We live in a culture that craves authenticity – we want the people we interact with to tell us the truth and to be themselves. Moreover we want the personal freedom to express ourselves in a way that doesn’t illicit negative judgement or ridicule from others. Eckart Tolle once said “Only the truth will set us free” but if that is the case then why is it so hard to do? It’s difficult because being authentic means trusting yourself and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to withstand the pain of judgement and rejection from others for being yourself. Sometimes it is easier to change ourselves and act in a manner that will help us fit in and be liked rather than going against the status quo. Other times the negative judge isn’t an outsider but ourselves saying we are not good enough and therefore we try to act more like others who we believe are better than us.
For me my biggest difficulty in being myself starting out as a coach were my feelings of not being good enough. I wasted so much time and energy trying to act more like other coaches instead of trusting my own skills. Months after graduation when I should have been coming into my own and fine tuning my own coaching style, I was silently resenting myself after every session for not being the coach I thought I had to be. I always saw coaches as big, powerful people so I tried to act in that manner instead of being myself – which didn’t suit me. The penny did drop eventually that this wasn’t working, but not from my own insight. I had been practising a speech for a presentation I was giving in UCD, it was my first time presenting as a qualified coach and I wanted it to be powerful. So I had a Tony Robbins video blaring in the background and my speech in my hand, I was doing it the way Tony would, lots of hand gestures and movement, my voice was going hoarse from the shouting and my eyes were racing from one imaginary audience member to the next.
All of a sudden I heard a roaring laugh drown out my laptop, I turned around to see my grand-aunt in stitches on the floor… “You sound like an awful clown” she exclaimed. I explained to her what I was doing and showed her the seminar video and she laughed even harder… “So you want to sound like a husky voiced 6’7 American man is what you’re saying?”. She was right… I did want to sound like a 6’7 giant power-ball with a loud, husky American accent and it did look and sound absolutely ridiculous. She turned and said “You can’t be Tony, he’s already taken, so you are just going to have to go in there and be yourself”. So a little defeated and scared, I went into my presentation and I presented it how Keelin would and it was far more enjoyable and less draining because I didn’t have to tire myself out by putting on an act. Since then I’ve embraced my own approach and I feel like I am connecting with not just myself on a deeper level, but with others too.
Being yourself doesn’t mean you are going to win all the time either, that presentation went well but a couple more I did after didn’t take off as easily, but that’s okay. I am taking the feedback and growing and improving while still being true to me. As Nelson Mandala once said – “I don’t lose, I either win or learn”. And rejection, although it can be tough, makes way for brighter and better opportunities, as my grand-aunt would say “Whatever is for you won’t pass you”. By being authentic you also encourage others to express their own authenticity, it’s like a domino effect, when you behave authentically others will follow and as a coach whose compelling vision is for people to discover their true selves and honour their values and desires, that’s a comforting thought. Being yourself makes a positive difference so embrace it, celebrate it and don’t try and change it.
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