How authentic would you say that you are? Do you show your real self in most situations? Or do you put on a social “mask” in order to appease certain people and fit into certain situations? One that makes you out to be more extrovert, more easy going, more successful or more intellectual than you actually are or that hides whatever perceived shortcomings you think you embody? Perhaps you feel that you need to present the world with a diluted, more toned-down, more “normal” version of you in order not to be rejected?
For who are you REALLY underneath that mask? Behind the baggage from the past, the inherited beliefs you have absorbed from your family and the social conditioning you have unconsciously taken on from society, your culture and your nationality?
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to work out. Because there are so many layers to it: the person we think we are, the person we think others see us as and then the person that we think we should be. It takes a lot of digging and it can be pretty uncomfortable at times.
And the thing that usually gets in the way of us fully sharing our real selves with the world? SHAME. The feeling that we are somehow slightly lacking or failing; that we are not enough just as we are.
And because shame is one of the most pervasive and horrible emotions to truly feel, most of us will do anything not to feel it: pretending we are someone else (putting on a mask), numbing out through various forms of addiction (alcohol, TV, exercise, sex or drugs) or going to the other extreme and thinking we are much better than everyone else (becoming judgmental, defensive and mean).
But there is no other way out. Shame needs to be felt - in all of its toe-curling glory – in order to move through and out of us.
I know this because it’s an emotion that I’ve been re-acquainting myself with since last Xmas. And I’ve noticed that the more I can recognise that it is there, the more I am able to lessen its grip on me. Which is so important. Because the tricky thing with shame is that it needs fuel. And that fuel comes from looking for external validation that it is there for a reason. Shame is constantly searching for opportunities to show you how ‘lacking’ you are. And it's usually pretty good at finding them. Even though they are not objectively there.
The way it shows up most for me is by making me feel like I’m too loud, too opinionated and too strong; that I take up too much space and too much time, that I'm too forceful and ask too many questions. It makes me feel stupid, like an outsider and it tells me I am being rejected by everyone else who it makes out is quieter, wiser, better.
I feel it the most when I am in a group of people that I don’t know very well. And it really is debilitating. Because it either makes me feel so unworthy that I think I shouldn’t be around them or it encourages me to pretend to be someone I’m not (usually a confident, funny "joker"). Neither of which is very pleasant.
It came up for me a lot on the second part of my feminine leadership course earlier this month. Which is no surprise really given its principal topic. Because what stops you being the leader that you truly are? SHAME!! A fear that who you already are, as a natural leader, is NOT enough. That leadership has to look a certain way and that you, therefore, must somehow conform to this by contorting yourself into someone else’s ‘more successful’-looking shoes.
But when I realised that shame is actually just an EXTERNAL CRITICISM, that I had, for whatever reason, chosen to INTERNALISE, and when I saw that this meant that it, therefore, originated from SOMEONE ELSE with their own set of fears and misplaced beliefs and insecurities, it suddenly became much easier to distance myself from that voice of inner critic.
I acknowledged that the shame was actually never mine to carry. That I was enough!
Because we are all enough. We are all DIFFERENT. We can’t BE compared. Each of us has unique skills, talents and attributes that we were given for a reason. And together we make up a beautiful patchwork quilt of different human qualities.
So being authentic takes courage. And commitment. And trust. That even if you do get rejected by those who don’t get you, that you will in time attract those that do. ⠀
It means telling your inner critic that your shame is misplaced. That it is no longer needed so it can go on holiday for a while.
Daring to be you with all your perfect imperfections is a long-haul game: it takes a while to get to know yourself, even longer to pluck up the courage to reveal it and longer still to wait for the rewards. ⠀
But it’s definitely worth it. ⠀
Because anxiety and stress are caused by the gap between who you think you should be and who you are. Lessen the gap = more ease and fulfillment. Simple. ⠀
So, which bit of you do you hold back from others? And what is the fear that is behind this? Where do you feel shame? And do you dare to reveal a tiny bit of the unseen real you today? To practise? Just to see? Let me know in the comments below!