Shout “They’ve found out!” as a front door opens and the person standing in the doorway may start to tremble. At least that’s my father’s view, though I’m not sure he’s ever tried it. In other words we all have secrets.
In Brene Brown’s awesome talk on vulnerability at Ted.com she says we all experience a sense of shame. She defines shame as a belief that there’s something about ourselves which if known by others would result in disconnection, which is exactly my father’s point. What can we do about this? The first thing is to recognize that you’re not alone. Everyone has this fear of disconnection. At the end of one of our workshops someone said “I’ve realised I’m not alone”. Indeed, you’re not. We’re in this together.
The second is to stop beating yourself up for not being perfect. When we give ourselves a hard time life gets difficult. We say things to ourselves like “I’m not good enough” and then experience the judgment that we have made on ourselves.
Third, a general sharing of your imperfections can be really powerful. In my own case I have been so thoughtless and inconsiderate from time to time, and on the other hand have sometimes been a part of some really cool work. Twenty years ago I was telling a wise, and now sadly passed, priest about some rather embarrassing stuff. His response: “Welcome to the human race”. He punctured my sense of specialness in a few words.
As I continue stumbling through my work in this life, I’ve more or less stopped beating myself up. OK, I may sometimes seem foolish. If someone thinks I’m a fool, it’s their call, and it must have happened often enough. Many years ago Thomas Harris wrote the best-selling book “I’m OK, You’re OK”. I would add, “I’m a fool, you’re a fool, and that’s cool”. Come to think of it, Steve Jobs finishes his wonderful Stanford address with the advice, “Stay hungry, stay foolish”.
Having substantially accepted myself, fool and all, I’ve more or less stopped beating other people up, even tho’ they’re imperfect too. It turns out that, in accepting ourselves we are also able to accept others as they are. And that’s quite something.
Once we are OK with ourselves we are free to enjoy being ourselves. Authenticity is finally discovered! And there’s no need to hide when the knock comes on the door.
Categories: Living and Leading