We grow up being told and taught. Our worldview and self view formed by layers upon layers of influences and experiences. Left unchallenged and without an investment in understanding ourselves, we build lives based on expectations of others. We never learn to trust and lead ourself well. At some point we are asked to step into a leadership position in our family, community, or workplace…and we create a path of destruction, sometimes without ever knowing it.
I know this from personal experience. I had fixed ideas of what success looked like and built a life based on an external societal ideal. I got the grades, the jobs, made the numbers, got invited to the parties, won the awards, had the friends, the house, the car, the clothes, the money. I was exceptional…and empty.
I had spent so much time trying to be someone others told me to be, living the way society told me to live, that I had never truly met myself. The person people said I was or perceived me to be: confident, courageous, popular, accomplished…I didn’t feel or think any of those things about myself. I constantly felt like an imposter. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.
I started to get to know Lindsay from as early as I could remember her. I learned that as a result of growing up in an abusive and alcoholic situation she was constantly afraid. She abandoned herself at an early age to focus on the actions of others, and try to control her environment so she could be safe. She forgot how to play and create. Lindsay latched onto achievement as a way to get control over something, as a way to make people notice her, as a way to fill the hole that was left by abandonment and feeling unlovable.
Lindsay armored up to hide the fear and the pain from anyone who tried to get close. She became known as tough, determined, aggressive, willing to do anything to get the job done. She was a “her way or the highway” kind of person because being wrong meant weakness or defeat. When she got sick because of her lack of rest and boundaries, she was ashamed and afraid to tell anyone for fear of letting them down…because letting people down meant they might not like you anymore or may abandon you all together.
These are just glimpses into the layers and layers I have had to work through and shed on my own journey to be my best self, live my best life, and find a lasting sense of confidence and courage to lead. It’s something I have to continue to work at every single day. As I do my work, decisions become more clear and my courage and confidence grow.
It has also opened my eyes to the number of leaders who have not done their work. Many exude seek power and control over others. Others avoid responsibility and risk. Both are covering up their lack of self-worth. Because they have not done their work, they do not understand, trust, or lead themselves well and use these tactics to fill the void.
Without doing our work we lead others with biases, beliefs, values, and expectations that are based on a worldview and self view that are unchecked. We make judgements, decisions, and form opinions about others based on our view of the world without understanding what that view is, or what theirs is for that matter. We hold up an external societal ideal of what it looks like to be successful and build our self-worth on it without ever questioning it.
It is very apparent right now because this pandemic has threatened the societal ideal across the board. Most have built their self-worth on what they had or what they did. As that is falling apart we see them falling into panic and depression because without those things they don’t feel like they are of value. This is what we need to change. Lasting confidence and courage cannot be found in appearance, net worth, who you know/your social circle, what you do/your career, or what you achieve. You have to learn to find worthiness in who you are just by being.
This is hard work. This is brave work. You have to make space in your life for reflection. You have to wrestle with tough questions. You have to be willing to explore your own story and face the fear, shame, and pain you’ve been outrunning and trying to forget.
Most won’t do it. They will go through their entire life and get to the end with the top regret of the dying, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” It breaks my heart to know so many will never have the chance to live their best life, be their best self, or lead in a way that is true to who they are because they are too afraid to do their work.
Find out who you are. Approach the world with an open heart and a curious mind. Learn and grow as much as you can. This is the recipe for lasting confidence and courage. “To know is to be ignorant. To not know is the beginning of wisdom.” -J. Krishnamurti
Do you need support on your journey to find lasting confidence and courage as a leader?
I’d love to help! Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org