Are you hiding the best of you?
Your first response might be — oh no. I don’t hide. So let me ask it a different way. Are you free to be totally you or are parts of you tucked away so no one really knows the real you? The you that doesn’t agree with everything but bites her/his tongue and slinks back because you think that represents unity. The you that takes every project given because you think it shows your levels of proficiency. The you that duplicates the leadership you see because it is accepted. It feels awkward and inauthentic, but going against the grain is too uncomfortable.
Every time we decide to let a facsimile of who we are lead our lives,
we shortchange ourselves and others.
We think showing up as who we are is not acceptable so we move socially personas forward– perfectly plastic, curious, expert, or humble — as we watch from our hiding place.
Perfectly Plastic Paula.
The “perfect” representative is all things to all people. She or he is flawless, knows exactly what others should do, handles every project, knows how to smooze with those in power and makes the politically right moves. When you put Perfectly Plastic Paula (or Paul) under the microscope of self reflection, you see a hollow frame molded by other people’s expectations. He or she can’t afford to show you imperfections, yet the need to be perfect reveals a fake plasticity. Service is not the driver — acceptance is. In this society of likes, who follows, and who you know, it is easy to fall into the “gotta be liked” trap. Ironically, the most perfect you is you being you.
Maybe you should pull out Candice (or Charlie). Candice is the life of the party. She keeps the conversations going. Candice is inquisitive about everyone and everything. Sounds like a good thing, right? It can be. To the naked eye, Candice seems completely engaged. The flip side is her curiosity is not necessarily genuine. She is the master of looking interested even when her mind has drifted off to what she’s really trying to find out or avoid. The truth is — Candice wants to get close to key people so that she has the “in the know” edge. She knows about confidential conversations in meetings she did not attend. Instead of having open, honest discussions, Candice goes around the source, asking people connected to others about situations so she can manage outcomes.
Then again, Edna usually does well at the forefront. Edna relates everything to what she knows and as a result, she looks heads and shoulders above the rest. Her counterparts see her as a game changer as long as she doesn’t make them feel inconsequential. Edna has researched her areas of expertise long and hard! She studied who’s who in the organization, and strategically aligns herself into their confidence zone. Edna is not really as interested in others as it might seem. She is more interested in being part of the in crowd of experts.
Last but not least – we can’t leave out Humble Harriett/Harry. On the surface, Humble Harriet lives a life of humility. She is eager to show her value – joyfully volunteering for tasks and rushing to show management the next greatest things she’s done. When thanked for her quality work, this is where Harriett shines. She puts on her “aww me?” look and acts as if his or her hard work was nothing. It’s just what we do. She is always of service, and often finds herself in competition with Perfectly Plastic Paula. That’s when the motive comes leaking out of the face of humility. The cousin of false pride is false humility. Humility isn’t avoidance of recognition. Humility is accepting recognition with grace and appreciation for being one of many with brilliant gifts and talents.
Trying to be the perfect expert who is curious and humble is exhausting. Who can keep that up and stay sane? Our experiences and thoughts impact how we define ourselves, but the story is still being written with each breath of life. As each page is turned, you learn a bit more about who you are, what you value, and how you want to consistently show up in the world.
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