I’m an identical twin and growing up as a twin was fun. Since Matthew and I looked alike, people would identify us by our clothes. Our parents usually dressed me in red and Matthew in blue. But what if our clothes got switched? That was our fun.
We would show up one way and become known for that, but then switch behind the scenes. We kept people guessing as to who as who. While this game was great fun as a kid, I think it touches on something more serious—sometimes it’s so hard being ourselves.
You know what I mean? This past weekend I was at a coaching retreat. By the end, I had connected with new friends in some very deep ways. By the end, I felt known in ways that matter. By the end, my joy was running over. But it didn’t start out that way.
It started out with me sitting on a bench, taking deep breaths, and talking myself into being brave enough to attend the networking reception because I wasn’t sure if anyone would like me. Sounds childish, I know. But sometimes it’s so hard being ourselves.
Why is that?
We don’t know who we are.
When we don’t know who we are, we can’t show up authentically. When we can’t show up authentically, we can’t be ourselves. One of my roles as head of Human Resources is interviewing job candidates. I want to know that candidates know who they are, so I ask a few questions from management expert Peter Drucker: “What are your values, what are your strengths, what do you need to perform your work well?” Many candidates have no idea how to answer. Would you?
We’re distracted by many things.
Do me a favor. Next time you’re with a group of strangers who are together for a time—standing in line, sitting on a bus, waiting for a movie to start—watch what they’re doing. Most likely they’re on their smartphones, paying attention to something other than the world directly in front of them. It’s hard to show up as ourselves among so many distractions. How are you showing up to those around you?
We’re afraid.
Perhaps we distract ourselves so often because at our core, we’re afraid. We’re afraid that we don’t know ourselves like we think we should. Or we’re afraid of knowing ourselves and not liking what we find. Blaise Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Or maybe like me, we’re afraid that if others see ourselves as we are, they won’t like what they see. How might fear be holding you back?
It’s been a long time since I switched clothes with my twin brother, and I’m much older now. But what hasn’t changed is the temptation to be someone else. Maybe I’ll grow out of that some day, but for now, all I can keep doing is showing up as myself.
Could you know yourself better? What could coaching do for you?
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