Accepting others for who they are actually begins by accepting two critical aspects of yourself first
I was immersed in a dreamlike state. Driving south on I-5 with my new boyfriend, a myriad of joyful, tingling feelings energetically pulsed through me.
As we sped down the freeway, my mind wandered into our future possibilities. His puppy-like adoration touched me deeply. I felt at home with him. (It’s always good to be the center of someone’s attention once in a while!)
It had been nearly five years since I had met someone I truly felt connected to. Now we were about to spend three glorious days together.
Two hours into our journey, our conversation eased into the happenings of the past week. The vivid colors of the fall leaves glistened as the sun gently slid behind the horizon. There couldn’t have been a more perfect moment for me to share the romantic effects that lingered from the Authentic Relating workshop I had attended two days prior.
“It was liberating!” I exclaimed. “We practiced different exercises where we let go of who we thought we should be. Then we found ways to connect that were both vulnerable yet safe. I loved how it felt OK to just be me. I wish we all could be that way around each other. The world would be such a better place.”
As my words tapered off, I began to feel self-conscious about my unguarded sharing. I had never talked about my deep love of personal and professional growth with this person.
Waiting to be met in my joy, I was left with the sound of the road noise and passing semi trucks. My heart started to race.
“Did I say something wrong?” I worried, holding my breath for the silence to break.
“Wouldn’t someone still be authentic if they knew they weren’t being themselves with someone else?” He calmly offered.
Speechless, I shrank in confusion. Was he kidding?
That’s when he proceeded to lecture me on ‘the ways of the world’.
“You can’t always be who you are with everyone, Feroshia. You must hide aspects of yourself and your life because you don’t know what will happen. Take work for example. Your boss and coworkers don’t need to know you outside of your role at work. You just need to do your job well. Play well with others. And there are times where it’s easier to be someone else rather than hurt someone…”
He was clearly sold on his perspective: being your true self is costly.
“That feels like a lot of work to me,” I reacted with a tinge of frustration. “Constantly shifting into who you think you should be based on what other people think and feel?” I looked over to gauge if there was any flexibility in his stance.
His crooked smile and a shrug of the shoulders gave me the answer I needed. There was nothing left to say. He was serious.
In the silence, I began to ruminate. Was I one of those people he “couldn’t be real with?” Was this relationship even real?
On top of it, I was still reeling from the vulnerability hangover. My mind pulsed.
Have you ever waded into the ocean just past the point where you have control? The waves toss you back and forth as you struggle to keep your feet planted and remain upright. That’s what I felt like in this moment. Torn between my worst-case fears of being duped and memories of a past relationship that ended badly because of someone not revealing their true nature.
Shaking off the polarizing effects of my mindscape, I tried to negotiate with him again. “I feel pretty strongly about being truthful and transparent with others, even if it feels scary,” I said.
He didn’t budge. Nor did he add anything else to the conversation. Silence. He was done talking.
Four months ago, I was attracted to his dating profile because he’d posted Shakespeare’s iconic quote, “To thine own self, be true.”
I interpreted that to mean, be your true self. Now I was questioning not just him, but myself as well.
As the drive progressed, it became clear he viewed our relationship as simply “a good time.”
I sheepishly approached him later that evening about the exact nature of his feelings about us. (I know… I’m the girl who just had to know!)
“Let’s just see where things go,” he said without looking away from his phone. But he couldn’t conceal the puzzled look that flashed across his face.
And that’s where it all went wrong. How, you ask? What did I do?
Instead of taking ownership of my own needs and desire to get the heck out of there, I waited around… to see where things would go. Maybe I’m a romantic at heart. Or maybe I just hope for the best in people. (In reality, it’s probably a good dose of both.)
In either case, I waited for him to become the person I thought he was.
Yep, I Compromised… with a capital “C.”
All this on the first night of a three-day trip. So to keep things light and fun, the rest of the weekend was spent concealing ourselves from each other. We both felt constrained and uneasy. This was further punctuated by the number of drinks we both consumed to keep things “fun.”
There are many reasons why we believe it’s not safe to be visible and vulnerable with others. But not being who you are hurts both you and the other person.
It tears at our ability to build trust with others. At the same time, it also erodes the confidence others have regarding trust in their own thoughts, feelings, and point of view.
Like an avalanche, starting at the peak and rolling down the mountain, distrust plows through our lives exponentially.
We build our relationships with the person in front of us. But when one or both wear a mask, it’s hard to know what’s real.
In my scenario, the initial temptation was to judge this person for not being openly authentic and transparent with me. This is especially difficult when that transparency is related to what one or both individuals want in a relationship. But I chose to look in the mirror…
- How had I not been true to myself?
- How was I not being my whole and authentic self around this person?
To my chagrin, I was just as guilty.
I accepted the emotional walls he put up and became the “fun” person he wanted me to be. No drama or complexity.
At times, it seemed like part of him wanted a deeper relationship. But for whatever the reason, I recognized that relationship was not going to be with me.
I knew deep inside this wasn’t the way I wanted to exist. And looking back, I knew it up front. I also knew I needed something else yet didn’t act upon my needs.
During our time together, I had never felt further from myself. We all trade away our values on occasion if we think it may help us meet our need for personal connection.
On the surface, this story is about a personal relationship. But more so, it recounts my inability to honor myself. It’s important to remember that patterns of self-inhibition are not limited to our romantic endeavors.
Perhaps you can relate?
