Are you holding yourself back?
Probably. We all are, to some extent.
I see it everyday… people masking their unique capabilities and quirks because somewhere along their path, they have felt diminished. And, since then, they’ve done what they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, often at the risk of compromising their boldness.
We are born bright-eyed and self-assured. As children, we flaunt our authenticity. We are imaginative. We recognize that when the bully on the playground gives us a hard time, they are being just that—a bully—and we dismiss it. Children don’t censor themselves. They’ll ask offensive questions, or wear a Superman cape to the grocery store just because. They are who they are.
Yet little by little, time takes that away from us. We start to dilute ourselves and, if we’re not careful, it becomes habit. And it doesn’t discriminate; this unfortunate phenomenon of reducing ourselves comes in many forms: the makeup you use to cover your freckles because most people on magazine covers are freckle-less; the apprehension that causes you to keep your mouth shut at office brainstorms because a few overly-assertive employees are unreceptive to new ideas; or even keeping your artistic talents to yourself because you’re afraid to discover you might not be good at what you love.
What are you so scared of?
Look at how far you’ve gotten in life based on your own capabilities and decision-making. Don’t doubt yourself anymore. Stop it this second. It’s not becoming of you and, more importantly, it’s not useful. (Haven’t you learned by now to discard the things in life that aren’t useful?)
Let me share a not-so-secret secret with you: you are going to continue to make mistakes in life that hurt you or set you back in your career or personal life (because that’s life). But it’s not going to matter, because your wins are going to far outweigh your losses, if you let them. Retain the right to feel empowered—because once you lose that feeling, it’s hard to reclaim it. In fact, I have a little test I use to make sure I’m on the right path: if I no longer feel empowered, I’m not, and I make changes.
Let me share something else: you’re probably also a little too sensitive.
I’m not referring to your sensitivity in handling others, which I’d argue is the critical trait for being an effective leader and human being in general. I mean the ease at which you suck the marrow out of advice without taking it personally. Someone disapproves of something you’re doing? Good- it means you’re doing something. Or, better yet, someone cares enough to offer thoughts on how to improve? Fantastic- this person is rooting for your success. Constructive criticism is meant to enhance not suppress. (They don’t call it tough love for nothing.) Find the value in the words and be appreciative of them. Funny enough, as I write this, I’ve just received an email from a colleague of mine. It says the following: “I totally read every entry on your blog. Say something, dammit! Nadine “Take-this-job-and-shove-it” Salem has more to write than “you just gotta be you” posts! Anyone could have written those! Take some risk and put some of your personality into them!”
Noted. You see, we are so used to being politically correct these days that sometimes we don’t even realize when we are withholding all of the colorful little nuances that make us, well, us. In professional settings, we might emphasize the traits that we think are most relevant and accidentally forget about the good stuff. For example, I love to travel and have collected an abundance of outlandish stories that have shaped my personal narrative. Such as my monkey story:
A year ago, a macaque monkey attacked me in Bali while I was snapping a photo with him in the background. I don’t know why the little bugger did it—maybe he was mad I tried to reap the rewards of a cool photo without offering him bananas like all of the other respectable tourists. (Still got the photo, joke’s on you.) But I was in a hurry, about to head to the airport, and this was back in the glory days before I knew how vindictive these little creatures really are. So here’s what I learned about leadership from that experience: don’t be rude and think you can benefit from others without offering them something in return (in this case, bananas). Always give yourself extra airport time for unforeseen experiences (like rabies shots). And don’t trust monkeys.
In addition, I’ll pay forward the advice I received today: take risks and make sure your passion and personality is evident in whatever you create. Most importantly, when you have something to say, say something, dammit.
And with that, enjoy this captured moment of the monkey incident: