You are really just the story you make up about yourself. Do you hide behind your real story and try to make up another one that you want others to see? Do you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live? Are you tired of the results you’re getting in life? Your family? Your job?
You have a unique story of your life and your experiences are not like any others’. You’re the only one that has lived those unique experiences. Other people, including your family, have lived many parts with you yet you are the only one that has experienced it in your own skin. You have created beliefs about your experiences that may or may not be true. What do I mean by that?
You’ve had challenging experiences that were or are still unpleasant. You may have difficulty overcoming certain parts of your life that you’d like to change such as an addiction, poor view of your self worth, overweight or perhaps a sour personality. You may not feel good about your role in certain experiences and you’re not proud of yourself. Because you don’t measure up to how you think others want you to be you start to make up another story in the hope others will accept you. You hide your true self. You fear letting others see the real you because you believe they will turn from you and may not like you. This whole process may even be subconscious and you’re not even aware you’re hiding your true story.
You may be making up a story because you’re comparing yourself with others and don’t think your story is good enough. You may believe you “should be” in a better station in life and don’t want others to think less of you.
The truth I’ve discovered is how far reaching the made up beliefs about our stories has gone into the fabric of our society. A society “dripping with words like perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity” according to Brene Brown. At the root of this is a feeling that
“I’m not good enough as I am, so I need to be something society says I need to be.”
Shame Based or Wholehearted Living
I’ve learned that people can actually be placed into two broad categories. The first category are those who do not think they are worthy of love, belonging and acceptance as they really are. These people hide their true stories and make up a different story for every person they know. Can you imagine making up different stories for every person you know? How much energy would that take?
Everyone has a need to connect with others and those in this shame based category that hide their true self believe they are not worthy of connection just as they are and have to make up stories in order to have others accept them and hopefully be able to connect.
Ever do something like this? “I better not let Suzi know how unorganized I am because she’s the most organized person I know. If she knew she would hate me.” Or what about this one. “I’m going to wear this oversized dress because I don’t want the group to notice that I’ve gained a lot of weight. I really hate my look and so does everyone else.”
According to Brene’ Brown, Ph.D in her book, “The Gifts of Imperfections” people in this category live in some form of shame. She is a shame researcher and story teller at the the University of Houston and has compiled literally thousands and thousands of stories from people that led her to this conclusion.
Shame Words (The Don’t List): perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity.
She also discovered the other category of people. Those who do believe they are worthy of connection through feeling worthy of love and acceptance just as they are. She even coined a name for this group. They live Wholehearted lives.
It’s hard to always hide your true self (pretending to be organized for Suzi when you really are not). It takes a great deal of energy to be something or pretend to be something you’re not. It’s takes courage to be vulnerable and let your true self be seen. But that is exactly what living wholehearted does. It’s scary to be yourself because there is a chance others will not accept you (if Suzi will not accept you because you are disorganized then it’s time to remove Suzi from your life).
If you’ve developed the unhealthy belief in hiding your story (shame based living) you must pass through the dark of letting others see your true self in order to find the light of wholehearted living. For me and others who have challenged the dark and found the joy of the light, has discovered it’s way easier being vulnerable than being fearful (I care about Suzi but I accept that I’m unorganized and will let it be seen. I hope she accepts me for who I really am). I did say it’s easier being vulnerable but I didn’t say it wouldn’t take courage. It will take a great deal of courage to let your true self be seen.
It’s being authentic. Brene’ Brown defines being authentic as “The daily practice of letting go who you think other’s want you to be and embracing who you really are.” It’s having the courage to accept yourself. It’s working daily to overcome the feelings of inadequacy and comparison in order to believe you are worthy of love and belonging just as you are.
Wholehearted words (The Do list): worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and creativity
You are enough just as you are. Regardless of the story you either made up or hid behind to connect with others in the past, you are worthy of belonging just as you are. So is everyone else. The deep connections you’ll now make by living wholeheartedly will give you great joy. I discovered that it’s way easier being me instead of the make believe pleaser, performer or perfectionist.
Let’s explore how to tell your story.
Telling Your Story to Connect
For many years I lived a Shame Based Life. I was hiding my own shame and never really felt good about myself although I thought I had good self worth. It’s accurate to say I was a very insecure male. But, like everyone, I wanted to belong. I wanted deep connections. So I felt in order to connect and be accepted I had to please others. I never felt I could really be myself because it may cause others to dislike me. This belief caused me to also feel like I had to perform for others. I felt like if I wasn’t the center of attention in some act of performing that again others would not accept me. The worse attribute was the feeling that I always had to prove myself as a perfectionist.
