Why do we fear revealing our true selves?
A couple of weeks ago I stood in front of a room of complete strangers and told them my life story. It was only a few hours before my talk, that I realised just how vulnerable I felt.
The audience were kind, supportive and I got a great energy from the room, but afterwards it got me thinking. Why, after speaking publicly many times before, did this feel so different? Why was I so nervous and why did I almost run out the fire escape and ask the organiser to tell people I’d been taken ill (true story!).
All of my public speaking leading up to this talk had been about other people’s stuff. Either I was talking about commercial subjects like HR and recruitment, or I’d share the theories of others, with little of my own interpretation. This talk however, was exclusively about me, my experience of life and who I feel I am now.
We are social creatures. We crave connection with others and even if we say we don’t, in my experience of coaching people, we really do care what others think about us. Indeed, roll back a few hundred years and our survival relied on the acceptance of those in our close communities. I think those feelings are still within us today.
When I speak about other stuff, or other people’s ideas, this effectively acts as a buffer between me and those I’m in front of. Don’t like the subject of my talk? That’s ok, it’s the talk that gets rejected and not me. Don’t like the theories I shared? That’s ok, they’re not my theories. In both these scenarios, I’m ‘safe’.
But when I talk about me, the landscape changes. Don’t like who I am? Ouch! That cuts deep. There’s no buffer. You’re rejecting me at my core. To stand in front of people, reveal your true self and put yourself out there for judgement is hard. Looking back I think I realised this moments before heading on stage and now understand why I almost bailed. It is a brave thing to do, even if I do say so myself.
As I’ve explored this experience, I was reminded of the words of Brené Brown in her book ‘Daring Greatly’. I’ll paraphrase them here, but essentially, she says when we seek the comfort of a ‘buffer’ – either by presenting a façade, or not sharing our truth, there’s a trade off - whilst we may not suffer the rejection at our core, neither do we experience acceptance there either. Someone tells us we’re great and the internal voice mutters “yes, your façade may be great but what if they knew the real me? Would they think the same?”
I've made a personal conclusion. I’d rather put my authentic self out there, and deal with the rejection that comes with that. Why? Because whilst rejection of the real me hurts, I feel that is far outweighed by the feeling of true acceptance I get when someone sees the real me, and that version of me fully. After all, isn’t that what we all want? To be accepted and loved for who we really are?
You can come see the talk in Central Manchester on November 14th @ 7.30pm
Or in Peckham, London, on December 12th @ 7.30pm
I'm Adam, a U.K. based trainee psychotherapist and Life Coach, working with people in groups and individually across the globe.
I struggle the same as every other human on the planet, but I think that’s what makes me credible. I’m just a regular guy, with people skills that I enjoy using. My sole focus is to help others improve their lives, which is ultimately how I improve mine.
I am a curious humanitarian and I speak as I find. I love to travel and I buzz off meeting new people. Visit my site for more info www.mebeingadam.com.