Far too often, we sell ourselves short and/or sell ourselves out. We act from a place of fear. We act from a place of pride. Sometimes, we fail to act at all.
I should know.
For too long I allowed fear (and later pride) to hold me back. Pick your flavor, I’ve probably tasted it already. First, there was this overarching fear of what everyone will think; a malady I lived with for far too long in my life, and one that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I made relational choices early on that re-enforced this pattern and then chose a career that all but guaranteed that I would remain personally stuck (unless I dared to break through). A career where what others’ think does in fact matter and is an important yardstick for advancement. In certain spheres, it matters so much that I actually have friends who’ve worked hard to have a ‘zero’ social imprint. No LinkedIn, no Facebook, no Twitter, and certainly no blog filled with paintings, prose and personal revelations. And though as a child I aspired to be a diplomat (or in intel) like some of these others I know, these days I’m humming Garth Brook’s ‘Unanswered Prayers’ and am thanking God that it didn’t quite work out — at least not as I once imagined.
Then there’s that pesky thing called perfectionism.
I didn’t think I was one. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought perfectionism looked like my friends’ houses where there’s never a speck of dust or paper in sight. Or my friends whose perfectionist OCD tendencies manifest in their need to relentlessly organize their surroundings. That’s not me. Though I appreciate a tidy home, I don’t care much for housekeeping and prefer to have my ideas and creations visibly accessible, not tucked away in some drawer. So I was shocked to learn at a recent leadership retreat that there was universal consensus among the group that I was indeed a perfectionist, just of a different flavor. And while I’m letting go of my concern with what others think, I’m still left with that I think. And I think they’re on to something.
The truth… my truth… is that all of this perfectionism, people-pleasing and pride is exhausting. Really exhausting… And it has taken me into my 40s to finally begin to understand: if we’re not okay with ourselves, then perhaps it does matter… more than it should… and from that mindset, we’re likely to attract people and situations into our lives that validate these fears and keep us stuck. But however much we might protest to the contrary, ‘stuck-ness’ is really not about others, but about where we are with ourselves.
Want to let go of people-pleasing? Try a little self-love on for size. It’s not about being selfish, but it is about owning our own truth and valuing ourselves, including our imperfections and limitations. It’s about being at least as accountable to ourselves as we hold ourselves to others or others to us. Want to face down your fears? Try a little courage on for size and take on the very thing that you think you can’t do… the one that will help you advance your own dreams. Want to let go of pride? Take risks, fail publicly, acknowledge ‘not knowing’, give yourself a hefty dose of grace, then graciously return to the arena, wearing a little more humility than you once did before. Want to step more fully into your own voice and leadership? Learn to act from your core truths and values and lead with a servant’s heart — not from a place of all knowing, but from a place of quiet confidence in yourself and humble acknowledgement of all that there still is to learn.
I’m curious to know…
Have you ever allowed fear, pride or indifference rob you of your own dreams? Have you ever sold yourself short or sold yourself out? In what ways have perfectionism or people-pleasing kept you stuck in your own life? What steps can you take today to get out of your own way? What one step could you take today to move you closer to your own dreams?