The older I get, the more I try to answer for myself, “Why can’t we just be ourselves?” and “Why do we fling ourselves so far from our core in the first place?” I have heard this return to ourselves is especially salient in our forties. I am not there (yet!) to confirm, and also maybe we don’t have to wait until all of the “F’s” are squeezed out of us. Perhaps we can be exactly who we are right now.
Besides the source of our departure from our truest selves, the million-dollar question here is “What do we do about it?” How do we begin to show up? And show up in a way that lasts over time. Sturdy. Built with the resilience to withstand challenges. It’s like building a brick house, not one of sticks or straw that can be blown down by any passing huffing-and-puffing wolf.
The bottom line that we often refuse to accept is this: We can design our life. Our time. Our boundaries. Our schedule. What we give energy and attention to. It is, inconveniently, an inside job.
Many of us REGULARLY give up our design ownership. When we unintentionally lose 45 minutes to doom-scrolling our phones. When we let others trample through our boundaries. When we trample our own boundaries. And yet, we can regain it. Like many things, it is a practice. Like a consciousness bicep curl, if you will, we can repeatedly regain our ownership over our lives/time/attention and energy.
I propose to us three key steps.
In order to return to your core selves, we have to know ourselves. This means naming our emotions, knowing our values, and articulating our needs.
First, we need to be able to name our emotions, know our values, and articulate our needs. How often do you feel like you can actually name the emotion you are feeling in the moment? Likely less than we realize. And even when we do, we tend to only name a few like anger, sadness, or joy. Emotional intelligence requires exactly this, that we are able to name the emotions we are experiencing. Instead of anger you might actually be frustrated, annoyed, defensive, offended or resentful.
We need awareness of our values, about what is actually most important to us. Many of the times we feel funky in our lives or at work, we are actually out of alignment with one or more of our values.
Personally, I have strong core values rooted in quality and integrity. That time when my body started revolting against me, breaking down until my work was undoubtedly affecting my health? Much of the work I was asked to do was absolutely towards the right goals. But the HOW… how I was asked to get there, was not aligned with quality or integrity. And my body knew it.
Finally, we need to be able to articulate our needs. Not just to others, but to ourselves! How can we be who we are when we can’t name how we are feeling, what’s important to us, or what we need… even in our own heads.
The most revolutionary thing we can do is be exactly who we are.
Now that we have the clarity of who we are, we can just go out, and be THAT. Be exactly who we are at our core. We go out and exist. And we protect that existence with fortified boundaries.
You didn’t do all of this work knowing yourself only to let it be trampled on by other peoples’ requests or extra stuff that doesn’t fit the mission. Those flimsy, duct-tape-and-popsicle stick boundaries you set up aren’t going to last for the long haul. And we aren’t here for the life hacks, we want to build it to last.
Boundaries are simply us telling others “this is what I am going to do.” And then doing that. They might sound like:
“I am coming to the team dinner and leaving by 7:00 p.m.”
“I have filled all of my “pro bono” time, I am not able to take on any additional unpaid work this year.”
“I have a commitment at that time, can you meet at 10:00 a.m.?”
And, my favorite… “No. Thank you.”
Do it again and again. And again. And again.
We must repeat. To do this over and over again. Where we know ourselves, we choose ourselves, and we hold the line. We don’t get to set a boundary once like it’s “set and forget.” We have to take responsibility to be ourselves with a million tiny decisions and actions every day. This has not been our nature, so naturally in the beginning it might feel a little manufactured as any new habit does.
To do this over and over again is revolutionary.
It’s an inside job. We can’t delegate this part, which means this is YOUR highest and best use. Return, Revolution, Repeat. This is the internal work we can do.
About the author:
Katie Rasoul is a keynote speaker, author, coach and Chief Awesome Officer for Team Awesome, a leadership coaching and culture consulting firm. She is a TEDx speaker alumna, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Brilliance: A High-Achieving Introvert’s Guide to Self-Discovery, Leadership and Playing Big, and co-host of The Life and Leadership Podcast.
To learn more about Katie’s new performance keynote, “Work. Woman.” visit www.katierasoul.com.