Permission to be true to yourself
No matter how much personal growth work we may do, sometimes life happens! We think we're nailing this work-life balance thing and then inadvertently we over-commit and over-stretch ourselves or life throws us a curveball we didn't factor into our meticulously planned week. And it's no different for me. What has changed though, is how I deal with it when that happens.
Back in the day, when I was feeling tired or overwhelmed I would have continued to push myself to meet all my commitments because I didn't want to let others down, even at the expense of my own health and wellbeing.
I see many of my clients doing the same thing too. Now, as soon as I realise I don't have the time or energy for all the things or start to notice my health deteriorating, I will cancel plans and do what I need to do to care for myself and protect my energy levels. It's not easy but I do my best to practice what I preach, and if I can't model being responsibly selfish (which is what my business advocates), then really, who can?
So I want today's article to be permission, if you need it, to be true to yourself and honour your feelings and needs. To be human, to displease, change plans, cancel commitments and risk letting people down, to take care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
This is what being responsibly selfish is all about. You cannot drink from an empty cup. Sometimes it's necessary to stop and fill your cup back up before you give any more to others. You can't always predict it, and you're always worth it.
The pressure to please
When I stepped into the role of coach, it came with an unconscious pressure to always have it all together and present my best self to the world, much like the 'professional' mask I used to wear in my corporate job. To show up, be perfect, pleasing, perform, always get it right, and to know the answer. Because what will others think if I don't?
What I've learned on my own self-development journey though is that trying to be something other than what we are is exhausting! Nothing will drain your battery faster than putting on an act and pretending you are something that you are not.
You see the masks (or armour) we wear to protect ourselves from the judgment and criticism of others often require us to forsake our real self, suppress our feelings and needs, and stop us from being really seen and building a true connection.
This was demonstrated beautifully to me in an exercise I did on a training course a couple of years ago. We were put into pairs and each given a couple of minutes to share with the other person the highlights of our life to date. We were then asked to do the same again but this time to tell them about our struggles and difficulties.
When the group came back together we were asked when we felt more connected to the other person. We all agreed it was when they shared their struggles with us.
And it wasn't because we were judging them and getting off on their hard times, it was because we were all thinking, thank god, I thought it was just me!
How often are we actually honest with ourselves and others about how we are really feeling and what we need? Maybe we have got so used to numbing our feelings and needs that we don't even know?
Instead, we pop on our 'I'm fine' mask, take a smiley photo for 'the gram', and push on through because showing people our true selves might mean risking displeasing and disappointing them.
Embracing who you are (even the messy bits)
As an introvert, I have to manage my time and energy carefully, otherwise, I end up exhausted and of no use to anyone. And I've only really come to understand and embrace this the past couple of years (I can do a great impression of an extrovert).
Back in the day, before this realisation, I would often wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn't I just keep going to parties and social gatherings like my friends could? It wasn't (always) that I wasn't enjoying myself, just that I seemed to run out of energy quicker or took longer to bounce back.
And since COVID and all the lockdowns, I've seen a similar thing happen with people who are on the more extroverted end of the scale. With the lack of peopling and excessive screen time many of us have endured, extroverts can't understand why they feel so drained all the time.
Often, we beat ourselves up for these differences and try to contort ourselves to fit in with our environment, which usually involves sacrificing our feelings and needs in some way. We compare our messy or less desirable bits to others' highlights on social media and wonder why we feel rubbish!
However, when we start to understand ourselves and our needs better it enables us to make better choices and decisions, articulate our needs to others and manage our energy. This is a big part of the work I do with my clients.
The gift of acceptance
Often, what lies beneath our desire to fit in, be pleasing, and not disappoint is low self-worth. We feel that we have to prove our worth and be agreeable to people, both at work or in our personal relationships.
We need those daily stamps of approval that come from doing things for others, completing tasks, accomplishing goals, and the praise that goes along with it.
Because of this, we do everything to the utmost. We overwork, overgive, overachieve and overcompensate. We pour all of ourselves into our surroundings, into our people, into our work. These things become our identity, and this fuels our desire for more and our anxiety, stress, and fear of loss.
It can be difficult to untangle ourselves and figure out where those things end and we begin. And yet, it is this untangling that helps you uncover who you really are and what you really feel, want, and need.
Acceptance is knowing that we don't have to prove anything to anyone. That who we are (not what we do) is enough. And when we can start to accept all of ourselves - the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, magical person that we are, we can start to strike a balance between caring about others and taking care of ourselves.
I'd love to know if this article resonates with you - feel free to message me.
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