Not long ago I had a problem with lying.
Several years ago I made lots of changes and one of those was I stopped lying – cold turkey. An around that time my sister and I discussed this topic because she, too, had the same problem. You see, growing up in our household it was okay to lie. If you didn’t want to go to school, you could pretend to be sick (mental health being as important as physical health). When you were on welfare and you got some extra work, you would want to get paid under the table so you wouldn’t lose state benefits. If kids ate free when age 7 or under, then you were 7 – even if you were 8, or 9, or 12.
And ever since I was a kid I wanted to change who I was and become someone else. I wanted to have a fancy upbringing, or something extraordinary about myself – like magical powers, physical talents, or even just the newest toy. Most of all, I wanted to be accepted. I wanted connection and friendships. And I couldn’t figure out how to make them happen. So I started lying.
If you have read my swan story post, you will know that I started making big changes in my quest for a boyfriend, and success at work. I went to Barnes and Noble (since Amazon prime and ereaders weren’t around – that was where you would do to get books) picked up a stack of self-improvement books with the hope to become “Charismatic” and “Find a Husband”. I made an effort to change and adapt; to become the person I thought people wanted me to be. But during this process, while I did lose weight and get promoted, I lost a bit of myself.
I was on a quest to be the perfect boss, coworker, girlfriend, engineer, friend… I would get caught up in all the things I “should be doing”. And while I thought it would make me more successful and more likeable, it would to a point and then I would hit a wall.
I found that my lack of authenticity actually prevented people from getting close to me. I wasn’t vulnerable. I didn’t want others to see my mistakes or flaws, and I did everything I could to cover them up. I would lie if I thought the truth would hurt. I even had two online profiles – my work profile and my real profile.
And then everything changed.
I don’t know if it was an efficiency thing (maintaining 2 separate identities was hard), or if I just decided that I was tired of trying to project “awesome”, and since reality was “pretty darn good” people would just have to accept what I had to offer. I was going to be me.
But to my surprise instead of the world settling for me – they embraced it.
I’m successful in my job and get along better with my team.
One of the first things I do when I meet with new team members is tell them something like the following:
“Every time we meet I am going to ask for your feedback, and I hope you will give it to me. I want to be good at my job, too, but I am going to screw up, make mistakes, and do things that aren’t optimum. The only way I can get better is if you help me. And in return I promise to do the same for you.”
And it works – after a while when they believe I am serious and want to do a good job I get all kinds of great tips, ideas, and chances to course correct before I cause problems. This vulnerability makes me better at my job, and it is only one small example.
I have richer personal relationships.
I used to have a hard time maintaining relationships and friendships. I was lucky if someone would stay in my life longer than 2 years. Things are different now, I have been with my husband for just over 5 years (happy anniversary, honey) and even though we have had some serious ups and downs, it is by far one of the most enriching and important relationships and friendships of my entire life. And best of all, he makes me a better person – almost every single day.
The world likes me better.
I don’t know how to quantify this one as much, but the traffic on my blog has gone up, and more people send me thoughtful notes, and I feel like I am making a difference in the world around me. Before I don’t think I even noticed my imprint on the world, but now it is something I think about and am actually quite proud of.
Of course, my journey is still just beginning. I feel like there is so much for me to learn and so many things I want to improve. Personal relationships and social situations are still stumbling blocks for me. And I often find myself wondering why people can’t be more like mathematical functions – you give the right inputs and deterministically you get the expected outputs. But I am making progress, and I am being me.
And so I hope all of you reading this now can embrace a bit more of yourself. Do the happy dance, sing your favorite song, and just embrace all the wonderfulness that you are – it will improve everything.
Here are some links I thought had good tips, but feel free to leave others in the comments:
- When Do You Lie? Strategies For More Authentic, Respectful Communication
- Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability [TED Talk]
- Top 24 Tips for Making Your Self Confidence Soar
- Why being yourself matters
- Dare To Be Yourself