Sometimes I feel like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. What I mean by that is sometimes I may give the wrong impression to people, people like you who read my work and people who work with me personally, and it may not be totally by accident.
I write this column you’re reading and another like it. I work with individuals who want to improve their lives. Some are doing fine and want coaching to do better. Some are struggling and want to learn skills to help them flourish, and find joy and success in their lives. I lead and co-lead groups. I love the work. I’m good at it.
It’s easy for me to allow you to see that part because that part is strong. That part is societal accepted, encouraged and rewarded.
We’re a society of doers, achievers, and winners. We succeed.
Except of course, when we’re don’t. Which can be often.
Often there’s pain, discouragement, loneliness, fear, confusion, disappointment, and what we judge to be failure, but we want to come off as strong and unafraid, courageous, clear, and effective.
It’s often not easy to reveal oneself, to be honest and vulnerable, to show that side of us we want to hide. For some of us we may want to come as off as wolves, or lions (I’m a guy, remember.) and often we feel like sheep.
Others may come off as sheep, gentle and quiet, and hide a shadow of anger and upset.
Many of us are not good at being genuinely who we are. We hide, even from ourselves. Or at least we try. We feel that when we expose ourselves we open ourselves to pain, suffering and attack. We feel weak, vulnerable, and we don’t like it.
Maybe, at times, I’ve done that in these columns, hidden a bit, come off as knowing more than I do, as feeling more self-directed, contented, and successful than I often feel. The truth is I can struggle with uncertainty, fear, confusion, and moodiness with the best of them.
That’s what I meant by saying I sometimes feel like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It’s easy for me to show the competent exterior, but it’s hard to allow others, even those close to me, to see my struggles.
I am sharing this because part of the secret to happiness and joy is a sense of belonging, a sense of being worthy of love and connection. And almost paradoxically, what weaves us into a living fabric of connection, worthiness, and belonging is a willingness to being open, to being vulnerable, to being able to stick one’s neck out emotionally, and share the truth about ourselves.
Putting up a front of invulnerability, our attempt to protect ourselves, leaves us feeling isolated, fearful, and vulnerable, the exact opposite of the sense of security and wellbeing we were looking for in the first place.
One of the foundations of a happy, well-lived life is an underlying sense that “I am enough”, but for many of us that’s not so easy to come by. Many of us suffer daily from bouts of “I am not enough” and the pain is enormous. And it’s vulnerability, a willingness to be seen, even by ourselves, just as we are, that opens the door to accepting ourselves as we are and feeling that we are enough.
That’s why I wanted to come clean a bit in this article. I wanted and needed to take some of the medicine I have just described. I was starting to feel like I had to come off in a certain way, that in some respects I had to hide. I was feeling like I needed to know more than I did. I was feeling a bit like I was not enough. And I realized that feeling was coming from not saying certain things, things that were true for me but made me feel vulnerable by saying them, things like struggling, at times, with uncertainty, fear and moodiness.
And you know what? I feel a lot better. And I hope you realize that I would not have taken up your time with an article that I thought was simply about me. I shared about my own experience because how else could I reasonably ask you to share about your’s?
So, take a look at where you are hiding, at where you are coming off as knowing the answers you don’t really know. Take the time to begin to feel the feelings you may be denying.
Don’t think you are the only one who may be hiding, who is putting up a front and paying a heavy price for it.
Dr. Brene` Brown states we are the most obese, most in debt, most medicated cohort in US history.
Why do you think that might be?
And in the political arena, why do you think we’re slinging around so much blame and so much vitriol?
The more we attempt to make uncertain things certain, the more we try to have dead answers to living questions, the more invulnerable we try to feel, the more uncomfortable and disconnected and strident we get.
I hope I’m not coming off as judgmental, or that I’m falling into the very trap I’m describing, talking as if I know more than I do. Check it out for yourself. Notice how you feel, notice how your relationships go as you attempt to hide the truth about yourself, as you refuse to admit that you are afraid, or uncertain, or angry, or sad. See how well it works and whether you feel better afterwards.
To live life fully, you have to take risks and the biggest risk we take is with ourselves, the risk of offering who we are, freckles, warts, and all to the world.
The poet e.e. cummings wrote:
To be nobody but yourself
in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight
and never stop fighting.
So, go out and live your life, missteps, wrong turns and all. Be who you are.
And notice that often the well-intentioned person who is trying the hardest in some way to make you like everyone else is you.
I can be reached at 805-680-5572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.