, the woman for treating her kids like that, or our culture for creating the environment where things like that happen and no one does anything about it. However, since I spoke up I was at peace and not wasting any time or energy blaming anyone. I have no idea if what I said made an impact on that woman, but I don’t have to live with her, I have to live with myself.”

I sat there stunned when I heard Greg tell me this story. I said to him, “Wow, that was bold. I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to say that to her, but I’m glad you did.”

What if we had the courage to speak up like that in all areas of life – our work, our relationships, our family, with people in public, and in general. Imagine the freedom and power we would possess. This is not at all about getting in people’s faces and challenging them, although sometimes it might take that form.

An important distinction for us to remember is the difference between our “opinions” and our “truth.” We all have opinions; lots of them (have you noticed). Many of us think our opinions are actually facts; they’re not! There’s nothing wrong with having and expressing our opinions. However, many of our opinions are filled with righteous judgment and an arrogant sense that we’re “right” and those who don’t agree with us are “wrong.”

Our “truth” runs much deeper than any of our opinions. Truth is about how we feel and what is real for us. Truth is not about being right, it’s about expressing what we think and feel in an authentic, vulnerable, and transparent way.

For example, I might have an opinion that you are rude. I’m entitled to this opinion and I may even have specific evidence of times you have done things that I think are rude. There may also be other people who agree with me that you’re rude. However, this opinion will probably not help our relationship, bring us closer, or have us be in honest conversations with each other.

My “truth,” however, might be that when you’re around me I get scared because I worry you might say something that will hurt my feelings. Or, I get angry because I don’t like some of the things you say and do. In other words, I sometimes don’t feel safe or comfortable around you.

This distinction is not just about semantics or words, it is total shift in perspective and context. When we let go of being “right” about our opinions and take responsibility for our expereince, we can speak our truth from a much deeper and more authentic place. Speaking this deeper truth will not only liberate us, but it has the potential to make a difference for others and bring us closer together with them.

How do we enhance and deepen our capacity to speak our truth with kindness, love, and authenticity? There are lots of things we can do to accomplish this – here are three to think about:

– Stop managing other people’s feelings. I know this one well myself, as I can be the king of trying to manage other people’s feelings. It’s arrogant, manipulative, and somewhat ridiculous to think we have the power to manage other people’s emotions. We also use it as a cop-out not to really speak our truth. We can be aware of and mindful of other people and how they might feel (so we don’t end up being mean and hurtful on purpose), but when we let go of taking care of others in a condescending way, it frees us and them up to be grown-ups and have adult conversations, which sometimes can get a little sticky or tense when we’re speaking our truth.

– Be real, not right. This is huge when it comes to speaking our truth. I wrote a whole article about this a few months ago (click here for that one). When we focus on winning or being right, we no longer can access the deepest places within our heart, which is where our real truth comes from. When we let go of our attachment to the outcome of a conversation, what the other person thinks, and our erroneous obsession with always having to be right, we give ourselves the opportunity to get real. Being vulnerable and transparent are the key elements of speaking our truth, not dominating the conversation and the person (or people) we’re talking to.

– Practice. Like anything and everything else in life – the best way for us to get better, deepen our capacity, and grow is to practice. In this case as we’re talking about speaking our truth, it’s not about “role playing” per se (although if that helps give you the courage to have a difficult conversation, go for it), it is about speaking up and stepping out into your life with your truth. Will you mess it up? Of course! Will you say the wrong things sometimes? Yes. Will people get upset, offended, or defensive at times? Absolutely. This is not about being perfect, it is about being yourself and speaking authentically.

Have empathy and compassion with yourself as you practice – this is not easy for most of us. And, even for those of us who have really worked to expand our capacity to speak our truth and have had many experiences of doing it in a powerful way, remember that each situation is always new and different. And, in certain areas of life (or with specific people), speaking up can be incredibly scary and challenging for us. Even if your legs shake, your voice quivers, or your heart races (all of which usually happen when we get real and vulnerable) – take a deep breath, dig down for the courage you have within you, and be willing to speak your truth. When we do this, we can watch our relationships and lives literally transform.

Where in your life are you not speaking your truth and what are you willing to do about that? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more just below.

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