Finding Your Authentic Self – I Know the Way, I Must Learn My Way
Society is quick to tell us what is right and what is wrong, how to live our lives, what to believe, and how to compare ourselves to others. As you may know, I live in Canada. One day I wondered whether how I saw the world would be the same if I had been raised in Saudi Arabia, Russia or Germany.
As I pondered, I realized how I was thinking just like the people around me. I never questioned whether the beliefs were truly mine. I began to look at the biases I was taught, how women were supposed to dress and behave, and what my life plan was supposed to be if I was going to be like other women. At this point, I felt a little confused. The assumptions that were underlying my thoughts and decisions were automatic and I didn’t really realize how they were controlling my life. I was off-center and didn’t know how to find my authentic self. I didn’t want to fit in with the people who didn’t enrich my life. I didn’t want to judge what others had or didn’t have, compete with them, or live up the images found on television or in magazines.
If I didn’t want to continue to live my life on automatic pilot, what was I going to do? Who was I? Where was I going to put my energy?
The Stories In Your Head
I realized the only place I could put my energy was within me. This meant listening to the stories playing in my head. Well, that was not easy. It took me at least three months of really paying attention to my thoughts to discover the stories that were directing my decisions and my feelings.
The good thing was that I was ready to show compassion to myself. I would sit and wonder what a compassionate person would say or what they would do if I shared my imperfections. I knew they would be kind because that would be exactly what I would do if the circumstances were reversed. As I listened to this dialogue, I began to recognize that the voices which taught me the values and ideas were automatically playing in my head and controlling my responses.
You may be asking what else I did.
- I wrote down my strengths and went over and over them until I knew they were accurate and described who I believed I was at my core. I wasn’t faking it until I made it.
- I decided what to do and what to say based on my strengths.
- I learned charisma and conversational tools.
- I practiced techniques on how to handle difficult people and deal with conflict.
- I limited the amount of time I spent in negative self talk. I didn’t push it away. I loved it for being there to protect me and told it I was learning new ways of dealing with people who were trying to pass their negativity to me.
- The next thing I did was to stop and examine how I dealt with situations that caused me to feel bad about my self or become anxious. I examined four possible responses to each uncomfortable situation:
- Was I taking on too much to avoid feeling less than?
- Did I make excuses or just go out of my way to avoid others?
- Was I blaming others rather than accepting my part in each situation?
- Was I doing less than I knew I could to be an equal partner in relationships because I was afraid of being hurt?
When I knew what I was doing to protect myself, I could honor the feelings and put new skills out of my tool box to overcome the pattern. It took practice (maybe I’m a slow learner) but it was worth it.
7. I stood in a wonder woman pose for two minutes each morning and made sure my body language was open and positive in all circumstances.
Lasting Change Happens In Small, Consistent, Steps
You might be thinking, “That sounds like a lot, Brenda.” Change did not happen overnight for me. Each piece was added bit by bit, until the puzzle was completed. Slowly, I began to feel better, have fewer times when I felt alone and downtrodden, and I knew that the healing process was bringing me out of the fog and I was closer to the sunshine.
Here’s the lesson I want you to remember: You are perfect. All you need is inside of you. You have the right to show the world your perfect self. It is already there. Stand tall, speak clearly and honor your truth.
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Dr. Brenda Kelleher-Flight