From the time I was a little girl, my mother used to say that when she tried to help me with something, I would blurt, “I can do it, I can do it.” Things didn’t change over the years, and she never missed an opportunity to remind me when I answered in some variation on the same theme. Mom would say I was stubborn and had “a mind of my own.” I preferred to think of myself as determined. People close to me might describe it as a need for control. Still others who don’t know me well might mistake it for self-confidence.
So, whether it’s “determination,” “control” or “confidence,” it was not manifested in my behavior today. There are times where I find myself feeling the exact opposite. I lack confidence, feel out of control and have a sense of helplessness. I experienced this at work today. I was meeting with my senior team and we were talking about a potential employee development opportunity. As the senior HR person, I knew the ball was in my court. At the time I remember thinking I should speak my truth and feel confident about the outcome. But the words would not come — I couldn’t think clearly, I couldn’t “fix it.” After the meeting, I retreated to my office feeling somewhat defeated.
In one of my first posts, I remember writing or thinking that this blog could be the vehicle that finally helps me discover my “authentic self.” I’ve spent years on this quest — reading, counseling, executive coaching and confiding in people I trust. Along the way, I’ve learned something important about this process. Reflection and self-awareness are the only true paths to finding yourself. It’s not always the easiest task, especially when you learn things about yourself you don’t especially like. And, whether you choose to change, or how you pursue change, may not be as important as lovingly accepting yourself.
It took a little while but eventually I realized that today’s behavior wasn’t only about my lack of control or confidence. There was another part of me in this equation. The part of me that seeks approval; the need to have others confirm my worthiness. In that moment today, I lacked confidence that my solution would be valued. I knew I had a good recommendation, but lurking in me was the ever-present need for approval. It seems pretty silly when you think about it. How might an “expert” describe it? Do I demonstrate certain behaviors because they are a defense mechanism for others? Do I hide behind my fear of not being accepted by coming across as in control and overly confident? Does it really matter? Perhaps it does matter, at least to me. I know that after reflecting, I usually feel better about a situation despite its outcome, and I know that next time things may work out differently.
So I did a little “me” work today and it felt good. It’s taken a long time to get to this point of self acceptance. That may sound trite and it may be too true for many of us I think. And, while the part of me that needs your approval might say this post was pretty self-centered, it’s okay. I am a work in progress. I am in pursuit of my authentic self, on a journey of self-discovery. It’s a journey I hope to be on until I draw my last breath.
Thanks for reading (you know I had to write that).