THE ART OF BEING THE REAL YOU
Annabel was one of those powerful, successful women that I believed I could never be like. Every time Annabel stood up to make an announcement about something she was doing, it seemed everyone sat up and listened.
Annabel had a natural authority that anything she talked about seemed the right “thing” to be doing. If Annabel was into it, it had to be amazing. She also had all the material things in life that also tend to impress people: money, career, property, the “right” friends.
Not Being Heard
When I stood up and made an announcement, no one listened (it seemed) – not in the way they listened to Annabel – even though what I was speaking about was probably just as great. I believed that if I had any chance of being successful in the way I wanted to be, I had to be more like Annabel. That was what the voice inside of me said.
And all the time I compared myself to Annabel and women like her.
This is what I believed, and it seemed, what other people around me believed too.
I Was Never Going To Be Like Annabel
The only trouble was I was never, ever going to be like Annabel. Never in a million years! Even if I studied every nuance of her voice, her every gesture. If I tried to sound like Annabel, I would look ridiculous.
Do you find yourself like me, looking at other people and comparing yourself to them – believing that they “have what it takes” and that you just don’t? Maybe they are more extroverted than you are, have a louder voice, are impressive when standing in front of a group – and don’t seem to suffer in the way you do when it comes to speaking up for yourself or “putting yourself out there”?
I would like to suggest that when you do this, you are putting out a message to the world – something like:
“I know I’m standing up saying these words, but I’m not Anabel, so I know you’re not going to be convinced by what I’m saying.
I know you would listen to Anabel, but you’ve got me so you might as well stop listening right now.
And I’m not even sure if what I wanted to say was so important now – so I might as well stop….”
This was my experience on a regular basis, and I was unaware of how much I was dis-empowering myself – and undermining any chance of being heard by others. In fact, I was so used to not-being- heard, that now I had the opportunity to be heard, I was sabotaging my opportunities. I was acutely uncomfortable with all the attention that was now focused on me.
And this was painful.
I may have moved a giant step forward – I now had the courage to speak up – but I was still not allowing myself to be heard.
This plagued me for many years.
Looking back on it now, I realise that my admiration for Annabel and women like her meant I was putting up a smokescreen between me and the world. I was fixated on the fact that I believed that Annabel was the way to be and I was constantly finding myself lacking.
The image of Annabel was always in front of my eyes and standing between me and the world – so no wonder people had difficulty in both seeing and hearing me. And I was so busily engaged in maintaining the smokescreen so they couldn’t hear or see me, that no wonder all they could see was a blurrrr!
In fact, I had disappeared. While I was putting all this attention on Annabel, all that others would have seen – if they had really looked – was the smokescreen of Annabel or my fantasy of what Annabel was. They couldn’t possibly see me.
And the only person that doing all this was me. And I was masterful at it. I was staging a war against myself that was keeping me in hiding.
If I had put the same amount of energy into being heard, as I was putting into not-being-heard, my voice would be megaphone blasting from the rooftops!
Being A “Not”
And the truth was while I was putting in all this effort beating myself up for not being Annabel, I couldn’t be me. And if I wasn’t being me, who was I being? I was being a “NOT ANNABEL” – and it is very difficult being a “NOT”. Believe me.
Do you see how I was driving myself crazy?
So if you feel if in any way, comparing yourself to another person, wishing you had skills and talents that you don’t have, I suggest that you… STOP.
And notice what happen when you stop comparing yourself to others.
You may notice it feels VERY QUIET. It may feel uncomfortably quiet without all those voices in your head chattering away. But after a while, you may observe how relaxed and peaceful you are – and how good that feels.
And the reason that you may be finding it so hard maybe is because you were brought up in a very critical environment where the adults around you believed that criticism would enable you to change undesirable habits and behaviours.
In fact, this rarely works. The majority of people become very good at criticising themselves – and never really improve and develop in the areas that they want to. They just stay stuck. The consequence of this is that they constantly beat themselves up because they can’t make progress in the areas of life where they feel the most stuck.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
I don’t often like working in negatives – but this is a case if I see someone is heavily comparing themselves to others at the detriment to their own expression, it is time to stop.
Pretend you have come to a no-entry sign and turn back right away.
And forgive yourself (as its very natural to compare yourself to others – particularly people that have an exceptional talent). Instead, start appreciating your own positive qualities and talents – the things you are good at – no matter how unimportant they may seem to you.
