Last May I had the opportunity to attend a weekend mastermind retreat with a high-level coach and mentor. Not only was the weekend a powerful catalyst for my personal growth and business success in the past year, but what I learned there has allowed me to help my clients step more fully into their own power and bring their own dreams into being.
One of my biggest take-aways from that weekend, and perhaps the one thing that has helped me and my clients more than anything else, was the realization that my thoughts have been too small for me.
I’ve always been pretty good about dreaming and setting my sights high. What I haven’t been good about is owning that those dreams aren’t just things I might get to someday IF I work hard enough, prove myself to others; what I haven’t owned is that those dreams are me. Right now. Not even “already”. Those dreams have never not been me. Those dreams tell me who I really am. They are clues to who I’ve always been meant to become, live into.
If I’ve done the digging and unearthed my truth, if the dreams come from the bedrock of my soul, then I am the stuff of my dreams. I have always already been there, I’ve just been waiting for my thoughts and then external reality to catch up to my inner reality, my Truth.
What this means is that I can stop worrying that I’m “not there yet.”
I can relax into who I am.
I can stop pretending that I’m not there yet.
I can stop trying to be someone who is pretending she is not yet who she really is because first she has to try harder yet to earn who she already is. (So much striving! So much exhaustion!)
I can stop pretending that I have to try to be someone who is trying to reach her dreams. (So much struggle! So little success! So little enjoyment!)
I can own who I am. (exhale)
This kind of truth-telling and owning results first in a deep mental, emotional, psychic relief. Freedom. And then what comes next is like the top of your head explodes with all the possibilities.
It hit me how often I must have been holding back, pretending, when, shortly after I came back from my trip to California (where I felt all kinds of possibility and awesomeness being unearthed and unleashed!), I walked into a room full of people at a business event and suddenly felt myself shrinking, contracting, dialing back on the shine. I wasn’t doing this because I was intimidated. I was doing this because in the two seconds it took me to scan the room, my reflex was to mirror the average posture, attitude, and energy currently being presented by the majority of the people there. My reflex was to make myself smaller in order to increase my chances of fitting in. I took a deep breath, intended that I would be me and reminded myself I can easily handle a little discomfort and awkwardness, reminded myself that if I’m not turning off some people, then I’m not doing Great Work. I put my shoulders back, raised my head, and corrected course.
I caught myself this time but I’m aware that too often in the past I’ve sold myself out. Thinking that my survival depended on conforming in order to gain acceptance when really my thriving, living really ALIVE, depends on me staying absolutely true to who I am with my sights locked onto what I really want and how I want to live.
There is so much talk about authenticity and I think most of the conversation revolves around the importance of not trying to make yourself out to be better (smarter, wealthier, more savvy, more confident, more accomplished… ) than you are. As a society I think we are more accepting of this kind of authenticity. But my conclusion in walking into that room and doing a quick read of the crowd was not that I was better than these people. It was that it was, for the most part, a room full of too many people holding way back, keeping most of their potential bottled up, most of their radiance turned down to “dim.” There were so many little signs of light being checked, enthusiasm traded in for coolness, detachment, or “professionalism.” My decision to stand up straight was not a judgment of them, but a commitment to being the person I’d decided I really am – that is the person I want to be, not some lesser, dishonest even, representation of myself.
“True discipline requires mental independence,
an ability to remain consistent in the face of herd instinct and group pressure.”
author of Great By Choice:
Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
What about when being authentic not only involves acknowledging your “weaknesses” and “shortcomings,” but when Integrity requires who you to step up and own that you are better, bigger, more badass than the small you you are pretending to be? Playing small is just as dishonest as puffery but in the spirit of not offending anyone we often give it a virtuous name like “humility” and then put it on parade as if settling and living down to other people’s expectations is something we should all aspire to.
We act small – not as bright, not as funny, not as talented – for many reasons, but I’m willing to bet the greatest motivation is social acceptance. We’re taught conflicting things. On one hand, we praise risk-takers, those who “dare to be different” or “march to the beat of a different drum.” But we tend, hypocritically, to withhold such praise until it is safe to do so, until such people have proven themselves and their risks have “paid off.” We are told we need to stand out from the crowd, which sounds great until it comes time to do so and those that do become exposed targets for harsh judgment and scathing criticism from arm-chair quarterbacks. We are told to believe we can be or do anything, but when the time comes to really believe this and act and speak as if you do possess this kind of chutzpuh and rock-your-world self-belief, we are accused of being arrogant or egotistical.
But the truth is, if you are living from your soul, you will encounter a lot of resistance and criticism. You may even offend certain people and be rejected by others. But you don’t have to worry about being egotistical. It’s impossible. You cannot be both soulful and egotistical. Those are two separate things.
But if you are living from your soul, you’re going to unleash amazing, powerful things. It feels like living more ALIVE. Some people will be astounded. Some people will be offended. You will have to own being a thousand times bigger than you have allowed yourself to be. The soul dwarfs the ego like the sun outshines a flashlight.
John Muir said, “The sun shines not on us, but in us.”
Stop pretending you’re the flashlight.
Own your sun.
Expect that people WILL talk.
Expect that there will be people who ask, “who does she think she is?” Expect that there will be people who tell you to tone it down, that you’re too much.
But this is as foolish as saying the sun offends because it shines so brightly.
Know, too, that there will be others watching you. These will also be people who are just waiting for a brave example who inspires and gives them courage, blazes a trail, so that they, too, can unleash and