It’s Not Enough to Know Yourself, True Personal Development Is the Courage to Be Yourself.
What if you were the fan you wish you had?
You and I know people who genuinely and consistently do the work — they inhale books, do courses, attend seminars, and listen to podcasts and audiobooks. They know their Enneagram number, Strengths Finder results, and Myers-Briggs personality type, but despite this innate sense of who they are, they are yet to show their true self to the world. (and by they — I really mean you.)
It’s one thing to know thyself, but the real work is to be thyself.
Why, with all the knowledge and work you have done, are you still not putting yourself into your calendar? Why are you checking your phone at 7 am when this is your time to focus on yourself?
You know you should be making time to reflect, move and take your sleep seriously, but something is lacking. This is not only about self-care; these are the activities that enable your true self to emerge.
Self-awareness is the starting point to personal growth, but self-awareness without the proper actions keeps you in your head. You become a student of yourself, but without practical application of what you have learnt, you cannot progress to your next level of growth.
The leap from knowing yourself to living your authentic self begins with these micro-steps:
Override the inner critic.
Your inner critic is the stubborn voice in your head who is there from when you wake up to when you go to sleep at night. It tells you that bad things always happen to you, you’re not enough and are an imposter.
The inner critic is like a tenant who arrived uninvited to stay at your place and does nothing to contribute. It doesn’t pay rent or contribute to expenses but eats all your favourite food and doesn’t replace them or apologise.
You can’t evict the inner critic, but you can take charge of managing it. The first step to being yourself is shutting down this critic when you have the opportunity to add value and speak up in meetings, conversations or when you genuinely want to make your voice heard.
Stop listening to it when it tells you you should keep quiet and not say anything in case you appear stupid or embarrass yourself.
To emerge and be authentic, you must have the courage to express yourself without holding back. This does not mean you can be rude because you think that’s you being authentic. I am talking about sharing your views and ideas from a place of confidence that will benefit the meeting or situation.
Holding back shuts down your true self. The more you pay attention to the critic, the louder it becomes. It’s like a toddler having a tantrum. If you ignore the child and don’t stoke the fire, the tantrum fizzles out, and they figure out they need a new strategy.
It’s time to start bringing out who you are so everyone knows too! The last thing you want is a label of being a lovely person who takes excellent notes but never contributes.
Make time for your creative expression.
If you had an entire day off to do what you wanted with no responsibility to work or family, what would you do?
Your work week is not just about work. What if you dedicated twenty minutes daily or at least a few times weekly to this activity?
Activities could include writing, painting, baking, cooking, scrapbooking, adult colouring, photography, interior design or dance. Spending time on this activity energises you from the inside out because you give your creative juices a voice and a place to express themselves.
You don’t have to try and squeeze all your joy into the weekend and make the week about waiting to get there. Why not structure your day to incorporate both? Think of the value and depth you will bring to your work when you have made time to allow your mind to wonder. Your best ideas about work rarely show up at work; it is in the spaces between creativity and freedom.
It’s one thing to know what this activity is but another to allow yourself space to do it without guilt. Spending time on your craft is when you fully embrace who you are and allow your true self to show up.
If you’re unsure what this activity is or what would bring you joy, move to the next bullet point.
Spend time alone.
When did you last journal? If you don’t know where to begin, take a piece of paper and pen and start writing about: what would excite me? What would bring me joy? What did I love doing as a kid? What would be fun?
You’ll be amazed at what comes up, and it’s often the simplest things like spending time in the garden or playing around the shed with your DIY tools.
Schedule time in your diary for an ‘artist’s date’ with yourself, as Julia Cameron says in her book, The Artists Way.
Once a week, take yourself for an hour somewhere that you consider fun. An art gallery, a new coffee shop, a book shop — the point is to get used to spending time in your own company and realise you’re a pretty cool person.
You ‘know’ your personality type but do you know what it’s like to spend time with this person?
What if you were the fan you wish you had?
Adopt the mantra of a kind mind.
Your most considerable growth lies in being kind to yourself and adopting a kind mind.
This means when you are tired, you will take a break. When you don’t finish all your work, you still allow yourself a relaxing weekend. It is not this conditional approach to yourself that you make it incredibly hard to be friendly or proud of yourself.
You deserve to create days you love and enjoy. You are the only person standing in the way of the day you crave and your actual reality.
The only way that you will show up in your calendar is by allowing yourself to do so. Schedule yourself in your diary but honour the commitment with the same respect you would to anyone else.
Only with a kind mindset can you ditch the habit of cancelling your own meetings and showing up to them guilt-free.
Manage your boundaries.
To be your best self, you need to master boundary management.
A kind mind is a prerequisite to boundary management. Only you can break the habit of checking your phone messages first as you wake up and replace it with at least fifteen minutes of dedicated time for yourself.
Your intention to do something is not the same as actually doing it. Just because you saw the email at 6 am, does not mean you have to ditch yourself and respond to someone else’s urgency first.
You are violating your own boundaries — you can’t blame the person who sent the message anymore.
There is a brilliant rant in Seth Godin’s book, The Practice, about the World’s Worst Boss.
“You might work for the world’s worst boss. The boss might be a jerk. The boss might not recognize all the good work that you do. The boss might do a lousy job of lining up better clients to keep you busy. Or might not reward you for all the insight, care, and passion you bring to the job.
In fact, the boss might bother you at home in the middle of the night for no good reason. Waking you up so that you can worry a little bit more about work. And mostly, the boss might have the wrong expectation of what you’re capable of creating. You’ve probably guessed who I’m talking about.
The world’s worst boss might very well be you.
Because the most important boss whom each of us answers to is ourselves. And what it means to have a better boss is to have a boss who raises the bar for us but still gives us a break when we fail. What we need is a boss who is diligent and patient, and insightful. We need a boss who trusts us.
What we need is a boss who can trust us enough to look ahead with confidence as we go on this journey. Most of all, what we need from a great boss, for our self, is somebody who will see us for what we are capable of.”
Live by design, not default.
Everyone loves to be in a personality box because it makes them feel like they belong. These systems have tremendous merit because they give you a baseline to understand yourself and others.
In Benjamin Hardy’s book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, he proposes that we still have a choice in who we are becoming.
Beware of holding onto labels like ‘anxious, submissive, angry or a control freak’. Yes, it may describe your traits now, but you always have the choice to change and decide who you want to be.
You can live by design and create your ideal future self; decide how you would like to be one year from now. It could be as simple as ‘I want to mover through my day calm and content without worrying about what could go wrong all the time’.
Personality tests are a brilliant tool for self-awareness, but you are never stuck with any trait you don’t want.
Be the person you want to be, not the one you think you have to be or should be.
It’s not enough to skim through these bullet points and think ‘yes, that’s a good idea’ and then never implement anything you have read.
Pick one that stands out for you. In fact, select the one that makes you the most uncomfortable and start with that because that’s where your real growth lies.
If you don’t choose yourself, then you can read as many books and attend as many seminars as you like. Nothing will shift for you.
You have to give yourself permission to show up to yourself and create dedicated time for yourself.
When you can dedicate time to the actions that fill you up and energise you from the inside out, you can begin to make progress on your highest contribution because you are fully charged. You are not relying on anything or anyone else to fill you up first.
Now that you know yourself, it’s time to start being yourself.
Here’s to choosing yourself,
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