‘Being Yourself’. I stood in the dark parking lot for several minutes before going inside the restaurant that waited for my arrival. The expectation of the night remained unknown. I was unprepared and uncomfortable and really, I didn’t genuinely want to be there. Yet the discomfort of the invite drew me in as a means of addressing one more fear I’d long held.
It wasn’t meant to be a big deal, this networking dinner I’d been asked to attend. My friend said “come mingle and meet people in your field”. I knew it was a good idea, meeting new mental health professionals who had long worked independently. I loved to share my views on mental health. I wasn’t new to the work, but I was just beginning my private practice so I didn’t at all feel like I knew what I was doing. I was insecure in my ability to share my opinions independently, not representing anyone else other than myself.
I heard the question in the darkness break my internal stillness….”Who am I going to be tonight?”
It was a valid question. I’d spent most of my career in a profession that required me to filter my words and opinions. I had to craft my views wisely to ensure the face I showed was acceptable to the employer I represented. I could not have been successful if I didn’t curb my true inner thoughts and feelings…which was also the reason I was no longer there. I longed to break free of the constraints and in that parking lot, I recognized that I was free. This was my choice, my gig, my terms, and yet I wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like.
I wanted to assist whichever part of me was going to show up to be prepared.
After a brief assessment of who was best suited for the presentation, I heard the next question…”why don’t you just be yourself?”
The exhale came fast. I was terrified. The internal fears flooded quickly. “What will they think of me if I share my non traditional views? How will they reject me once they realize I am not one of them? Will the start of my new career be the end of it?”
And then…”wait, what am I really afraid of? I have absolutely nothing to lose. Go be yourself and try her on. What’s not to like?”
The first gentleman I met greeted me with a glass of wine and introduced himself as a psychiatrist on staff at a local hospital. He explained his job a bit and went on to share his experience as not only a graduate of a highly esteemed Ivy League college, but a professor of the very same elite school. He had more experience, training and education than anyone I’d ever met.
He asked me about myself and I explained the newness of my independent work, but my long experience working with children and families. I then dove into my newer passion of energy therapy, a practice with very little scientific backing, but more proof of success than anything I’d experienced. I told him one story after another of what I had learned. I waited for the look of disapproval but it never came.
He listened intently and with great curiosity asking numerous questions. He did not just listen, he was interested. I was not rejected, I was embraced.
About twenty minutes into our discussion, we were interrupted by a new face who arrived. The psychiatrist quickly introduced me to his colleague who felt familiar, but I could not place him. He said his name and it hit me with a swift pang of recognition. He was the psychiatrist my mother sought help from when I was a child. The man who worked with my mother to tame her tumultuous mood swings and deep depression. I vividly remembered running around the outside of his office with my brother while my mother anxiously hoped for solutions to combat her inner demons.
The same demons I, too, tried to help her face when I listened to her woes. The experiences which introduced me to my future profession and passion of helping people. This man had more in common with me than he would ever know. Due to my mother’s inability to combat those inner demons successfully, I chose not to tell him how I knew him. Instead I sat at a table with him and our now mutual connection and continued to talk about the benefits and wonder of energy therapy….with a personal and proud recognition that my life choices had brought me full circle.
I…me…authentic me…had arrived. And she knew exactly what she was doing.
The fear of expressing who we are begins so early for most of us. We have many teachers from birth on guiding and directing us what to think, feel, say. We follow their lead, hoping we are doing it right and find ourselves almost perpetually looking for approval. We look to others to verify that we are good enough.
When alternative thoughts or beliefs are introduced to us, our dormant fears of rejection and judgement creep to the surface to determine if it is safe to allow them in. Will they be accepted into the world we have built for ourselves? Will we be able to stay comfortable in our circle? Or will we be left alone to fend for ourselves or find a new circle? And then we are left with a choice, accept what feels right for us…or not.
We each have an authentic voice. We each have ideas that we are gifted with that are not what everyone else thinks, knows or believes. They are the same voices and ideas that have built skyscrapers and airplanes and discovered the world is in fact, round. They challenge the “norm” and popular belief. They cause controversy and upheaval in our own minds first to allow us to grow. And once we accept them and use them, they help the world around us do the same.
Ideas are meant to be shared to help each of us discover who we are and who we want to continue to be. We are meant to live authentically, with compassion and acceptance for ourselves and others. We are meant to teach others in a way that promotes change.
Who we are is meant to be shared with world, judgment or not.
The dinner I didn’t want to go to reminded me of the value of my voice and that the only thing truly holding me back is my self judgement and internal fear. My assumptions that no one would want to hear my views and knowledge could have kept me home. But I have learned and am continuing to learn that the more I face my own demons, fears, judgments, the louder my voice becomes and the more I am able to do what I most desire…help whoever crosses my path, including myself.
Who will you be today? Try being yourself!
By Lynn Reilly – www.healingwithserendipity.com