“The Most Terrifying Thing is to accept oneself completely.” –Carl Jung.
As I chronicled in my book, Touch the Sky: Find Your Voice, Speak Your Truth, Make Your Mark, I struggled for years to reclaim and embrace who I really was. Like many people, and women in particular, I was a people pleaser, willing to ignore my needs, my longings and my unique gifts in order to satisfy the needs, beliefs and will of others. And frankly, it almost killed me.
What turned me around was my willingness to face a series of sobering truths about myself.
1. Nobody was holding me back from realizing my potential except me.
2. To achieve that potential, I had to be willing to love and accept everything that I was—including the parts of me I didn’t especially like, or around which I held shame.
3. If wanted to accept and honor who I really was, I had to be willing to risk going against of what others expected of me… even it that scared the willies out of me.
If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I leaped into the process of finding and defining my voice with a fierce determination. Thanks to some great acting teachers and coaches, I learned the tools to be present and comfortable with the unique six foot tall, emotionally large, enthusiastic, occasionally moody, long drink of water I am. And it was, to say the least, well worth the struggle—not only did I become a happier, more fulfulled human being, but I was led to doing the work I love so well: Using the very tools that allowed me to my find my voice to help others bring authentic presence to their own lives and presentations.
I know from experience that if you want to make the most of your unique presence in your words, work and world, you have to learn to accept yourself wholly, warts and all. Which is where Carl Jung’s statement rings so true: It can be downright terrifying to come face to face with oneself. That’s because, in order to accept yourself completely, you have to accept some things that can make you truly uncomfortable, like deep fears and doubts you might be ashamed to admit. As my coaching clients can attest, it’s not so much the tangibles (like the projector breaking in the middle of their presentation, or having to deliver tons of dry data) that stop them from fully embracing themselves, it’s the intangibles— like habitual, fear-based beliefs and thoughts that can hold you in a vise-like grip. Unnecessary, unhelpful thoughts and beliefs like “If people found out how horrible/inept/unqualified/insecure I really am, they wouldn’t like me, want me or listen to me” can keep you tethered to a smaller, less able version of who you really are. If, of course, you let them.
Accepting yourself wholly means being willing to stand for—and stand up for–who you are. It also means being willing to do something truly terrifying, which is to occasionally stand apart from others in the name of who you are, what you need and what is right for you. At bedrock, it means accepting that you are a delicious combination of both shadow and light, a riddle of imperfections that is, in itself, perfect. And it means accepting that there is deep value in who you are, not in spite of, but because of, the imperfections that make you so remarkably human.
Your fears can only harm you when you refuse to drag them out into the light of day. Because in the bright light, fear can be seen for exactly what it is: Just a thought; and a thought can be changed. And when you're willing to bring your genuine, human self to the speaking platform (or to the larger platform that is your life), you encourage others to do the same in return, sparking deep and meaningful relationships.
This week, be willing to face the fear of accepting yourself as exactly who you are. Because being who you are, fully and completely is the greatest gift you can give to your audience, your world, and yourself.
On a piece of paper, make a list of the parts of yourself (including what you preceive as negative qualities) that make you feel uncomfortable, anxious, fearful or ashamed. What are you worried people will find out about you that would somehow make them like or respect you less (as a speaker or simply as a person)?
Now, ask yourself, “Why am I so scared of facing up to these parts of me? Why do I hold so hard to these limiting beliefs.”
Look again at your list of fears and perceived inadequacies . Ask yourself “what would facing down this fear or belief allow me to do or be? What would loving and embracing myself fully– even those parts that make me uncomfortable– allow me to do or be?
Take your list of fears perceived inadequacies, and, with reverence and intent, tear it into little pieces or burn it to ash, releasing it with joy.