Seeking to Hide
I watched comedian Katherine Ryan’s stand-up show the other day. At one point, she crouched down and tried to make herself smaller imitating the way men sometimes make her feel then she said, “I’m sorry were you planning to golf in this space?” I laughed out loud but not for the reason you think, not because of the current climate of anger among women, but because I recognized how preposterous it was for a grown woman to act like she needed to be small and disappear.
I know that impulse so well. I’m fairly tall and for most of my early years in school, I was the tallest kid in the class. This led to a lifetime of trying to be smaller. I spent years just wishing I didn’t stick out or that no one would notice me. What made it worse was that I diminished my accomplishments and dissed myself publically.
Once I noticed this behavior and how damaging it was I tried to stop, but it hasn’t been easy. I started slowly just by standing up straight, learning to accept compliments and acknowledging my accomplishments. Now I’ve moved on to trying to announce my successes without bragging. As we said in our blog last week, both Laura and I have written books. Now, we’re having launch parties and I feel that old discomfort creeping in. I want people to show up at the launch party and I’m simultaneously terrified that people will show up at the launch party. (If you live in Southern California YOU’RE INVITED email me for details.)
Do you recognize this feeling? Do you know what I’m afraid of?
I’m afraid of people seeing me and knowing who I really am. It terrifies me, but I’m getting better. I’m starting to recognize that the price of authenticity is vulnerability. If I am open and honest, people will see who I really am and there’s a possibility they’ll reject that. What I’ve finally learned is that a) There’s nothing I can do about what other people think and b) I don’t need outside approval to be okay.
This week try an experiment: Try saying ‘thank you’ and nothing more when someone compliments you or try telling someone you do something well. It can be something simple like “I’m a good cook.” Then notice how you feel afterwards. Are you uncomfortable? Great, you’re headed in the right direction. Now try it again with something bigger.
PS. I’ve been reading Show Your Work which I’ve found helpful, follow this link to buy a copy.