~ James A Autry, The Servant Leader
Why are people sometimes so afraid to be themselves?
One of the key principles of self-leadership is the importance of being you.
However, some of us hide who we really are and instead present an image of how we think the other person wants us to behave in the hope that we will be accepted or liked.
I see this happen a lot in business, especially when leaders are stepping out of their comfort zones to play a bigger game. In corporate you might be attending a meeting with senior managers. As a business owner, you might be meeting an influential client or someone who is a role model and you feel star-struck to work with them.
Whoever the person, it’s easy for us to feel small, unworthy, inferior, or of lesser value. We perceive them as being so much more important and fall to pieces in these situations instead of being our normal, confident and articulate self…
Our internal thinking has a huge impact on our confidence and self worth. Our social and parental conditioning is against us being authentic and over time we have created rules, such as:
- It is disrespectful to disagree with our elders, seniors or those more important than us.
- Only speak when you are spoken to: We are taught what to say, when to say it.
- Who you are is shaped by those who have influence over you. (You hand over your power to them.)
- Don’t brag about what you’re good at as it might make other people feel uncomfortable. Push it down… (This is why most of us struggle to talk about our own successes.)
- You have to be submissive with people more important that you.
Society creates ‘norms’ and we measure ourselves to them. We are under pressure to fit in. So here’s how we respond:
- You want to keep the peace and hope they like you. So you say what you think they want to hear in order to become a people-pleaser.
- You believe that your opinion is of lesser value and doesn’t count or it doesn’t matter. You perceive the other person’s opinion is of far greater value.
- If you challenge or disagree with something, then you’ll be shot down or seen as difficult or negative.
- You should keep your head below the parapet and blend in.
We live up in our heads most of the time, believing our thoughts to be the truth (you literally are what you think!).
Most of us go through life not knowing who we are or what we want. We settle, survive and keep our heads down. This is easier than trying to be yourself. Being real exposes you to vulnerability and judgment – this is scary.
The perception that someone is more important than you is often based on old concepts of power, especially in business. We try to work out where we fit in in the hierarchy.
True power comes from your personal power as a human being. By building trust and support you naturally attract other people.
Here are some tips on how to be you:
1. STOP WORRYING about what other people are thinking about you. You have no idea what they are thinking. These assumptions aren’t real. They are probably not thinking about you at all! This distraction only makes you get your own way of success. Instead of worrying about what to say, or how you look, focus on your intention for the meeting. Be 100% present for the person who is talking.
2. KNOW YOUR VALUE – Be useful as a leader to those you serve. Know WHY you’re attending the meeting. Understand the value that you bring. You are there to provide information or expertise so that others can make an informed decision. You are helping them to understand and make sense of things and prevent them making mistakes: Here’s how I can help you…
3. BE AN EQUAL –As human beings we all have the same worth and dignity. We are all equals no matter what role we play. See yourself as a consultant, not as a sub-ordinate. Let go of ego (theirs and yours) – it’s a distraction. Understand that some personality styles are different to yours. They package their language in a different way. It’s normal, not personal.
4. ALWAYS BE YOUR REAL SELF – Be the same person at home as you are at work… because you are! Be your authentic self – It’s who you really are. You have the same values whatever role you are playing. You already know how to interact with people at other levels – This is no different – Just be YOU. Find the language to help you say what you want to say.
5. FIND THE COURAGE to be you. Learn to listen to your heart as well as your head. People want an honest opinion, not ‘lip service.’ Be authentic and respond assertively, even if it is a difficult message. Remember, you are just talking to another person – we are all the same.
Be the person YOU want to be… from today!
It’s really okay to be YOU – Take yourself to work!