Being Yourself Takes Practice
I introduced myself at a women’s networking event, with a poem I liked, written by a woman I knew:
Lost & Found
I was born old & serious
Some would say a bit weird & curious
I did have dreams of how I’d like to spend my life
But I lost them whilst dealing with the daily strife
One night I remembered where I’d put my dreams
I’d sewn them in the mattress seams
I unpicked them out, and found my way
And now I’m getting younger by the day
— Tori Clarke
She nicely summarized what I wanted to say about what I am doing at this point in my life, creating a space for women to find themselves after feeling lost.
This is what I wanted to say, but I in the rush to say this and introduce myself, I didn’t mention Tori’s name.
Afterwards, a few people said they liked my poem, and assumed I had written it. I told the first woman, that it wasn’t my poem. A few more women said they liked the poem, assuming I had written it. I didn’t correct them
It was too complicated, I told myself.
How quickly a small lie unchecked snowballs!
After the third person assumed I was the author, I nodded, accepting praise for something I knew was a lie
How had this happened?
I was hungry for approval, too hungry. The drug of flattery, like a sugar high picks you up and drops you down HARD.
For most of my adult life, I tried to pres myself into the ill-fitting suit of a professional. I suppressed, held back, and hid those parts of myself that were too direct, too enthusiastic, impolitic, unruly and irreverent.
The more I tried to adjust myself to meet other people’s needs and expectations, the more I disappeared.
“Just be yourself,” we are told.
After a lifetime of practice diminishing myself so as not to make others feel uncomfortable, I no longer knew who that self was.
So perhaps it is no wonder that I hid behindTori’s words. They felt more real to me than my own.
So what did I learn?
It takes practice to be yourself: You don’t get it right, the first or the second time around.
You have to be willing to disappoint others.
You may not get approval or recognition.
Telling the truth is messy.
But it’s also how you recover and discover who you are.