You have a choice.
How often do you hear people say, “I’m just not a public speaker” or “I’m just not wired that way” when they are asked to do something outside their comfort zone? How often do we feel helpless in the face of our own perceived limitations? While I know that personality traits and the idea of being genetically predetermined has been fairly popular for some time, we are meant to grow and we are capable of change.
People often tell me that they struggle with communicating their value because they’re “just not a sales-person” (which I’m convinced is a kind of humble-brag because most people think of sales-people to be like Kurt Russell’s portrayal in the movie Used Car).
(Because that guy was a “great” sales-person)
We also throw around the term “authenticity” as a crutch to explain or excuse our challenges and our weaknesses. We claim that it isn’t our authentic selves to speak up in meetings or it just doesn’t feel natural to claim our space.
(Swimming also wasn’t something that felt natural either)
I have come to learn that everyone has a right to believe in their own shortcomings and in the power of their crutch. No one has the right to take away anyone’s low self-esteem.
That being said, if you are tired of feeling less-than or small, you have a choice.
If you are tired of having limited influence in your communication, you have a choice.
If you are finally fed up with the paralysis that comes from thinking that you have obstacles that are holding you back from being your true self, then recognize that you can choose to be a different way in this world.
Here are four things that we can all do to help ourselves actively choose to grow and change. Think of this as the four steps that will guide you through your change to a new behavior. Whether it is that you want to be braver at work or you want to have more confidence when you speak, you can take small steps to changing your patterns and improving your impact.
1. Gather awareness
Nothing changes unless you know it exists. This is the most painful part of the process. We are terrible judges of our own behavior and impact. The more aware we become of how people really see us and what they want from us, the more probable change is. The trouble with awareness is that it will come right up against the stories that we have told ourselves for years. When we get used to our crutches and how they make us feel, even knowing that we don’t need them or that they no longer serve a purpose can not only be upsetting, it can be threatening. This leads us to the next step.
2. Learn to let go
We all have these behaviors that we hold on to because they served some purpose at some point in our lives. We make ourselves small when confronted, go aggressive whenever challenged or try to please people when they are upset. Whatever the crutch, we have to learn how to let go. The ego (how we think of ourselves) won’t like this at all and will do everything to hold onto those crutches because they seem crucial to its existence. They aren’t. You can let go of these habits and patterns and live to tell about it. In fact, you will be happier and more effective than ever before.
(Just in case you never saw this…)
3. Be kind to yourself
Of all the things that I wish I could do for myself and for my clients, this is it. When you become aware of your habits and your patterns and when you start to let them go, you are going to feel really icky at first. The trouble with adulthood is that many of us don’t put ourselves in positions where we have to be beginners all over again. Even if we are that type of person, there is something so naked and raw about stripping away those habits from our communication that can leave us feeling incompetent and embarrassed. Not sure what I mean? Have someone take a video of you talking at a party or in front of a group of people and then sit and watch that video with your friend or co-workers. If you don’t immediately feel judgmental of yourself and embarrassed, then congratulations, you are in an ultra minority.
(“Hey awesome, I’m being embarrassed on camera!” says no one)
If we can see ourselves in that raw state and not be judgmental, rather be kind and gentle with what we are seeing, then we have the opportunity to change. The only way that we will allow ourselves the space to grow is if we stop thinking that we are growing wrong. Trust yourself, and then…
4. Trust the process
The problem with process is that it is not always clear what the outcome will be. The act of changing behavior means that we will be in a transition phase for some time before we get mastery of the new behaviors. It can look and feel like we don’t know what we are doing or that we will ever arrive somewhere good. When you find yourself in the swamp, it can feel like you will never get out.
The process is there for a reason. It takes time to learn and that learning is ugly. Here is a video that you may have seen before about a man who taught himself to ride a “backwards brain bicycle.” Watch it if you want to see some comedy and learn something about why it is so hard to change.
If you are willing to trust the process and know that it will be ugly, you may find that you are able to change the way that you look at situations, feel about people and places and that (ultimately) you have a choice about whether you want to be stuck with the same old patterns and expectations.
For many of us, we have a choice. Let’s be a little braver and choose to let go of those things that hold us back and begin the path to learning a new way of being.
Take the leap.