In a world where we have lost faith in our leaders, where we are surrounded by fake news, and where a virus has laid bare our limits when we try to control our world (not that we ever did control it), we are searching more than ever for brands, leaders and people we can believe in. The ones that show up real.
Don’t we all show up real? We like to think that we do, but if you think about it, we all wear a mask (even when we’re not wearing a physical one). We all, generally, choose to show a face to the world that we think will be acceptable. At some level, most of us are afraid to show the world who we really are.
We hear a lot about authenticity from a marketing point of view – how people, especially since the advent of Covid, look to brands to be something they can connect with, trust and believe in, to be something ‘real’. The brands which thrived during Lockdown 1 – whether large or small – were those that connected with their local or online communities, and were there for the people who needed them.
I’m a therapist and coach, and when I talk about being authentic, I’m talking about being the person or brand whose credibility is undisputed, and who can be trusted without question, because everything that you are is real.
Most people come to me because they want to change in some way. Whether they are CEOs or entrepreneurs, Managing Directors or marketing professionals, they are trying to get better at being who they are, and at being the leaders that people believe in.
The paradox in that is this: that change occurs when you become who and what you already are, not when you try to become who you are not. Unless you know and truly own who you are, the more you try to change, the more you’ll stay exactly where you are.
In this series of articles, I’m going to look at what makes us show up in the world in the way we do. I’ll explore what stops us from being our authentic selves, and share with you some thoughts (from me and from other experts I respect) about how create space for purpose, show up real, and begin the process of transformational change.
Here’s a preview of the series…
Understanding Your Values
Being real, or authentic, can be defined as; ‘representing your true nature or beliefs; true to yourself.’
Being real is about living with conviction and staying true to yourself and your beliefs – in other words, the values that you live by and are important to you. When you stray from them, you lack motivation and struggle in areas that are not in line them. On the other hand, when you come to appreciate what your values are and devote time to achieving goals in those areas, you will feel fulfilled.
In this article, I’ll explore what it means to be true to yourself, and the qualities of authenticity and integrity.
Discovering where ‘I AM NOW’
Given the importance I’ve attached to understanding who our true self is, you might wonder why exploring ‘where I am now’ doesn’t come earlier in the series.
The simple answer to that is that without having developed your self-awareness, the ego would cause you to delude yourself.
In this article I’ll look at how to honestly assess where you truly are, not where you kid yourself you are.
Self and Theories of Self
Self-concept is a term used to refer to how we think about, evaluate or perceive ourselves.
Baumeister (1999) defines self-concept as:
‘The individual’s belief about himself or herself, including the person’s attributes and who and what the self is.’
In this article, I’ll look at key theories surrounding how our sense of self develops, from our earliest childhood recognition of ourselves as an individual (the ‘existential’ self), to our recognition of our own properties and characteristics (the ‘categorical’ self). I’ll look at self-image and self-esteem, how both are shaped by our place in the world and our relationships with others, and what happens when our self-image and ideal-self don’t match up.
Don’t look for your Purpose, create space for it to show up
Our purpose is what we are meant to do, and to be, and the message that we have to put out to the world. Many of us spend so much time worrying about what other people will think of us that we prevent ourselves from being our true, real self and finding out what our purpose is.
When we act out of fear, greed or ignorance, we aren’t being authentic. But when we’re real, it leads to trust, because we show those around us that we are aware of our flaws.
In this next article, I’ll look deeper into purpose, and how distancing ourselves from influences which block our real selves prevents us from recognising ours. Purpose isn’t something you create or seek. But by being real, and listening to your true voice, you can allow it the space to show up.
Change and the paradox of change
As I said earlier, the paradox of change is that, “you can only change to become who you already are.”
So before you can change you need to understand who you are. Having explored your values, and created space for your purpose to reveal itself, you have begun the process of developing self-awareness and started to understand who you are.
In this article I’ll explore the paradox of change further, and look at some other theories of how change happens.
Fear and Shame
Virtually anyone seeking transformational change comes up against barriers. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t need help from therapists like me! These barriers are commonly self-made, and two of the most common are fear and shame.
Fear – most often fear of failure – is incredibly common. It’s probably the biggest barrier that I encounter with my clients.
In this next article, I’ll look further at fear, and the questions that help us to identify our particular brand of fear, and once recognised, overcome it.
I’ll also look at the role of ego (the Freud-identified part of our personality that works to achieve a balance between our basic urges and our moral standards) in preventing or aiding change.
Why telling you to change or to get rid of your limiting beliefs is pointless
I’ll finish the series by looking at the difference between changing the person and changing the behaviour.
As a coach or therapist, it’s vital that I never judge the person and never tell them they need to change. And whilst there are definitely barriers to change that I can help to remove, what I don’t do is deal in ‘limiting beliefs’.
Telling a person to ‘change’ or to ‘get rid of their limiting beliefs’ is rather like telling a person suffering from clinical depression to look on the bright side. If it were as easy as that, they would have done it years ago. Telling someone to change gives them the false message that they are broken and need to fix themselves. If we can distinguish between changing the person and changing the behaviour we have a much better chance of success.
I’ll be putting out this series of articles over the next few weeks. To make sure you don’t miss them, sign up at http://shelleybridgman.com/ And if you’d like to talk, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org