The very day I discovered that I was hiding was the day I was liberated. I went through a period of really exploring who I really was. I questioned why I did the Ironman triathlon. Was I only doing it to perform for others so I would be accepted for something or was I competing for myself? It was in December of 2014 that I began a journey of being authentic and everyday since then I have to practice embracing who I really am.
Right there in the last two paragraphs I told my story! It’s liberating to do so. It’s easier too. Do you hate me because for 50 years I lived a lie or do you connect with me because I was authentic in declaring my journey and the work it takes for me to practice being authentic?
As you look in the mirror of your soul and begin the courageous journey of being yourself you’ll begin to see who you really are. You’ll begin to see all around you how society is doing it’s very best to make you believe you need to be somebody else. You see this in ads showing women with tight abs and enhanced breasts. You see automobile advertisements telling you what kind of car you need to be “noticed” by others. You see it especially in clothes and the models with perfect bodies wearing a new line. You see it in the selfie craze. Everywhere you turn society is setting a norm.
When you begin to live wholeheartedly with courage to embrace who you really are you’ll free yourself of fear. You’ll act with courage to put your true self for others to see. You’ll be vulnerable because it’s very possible that someone, living a shame based life whom you seek to connect with, will not accept you. What is really happening is they don’t accept themselves.
What you’ll discover, as I have, is the people you now connect with will accept you just as you are. Being authentic and overcoming your fear will automatically give others permission to do the same. Your connections will be deeper and based on unconditional love and not something superficial like being organized.
Living wholeheartedly is where great leaders are born. Leaders accept who they are and allow others to be their best because those they lead feel loved for whom they are.
You’ll want to tell your story to others. It will always be a story of courage.
In my life I’ve different rolls just like you have. I’m a husband, father, brother, friend, mentor, leader, athlete, blogger, student, teacher and fan. Each of these have various stories. Prior to my discovery I had to make up a different story for each of them. Let me give you an example of hiding my story.
In my business I have to connect with people. My roll is to only share two things; my story and my enthusiasm. Yet before I was released from the shackles of shame I used to share more. I would “verbal vomit” on my prospects with every tiny detail about how the product worked. I thought that if I was a perfectionist they would accept me and thus accept my offering. I would tell them story after story of other people’s success and rarely would ever share with them my own story.
I discovered that I had a great story that was authentic and was much better at helping me deeply connect with my prospects. I went from verbal vomiting on people to telling my authentic story.
Let me share a story of a friend of mine who has come to grips with her own dark of shame. I will use a different name to protect her identity. Let’s call her Marianne.
Marianne is a professional body competitor and fitness instructor. She is married with several children. Her husband is a [fireman]. When I started to work with her she did not understand how to connect with her clients about using the product. She did not want to come off as “trying to sell them something.” She said, “I don’t want them to hate me.” She was living is a mass of shame about her marriage. She didn’t want to let anyone know how scared she really was because her husband recently had had a DUI and at work they threatened to terminate him if he didn’t become sober. He didn’t support her being self employed either. He wanted her to get a 9-5 job and be drawn away from raising her children.
I helped her discover the power of her story. Of how she was worthy of connecting with her clients. Of how her clients didn’t hire her because she was this perfect fitness instructor but because they liked her.
This is how she began to connect by telling this story:
“Oh let me tell you how scared I’ve been. I live with an alcoholic husband who may lose his job. He wants me to quit being self employed and get a job. But I just can’t do that. I need the freedom of working for myself. That’s why I believe so much in this product. As you can see my physique it’s a combination of a lot of hours in the gym but truthfully, what I put in my mouth and body is far more important. Even on my best days, I eat like crap and have a pizza but at least I know I’m getting what my body needs when I consume our product. The best part for me is that it will allow me to overcome my fear of my financial situation with my husband. If he loses his job or if our marriage fails I’ll have the ability to take care of me and my children and I’ll be able to still be with them as their mom. It would be great to have you on this journey with me. We can do this together!”
This story can be told because Marianne believes she is worthy of connection. She is worthy of love and acceptance. Regardless of how the world suggests she has to have a smoking hot body and this perfect life of being a world class mom with a great marriage or face ridicule if it fails or she doesn’t measure up to the perfect body, she believes in herself. She is exercising courage. She is putting it all out there for the world to see.
The only measure of courage is how vulnerable you become.
You are enough! You deserve to feel at peace with who you really are.
Be authentic. Your story is perfect!