Being Yourself Isn’t Enough
Do you ever feel misunderstood? Like people don’t see or “get” the real you? Overlooked, perhaps?
Maybe you are hardworking or intelligent or compassionate or clever… How many people actually see you that way? I remember one time a direct, no-nonsense (and somewhat intimidating) woman came to a coaching session and said, “Rachel, yesterday a peer told me that sometimes I could be a little intimidating. Can you believe it? ME!? Intimidating!?” (Uh… yes. Yes, I could believe it.) She cared very much about the people in her office, but didn’t communicate it very well.
Being isn’t enough. You have to communicate who you are.
I don’t mean communicate it verbally. Don’t go around saying, “Hey everyone! Just so you know, I’m a really hardworking person!” That reduces your credibility. If you have to announce your character traits, people assume you’re making them up, or at best, you’re insecure about them.
I’m also not talking about proving your character through your actions, though that’s important. Your behavior must align with your values and personality. When who you are matches with what you do, we call that integrity. And yes, you need that.
Beyond that, though, if there are aspects of your character or personality that people don’t see, it’s probably because you haven’t shown them. You must be willing to reveal those traits. You have to act and communicate accordingly.
We hold ourselves back. Fears, self-doubt, and limiting beliefs get in the way. This theme has popped up over and over in the past few weeks. The college students I gave a presentation to wanted to be seen as capable in their upcoming job interviews… but their nervousness was getting in the way of communicating their capability. A coaching client wants to be seen as competent at work… but her inability to enforce boundaries gets in the way of communicating competence. An acquaintance wants clients to see him as a credible advisor… but his insecurity gets in the way of communicating credibility.
These people ARE capable, competent, and credible. But they aren’t communicating it. Those fears, self-doubts, and limiting beliefs keep you from showing the world who you are. You worry others will judge you. You worry your best won’t be good enough. You worry the traits that are important to you will be devalued by others. But by allowing those worries to bury your traits and characteristics, you rob the world of them… and contribute to your own unhappiness.
It happens to the best of us. Earlier this week, my husband commented, “It’s too bad we’re going to miss XYZ event this year.” What he meant, besides making conversation, was “I like spending time together as a family and I’m sad we’ll miss this opportunity.” My work schedule conflicted with the event. Because of my fears, self-doubt, and limiting beliefs, what I heard—despite the fact that my husband has always been a huge supporter of me and my work—was, “Your business is ruining my life.” In years past, I’d have left the conversation there and nursed my inadequacy (bad wife!) and resentment (isn’t my work important, too?) in silence. Instead, I asked some clarifying questions, talked about my work, and felt better heard and supported.
There are a few things you must do to be seen and known.
1) Know yourself.
It all starts here. You can’t communicate what you don’t know. Right now, you know your doubts and fears, and that’s what you communicate. Get to know more of yourself. Find out what you like about yourself. Figure out what you value. Name your strengths, your characteristics, and your principles.
2) Practice courage.
Courage is a little different than confidence. Confidence is the self-assurance that you’ll be okay in the end. That’s good to cultivate, too. Courage is being willing to do something scary, regardless of outcome, because it’s a good thing to do. It takes a courage to expose aspects of yourself you’ve been hiding. Practice being scared. The cool thing is that over time, fewer things will scare you.
3) Share yourself.
Through your words, your nonverbals, your actions, and your choices, let people see more of the real you.
4) See others.
When you see someone else’s character or personality showing up, say so. Tell them what you see. Affirm them. Sometimes, we need others to help us articulate our own traits. When you tell them what you see, they’ll see themselves more clearly. And they may just return the favor.
Sometimes, when you share a glimpse of yourself, no one notices. Or worse, they mock you. (You wouldn’t believe how many derisive looks and comments I get when I tell people I love doing dance workouts in the morning. They don’t know what they’re missing out on…) It can hurt. But believe it or not, the pain of rejection is nothing like the pain of feeling invisible.
If you want to be known, you have to be willing to be seen. You can’t assume that people know who you are or how you are on the inside if you haven’t let it out. Communicate your thoughts, feelings, intentions, values, and character. When you do, you’ll increase your presence, your integrity, and your capacity for connection.