She started the conversation holding back, timid and fearful, not accustomed to talking about herself. She had spent her life standing in the shadows letting others speak, not wanting to reveal her vulnerabilities and here I was asking her to share them all with me. She clearly felt uncomfortable. Her eyes downcast, her voice softly spoken, her responses vague.
I gently probed her with questions, trying to reveal the layers beneath. Suddenly the tension in the room shifts. I’ve asked her a question and it has invoked an emotion, one of excitement.
Her hands start to move, her eyes get brighter and she starts to speak faster. I know I have hit the mark.
She is talking about a specific event in her past when things were working out her way. The story she is telling me is an incredible one. She explains how she orchestrated an event, and it is a marvel to hear how she managed all the moving parts. She speaks of collaboration, connection and transforming others and she is excited to share all the details.
Her talents and values come into sharp focus as she explains how she executed with grace and flair. I visualise her in the moment she is describing, and she looks a picture of confidence, competence, and joy.
She glows with the memory of that day. She is lost to me in the present as she relives the success of that moment. But her joy fades as she starts to speak of her current role. It lacks opportunities for her to use her innate talents. She never gets to connect people. She misses the joy of helping others transform.
With a gasp, she sits up straight, her eyes go wide, and she exclaims in wonder, “I don’t have opportunities to be me.”
This is not a unique story and it represents most of the people I work with. They come to me feeling disconnected, lacking confidence, fearful, disengaged, unfulfilled. They don’t realise it to begin with, but at some point, it becomes clear. They are not being themselves.
For whatever reason, and everyone’s reason is unique, people stop showing up as themselves. It might be because their work or personal situation is not allowing a safe space for authenticity. For others they have suppressed their selves to fit an image they think is desirable to others. There are many other reasons, but the results are the same. Built up protective layers around their core self to prevent from being seen.
I’ve done it. I’ve buried my core values, talents and passions deep within for fear of the judgment of others. The fear of looking stupid, inexperienced, ignorant, too opiniated, wrong, naïve, young, foolish, wrong (yes I know I have said this twice).
Yet, when I tap into someone’s core self, their fear of being seen melts away. They come alive. They cannot hide the feeling of joy that comes when they have been themselves. It feels easy, it feels energising, it feels right.
And in that moment, they discover the alignment of their values, talents and interests. It is the moment of truth.