May 12, 2009
How honest are you? While most of us aren’t bald-faced liars who go around deceiving people consciously, if we’re honest with ourselves about it, we often don’t fully speak our truth or express all of our emotions. We’ve been trained and have in turn trained ourselves to be “appropriate” and to say and do the “right” thing so we can get what we want and look as good as possible in most situations.
For me, being a “nice guy,” a “people pleaser,” and wanting others to be impressed with me often poses a challenge when what I want to say or express doesn’t seem to fit into the “likeable” category. Most of the people I know and work with have some “story” about themselves they want others to believe and therefore only feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings that match up with this story or the public “identity” that they put forth.
However, what if, even with whatever fear or resistance we each have – we were able to fully, passionately, and honestly express ourselves?
One way we can do this, which I talk about in Chapter Five of Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Principle 3 – Express Yourself), is to lower our “waterline.” This idea is based on the metaphor of an iceberg, with just the tip of it popping up above the surface, and the rest of the iceberg (who we really are) down below the waterline.
The exercise that I share in the book and often do in my workshops, which I originally learned from my friends and mentors Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, is called “if you really knew me.” Each person in the group has a minute or two to complete the phrase, “if you really knew me, you’d know…” and then share some things about themselves in an honest, transparent, and vulnerable way. It takes courage, safety, and trust to do this. As I’ve seen time and time again, this exercise can have a profound impact on everyone involved.
Even though I’m feeling nervous as I write this and I worry that this is overly personal or possibly inappropriate for me to write in an “advice article” like this, I will share with you some things you’d know about me if we were sitting in a circle, doing this powerful exercise together.
If you really knew me, you’d know that I spend a lot of time and energy worrying about my physical appearance – obsessing about certain aspects of how I look (my hair, my skin, my eyes, my teeth, my weight, and more) and worrying that I don’t look good enough, that people can see me aging, losing my hair, and not taking care of myself – and that they’ll judge me or won’t like me because of it.
If you really, really knew me you’d know that I can’t seem to figure out how to stay on top of my life, my work, my finances, and all of my many personal and professional responsibilities in a way that feels balanced, workable, or peaceful. Much of the time I feel like I am drowning, messing things up, and simply “pretending” to be happy and grateful.
If you really, really, really knew me you’d know that I believe my work, my message, and the gifts that I have are incredibly powerful, important, and meaningful. I’m sometimes blown away by the impact I have on others. I want to have an even deeper and bigger impact on people and the world, but my ego seems to think that I’m not doing enough, not being appreciated in the way I deserve, or that I better hurry up and “make it” before people really find out how full of it I am.
Wow…I can’t really believe I just shared all of that. And, it feels both scary and liberating to have done so. When we’re willing to own and express our truth, we can free ourselves from needless worry, hiding, and denial. This allows us to be ourselves, live our lives with passion, and go for what we truly want in life.
Real authenticity is not some set of rules or a self-righteous definition about how people “should” be in life…it is the willingness and courage to be real, true, transparent, and vulnerable in the moment-by-moment, day-by-day experience of being in relationship with others and living this magical, mysterious, wonderful, crazy, exciting thing we call life.
Authenticity Challenge: What You Can Do
Think about some important things you have not been willing to say or some intense feelings you have not been willing to express recently. Make a commitment to yourself, even if you’re feeling scared or uncomfortable about it, to express yourself honestly about these important things. Write them down, call a friend of family member, or talk to someone you fully trust. What would they know about you if they really knew how you were feeling right now? Reach out in a bold, vulnerable, and honest way and see what happens when you express yourself like this. It can be magical and one of the most liberating experiences in life! Have fun…