What is it that you know about yourself that others don’t know about you? All of us have things in our lives that we are hiding. And of course, they vary in degree. The kinds of things hidden range from hardships, to personal challenges, to actions and attitudes that we keep submerged. We keep a tight control over the transparency gauge. It can be anything we are holding back — telling a relative or friend that we love them, confiding in someone about a medical challenge we are facing, sharing about a financial crisis, etc.
The things we are prone to keep to ourselves are, in reality, just hard conversations. And even though the hidden areas are as diverse as the people who have them, the experience of hiding is universal. They function in similar and predictable ways. They are scary and uncomfortable, and our growth depends on dealing with them.
Growth is a process of moving out of the shadows and into the light. How do you do this?
Here are 5 action steps that move the process forward.
1. Be courageous. Move from fear to courage. The pain of moving from a life of concealment to openness is not as painful as the regret of staying stuck. Our greatest fear should not be the fear of failure. Our greatest fear should be to succeed in things that don’t really matter to us. It’s those hard conversations with ourselves and with others that takes us to our sweet spot. Our sweet spot is the alignment of:
- our purpose – what are you designed to be?
- our passion – what do you love to do?
- our plan – how will you link your purpose and passion?
Fear drives us into hiding and keeps us from asking these questions. Courage pushes against that and brings who we truly are out into the open.
2. Be aligned. There are 4 perspectives affecting our thinking and behavior. We operate at our best when they are in alignment.
- how others see you
- how you want others to see you
- how you actually see yourself
- your real self
Hiding keeps these out of sync, creating a lack of alignment. The more these align, the more comfortable we are in our own skin. Which leads to………
3. Be authentic. This happens when we take off the masks. Little children aren’t born with masks. They haven’t learned to put up barriers and filters to hide who they are. That comes later as they become more self-conscious. Our masks are designed to project and protect. Masks become toxic ways of gaining acceptance and safety. Wear it long enough and it begins to feel like your own skin. It’s our attempt to connect with others, but it does just the opposite. It leads to estrangement. As we come out of hiding, our connections go deeper. Our vulnerability draws others to us. When others see that we also bleed, they step closer.
4. Be direct. Go ahead and rip the band aid off. What are you hiding? What is that hard conversation that is separating you from another? When the elephant is in the room, invite it to dance. The harder the conversation, the more important the issue. Hard conversations are the kind that interrogate and expose reality. They explore real issues and bring out your best self.
5. Be unapologetic. Always apologize for bad manners and misdeeds. Never apologize for speaking the truth about yourself. Apologize for what you’ve done, but not for who you are. If someone is disappointed about who you are, that is their issue and not yours.
If you find yourself feeling alone in a current hardship, or feeling disapproval for who you are and what you want, just remember that you are not alone. You can choose to not suffer in isolation or loneliness. There are people all around you who are hiding behind a closed door and peering out the keyhole. As you expand your openness, others are inspired to do the same.
Your real power lies behind that door. Your real power is connected to your person. Your persona is what you project. Your person is who you are.
These 5 actions will expand your openness. The upside will be more energy, less stress, deeper relationships, and greater impact.
What are you hiding that you need to deal with? What’s important to you? What do you believe? Take some time and write down 5 one sentence belief statements. (e.g. I believe in forgiveness.)