Not long ago, I was cozied up on the couch of my good friend Rachel, drinking cheap red wine out of mason jars and talking about this life and where we were going and hey by the way where they hell did all these road blocks come from?? She’s a keeper, that one.
Among our many topics of conversation was a reflection on when we first starting working together about a year ago, because you guys, SHE DID.NOT.LIKE.ME. I remember the tension, and I remember being so confused by it. I was only a couple weeks into the new job, and had somehow gotten off on the wrong foot with this equally competent, articulate woman. She took the time to come and talk to me about it, saying that I was coming across very intense and unapproachable, which let me tell you, I had NEVER heard in my professional life, not once. Nor did I think it was at all who I was, or what I was putting out there. But sometimes we need the honesty of others to show us that who we are and who others perceive us to be are not one in the same.
As we delved deeper into the subject that evening on her couch, she explained that I have precisely two modes: fierce, and innocent. Fierce up front, innocent if you look closer. She said it took her a while to find the real me, the innocent and vulnerable one, and then she fell in love with it, bringing her to be one of my dearest companions these days. But I was floored by her description, as it has given me such insight into what the last year has been like for me. I have been told turn after turn, by those who I think I am kind and engaging with, that I am intimidating and unapproachable, and I am left flabbergasted. Say what??
I know this partly comes from being a boss for the first time. There has to be a distance between me and most of those I work with, which has not previously been the case. I’m not gonna lie – it sucks. Adjusting to the loneliness that comes with the top is not entirely fun. So a part of me has to accept that a certain intimidation and separation comes with position, and that it will naturally led to other benefits while leaving behind others.
But it extends so far beyond the professional arena. I’m disconnected on so many levels from who I know I am and who I am being perceived as, and that’s not entirely (or even mostly??) the fault of others. I have to find a way to connect the joyful, brave, adventurous, raw me with the fierce, confident, and driven me, or I have an awfully lonely road ahead.
I was talking to another lovely friend, Holly, yesterday, and we dug into the idea that you have to be conscious to present all levels of yourself if you want to be real in this world. It’s tricky to keep track of, since you’re with yourself 24-7. The times you’re lonely, wild, brokenhearted, shy, infuriated, patient – any of those times, you’re there, but not everyone else is. They only see snippets, moments of you, sometimes repetitively. It’s up to you to weave them all together, if you want to be really known.
If you want to know what my prayer is these days, it’s this: Help me be my whole self, God. I am proud of my fierce. Finally, damn it, FINALLY, I know just how remarkable I am and what I have to offer that no one else does. And I won’t spend one single day wasting time by living it down. But I am also tenderhearted and desperate to “get down low so I can lift you higher” (thanks Dierks – gah I love that lyric). I want to raise up others and show them their worth because let me tell you that is WHERE THE LIFE IS. I don’t want to run away from fear or challenge, but I don’t want to drive away connection because I’m swinging so hard.
I’ll be truthful- I don’t know how to walk this line. But I believe that if I humble myself, stay honest, and ask for help, good people will be delivered to me to help my find my way.