See the talent, beauty and skill in the other person and admire them for it – but don’t compare yourself to them.
(Hang on – because I’ve got an exercise at the end of this article that will help you use your admiration for people like Annabel for YOUR BENEFIT.)
When you stop comparing yourself to others, wishing or pretending to be like them, then you stand much more of a chance of being seen and heard by other people.
Because in doing this you have also removed the smokescreen that you have put between you and other people. And then people really can see you.
You will also find yourself with no other option than to live in the present: present and aware of exactly what you want to communicate. It’s just a question of taking a deep breath and speaking from the heart. You will find that the right words will naturally come to you without you needing to plan what you’re going to say in advance.
I’m not saying this is easy, particularly if you have a lot of negative experiences in the past. I’ve seen people who had considered themselves “complete lost causes” achieve this with relative ease.
When you remove the pressure from the need to conform to the expectations of others, then you will start feeling there is an awful lot more space around you. You will start to breathe more easily, and you will feel more free to be yourself.
What Happened To Annabel?
Funnily enough, Annabel kept on showing up in my life. I was never more surprised than when years later, Annabel started to seek me out more and more and seemed to want to be my friend.
I discovered that as I got to know Annabel, that in reality, she was far less assured than I believed her to be. She was constantly asking me how I felt she was coming across. It seemed that not everybody liked her communication style – and some found her somewhat controlling and bossy. Annabel seemed to genuinely appreciate my honest opinion and suggestions as to how she could communicate in a gentler way.
This was a complete shock to me. And as Annabel opened up to me, I warmed to her and began to see her more as a human being.
She Aspired To Be More Like Me
Gradually I realised that Annabel was appreciative of my gentler and more diplomatic style and even would rather like to be MORE LIKE ME.
How could I have thought that her style was “the only way to be”? It was quite plain that there are many ways to communicate a message – and the authoritative style is just one way. Not everybody responds to the authoritative style – and some people can have a negative reaction to it.
Speaking With Confidence
I wasn’t aware that over time quietly, steadily and surely, I had been developing my own communication style. It was a quiet confidence – a confidence that didn’t need to scream and shout from the rooftops. I had built an authority that was as impressive as Annabel’s but in a different way. And gradually people had come to trust in me because I wasn’t trying to impress them or force anything on them. I was just speaking what was true for me. I wasn’t trying to ape anyone else. And this seemed to appeal to Annabel too.
Annabel had shown me how far I had come – and also that I could communicate my ideas just as effectively as she could. Now I am glad to say that now, I have no trouble with communicating my message to large groups of people.
And I have stopped of course wishing I was more like Annabel. I am quite happy to be myself just the way I am.
So I would like to suggest that the people that play a similar role in your life that Annabel did in mine are there to show you, qualities and gifts that live in you and in time will come forth – if you continue to nurture them.
Instead of comparing yourself to others – do this exercise and see if you begin to see yourself differently.
Choose someone in your life that you would normally compare yourself to. Notice in what ways do you compare yourself to them. What are the sort of things you say about them, and what conclusions do you draw about yourself as a result? Be honest. It may be very hard to see these things written down.
If you weren’t comparing yourself to this person, what would your experience be like? What would you be doing less of or more of? e.g. “If I wasn’t comparing myself to Annabel, I wouldn’t be so critical of myself when I was speaking to other people. My mind would not be full of those thoughts. Therefore I would be more able to focus on what I was saying. I would feel more open. I would believe that people wanted to hear what I had to say.”
Identify the qualities that you admire in this person. As you identify each quality, take a deep breath and allow this quality to land in you. Let this quality grow in you. In your imagination see how your life might be when you have fully developed this quality. Realise if you continue to develop in this way, you cannot help but develop this skill or talent, e.g. while I was never going to be as authoritative as Annabel, in fact, what I was seeing in Annabel was qualities that were just beginning to develop in me. It was going to take a few years before those qualities would fully develop in me – but when they did, my life was going to be very different, and I would be able to achieve things that I had previously considered impossible.
I hope you find this exercise helpful, and it will enable to start breaking the habit of comparing yourself to others – so you can start being the real “you” and live your life from a more empowered place.
© Claire Schrader 2013
If this article has spoken to you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share, please do leave a comment. I love to hear from you.
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