In some situations, you feel it’s not appropriate or even safe to be yourself? Whether this happens at home, socially, or at work, it’s too easy to hold ourselves back. For many of us, the gut reaction is to remain armored and protected.
The value in knowing yourself
One of the most valuable assets a coach can offer a client is their ability to be present and accepting of the whole person. Over the past two decades, I’ve heard from countless clients that they share more with me than they do with anyone else in their lives.
It is an honor and a privilege to create such a safe, courageous space for (and with) others.
When you’re comfortable showing up as your whole and true self, the walls of illusion break down. In this state, you can relax into being yourself. It also makes it far easier to look in the mirror, as no one is judging you.
You might be wondering how this happens, especially since we are naturally inclined to seek similarities and question differences in others.
Worse still, we often hear the problems or pain someone is currently dealing with versus seeing the whole person for who they truly are including their strengths and resourcefulness.
These are just a few barriers that strip away our ability to truly be with others in deep support.
Accepting someone as they are only becomes possible when you come to know and accept who you truly are… and who you are not.
Knowing yourself in this way allows you to be more compassionate and welcoming of others. You learn to recognize that we are all a work in progress. You look in the mirror and see the humanity inherent within each of us. You see past the façade to the truth of the whole person waiting just beneath the surface.
This ability overwrites our tendency to look at someone and unconsciously imprint our own fears and flaws.
It can be humbling, and at times very emotional. In the end, however, it’s one of the most liberating states of being I have experienced. You set yourself free. When you become capable of doing that for you, you can offer the same to others.
In Whole Person Coaching, clients are invited to discover and align to their core values. This is a powerful way to help other people orient to what truly matters to them. But it’s also helpful to understand how your own life experiences have shaped who you’ve become and how you see yourself and the world.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about therapy. I simply take a moment to step back and recognize that we have all been influenced and, in turn, influence others.
Elements of our past experiences can filter into the present, often in ways that are invisible to us.
By understanding how your body, and especially your nervous system, participates in your experiences, you can develop a reliable, evidence-based approach. Whether this happens in real-time or when your mind projects into the future, the insight you gain leads to a true understanding of the invisible ways in which you’ve been imprinted and impacted. More significantly, this offers valuable clues as to how those imprints are shaping who you are being in the moment.
For example, driving south with my soon to be EX-boyfriend, I had an achy gut feeling something was wrong. As a result, I didn’t feel comfortable to be me. It wasn’t until I tested those waters by talking about my Authentic Relating program, that I realized what I felt in my body was congruent for what was happening in real time.
I’m an optimistic gal. So I made a decision that aligned with hope rather than realizing my body was sensing otherwise. It didn’t change the fact that I was out of alignment with my values. And even though my mind may have been willing to look past his contradictory point of view, my body was not.
Being inauthentic is a natural way to negotiate the fear of being rejected, feeling pain or loss, or even being seen as inadequate. Unfortunately, it’s little more than a band-aid. If the wound is ever to heal, it needs light and air.
Are you impacting others for better or worse?
It’s easy to create a story about something or someone to make sense of what is happening, especially if we feel uncomfortable or experience the physiological triggers of fear within our bodies. These stories can become best-case scenarios or worst-case nightmares in our minds.
When we don’t feel safe in our bodies, it only makes sense that we shapeshift into being someone else to ‘play it safe’ with others. And while some might say this is more of a “feminine” trait, we all negotiate who we feel we can be in given situations.
I’ve certainly done it.
In fact, many of us have become so conditioned to losing ourselves within relationships, we blend our edges and disguise ourselves without a second thought. All to feel connected, gain or keep respect, or perhaps simply just to belong.
Eventually however, all masks break.
An avalanche can destroy everything in its path miles from the initial slide, erasing entire habitats in seconds. When we become divided in our own relationships, we often become divisive in our interactions with others as well. We obliterate trust, confidence, self-awareness, and above all, happiness.
Worse still, it doesn’t stop with a single interaction. Distrust passes from one person to the next, so on down the line.
Yes, I felt resentful my soon-to-be Ex hadn’t been truthful with me. But I also felt mad for not listening to myself – especially my body and the true feelings I was ignoring within it.
The key to making the world a better place begins with creating a felt sense of safety. It allows us to endure discomfort when we feel like we’re on the edge of exposure. This sense of safety isn’t going to come from outside of us. It can only be found within.
With this in mind, I have spent the last few years honing my new book and coaching program: Be Unshakably You.
I’ll be telling you more in the next few months. But I’m so excited about the potential it holds, I can’t resist offering a sneak preview. It’s all about navigating the world “grounded in your being” and “feeling at peace within” – my two favorite ways of being.
Courageous and Confident to be your whole and authentic self, this new phase of Whole Person Coaching brings into sharp focus the necessity of feeling rock-solid and steady regardless of what comes your way.
Life is filled with unexpected surprises. Additionally, people can easily (and even unintentionally) impact your daily life. This leaves you feeling unsafe in the world and corrupts how you interact with others.
But it’s not an absolute. By knowing the warning signs and adhering to our values, we can stay true to who we are. Without compromise. Without fear.
Have you experienced something similar?
You’ve heard my story, now let me hear yours. Has there ever been a moment when you neglected to listen to your own body? What happened as a result? How different would your life be today had you acted upon the wisdom the real you was trying to offer?
The next time we meet, I’m going to talk about health. Because the “Body of Knowledge” you carry holds more than you think.