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What do you not want others to see about you?

I was recently asked this question and it stopped me in my tracks –  “What do you not want others to see about you?” – Does that imply I am hiding something from others?


How would you answer that question?  It’s ok not to know the answer straight away, it took me some time.  Then, once I saw where it took me, I was shocked but at the same time unsurprised.


You see it took me to a place that is, at a deep level, very familiar to me.  It surfaced a story that I have been subtly aware of for most of my life but which I rarely allow myself to acknowledge.  The story that surfaced was about not wanting others to see my vulnerabilities, my self-doubt, my fears about making a fool of myself or being wrong.  That to do so shows my weaknesses and leaves me feeling exposed.


Maybe you have a similar story or maybe yours is different.  But you DO have a story.  We all do.


The second question I was asked, immediately after that first one, shed even more light on what is going.  The second question was:


“What is the risk to you if people saw that about you?”


The answer to this question shows us why we work hard to disguise what is really going on for us and what it is that gives energy to the stories we create around that.


For me the risk of people seeing me as I really am – vulnerable, lacking in self-confidence, scared of standing out from the crowd – is that I will lose respect and credibility and will alienate myself from others.  We could go into the psychology of where this comes from, but I don’t think that is necessary.  The point is that I have been presenting this persona to the world for so long now that to drop that and be show up differently feels really scary!


It is irrational, I can see that, but that is the point.  We unconsciously hide who we really are in a bid to be who we think others expect us to be and in doing so we are doing a dis-service to ourselves and others.


We do it to keep ourselves safe, but in the process we are actually making ourselves more fragile.


When faced with the challenges of life it is so much more difficult to be there to support others if we are not able to be fully grounded and comfortable in our own skin.


What these two questions have lead me to see is that building our inner strength and our resilience comes from facing our fears, acknowledging them and accepting that we have a choice.  A choice about whether to allow those fears to turn into unhelpful stories or to be the driving force behind the positive contribution we can make to the people around us.



I’ll be exploring this and many other aspects of resilience in my upcoming Leadership Resilience seminars in partnership with The Keil Centre, Edinburgh.

Find out more here.


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