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Mask Off: How to be real

I'm tired of pretending to be someone I'm not, are you? As human beings, we are all hardwired to connect. We were born this way because we are social creatures. Before we lived in a society that literally built walls all around us (work, house, countries) we were very much committed to our tribes and living more communally. It used to "take a village" to raise families and we used to be more connected to our neighbors, community, and to real life people (like, in person, not over the relative anonymity of the internet). And even with advances in technology that are supposed to connect us, we are becoming increasingly disconnected. Is it just me, or does it seem that many people are losing their ability to have face to face conversations? Our tribes have gotten smaller and smaller. Along with smaller tribes has come an idea that sameness is safer and different is dangerous. In our tribes, what we are expected to do has become so narrow and to disagree with anyone in our tribe has the potential to get us kicked out! There is a sense of, "If you're not with me, then you're against me" that perpetuates polarized thinking and makes us all blind to the nuances in very complex issues. This is true in our communities we live in, our workplaces, and even our own family units. We are all living in a culture of fear and the way out is to connect back to the real you.

The Journey Back to the Real You

So who is the real me? We have been so focused on outcomes, we have forgotten about enjoying the journey! The real you is the adventurer, explorer, mess maker, experimenter, curious question asker, madly in love with yourself, honest, loving soul. The real you is who you were as a child, before you started taking in all the noise about what you should or shouldn't do. Isn't it a wonder that we absolutely adore children and their innocence? Do you know why? Because this is when we were pure. We didn't care about what other people thought about what we were doing. We were acting from a place that was true to us and as unique as each one of us are. We were being our real selves and operating from a place of our own strength and interests. Somewhere along the way, though, we started listening to our caretakers about what we should and shouldn't be doing. Now, don't get me wrong, our caretakers had the best intentions. And depending on their socialization, our caretakers were rubbing their fears and insecurities all over us! So, we learned how to be in the world by our caretakers and that's what has gotten us this far. Many of us have been on autopilot without even knowing it! Now that we are aware of this we can make the choice to be different. This journey can be challenging, and it's also the most important journey you'll ever take in your life.

No matter how long you've been on autopilot, it's the same journey for everyone to begin living and acting based on your individual values. The first step to getting back to the real you is to become introspective. There are thousands of ways that people begin to do this. My favorite is meditation. For me, the act of deliberately sitting in silence and noticing my thoughts (and the separateness of the real me and my thoughts) really helps me to center and notice my likes and dislikes. I also am always in one way or another, working with a coach. I like to keep people around me who call me on my shit, so I can become aware of potential blind spots! In my several years working with coaches, one of the fundamental and most life altering activities I did was values work. You must unpack your values if you are to be in alignment with them. If you don't want to hire a coach, google "values exercises," a ton of them are available for free. The point is we can't act in alignment with our values if we don't know what they are! In addition to values work, I also love to get physical by going to the gym, lifting weights, riding bikes with my kids, anything that helps me move my body, really. Finally, I appreciate going outside and connecting with nature and noticing the absolute miracle we live in. My point here is there is not one way to begin to reconnect with yourself. You might find several different ways and whatever they are all you have to do is to engage with them. You don't need me to tell you how to get back to the real you. You are always the answer.

Once you've identified what you like and dislike, start doing what you like and stop doing what you don't like. Pretty simple, right? Maybe. This is where identifying your fears and transcending them comes in. We all have fears. It's the interpretation of our fears and finally how we act on them that determines how well we transcend them. Fear can be a powerful motivator, teacher, and friend. I know it sounds scary (tee hee), but it's true! Fear can also be the root of all dysfunction. It's all in the way that we learn to work with the daily fears we encounter. I work with executives, leaders, and staff to identify fear and use it to inspire, empower, and lead. Fear can be fuel for inspired action if you know how to embrace it and talk about it.

Right now, in this moment, you are the youngest you'll ever be. Start this journey now.