Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Tom Cornille
This weekend, my partner and I start promoting the couples’ retreat we’re doing in November. We’ll be focussing on non-violent communication in relationships, since it’s one of the things that has made a huge difference in the way we communicate with ourselves, with each other, our children and the world at large.
As excited as I am about sharing this information, and the exercises we’ve set up, with a group of couples, the promotional part of the job is something I haven’t really gotten used to yet. I still find it unsettling to put myself out there like that. Faced with my struggles on that front, I was reminded of why we picked the name ‘Show Yourself’ just over a year ago when we decided this was going to be our joint venture: coaching teams, couples and individuals in bringing their authentic selves forward into the world. (The fact that ‘Show Yourself’ is also a top track on the Frozen II soundtrack was more of a coincidence, though the lyrics to that song are a pretty good picture of the struggle it can lead up to when you do decide to finally ‘show yourself’).
Stepping forward into the world as your true self, is perhaps one of the scariest things out there for many of us. Brené Brown refers to it as ‘going into the arena.’ It’s the place where the magic happens, but also where you take all the blows. When you show your true colours, you invariably open yourself to the evaluation of those colours by others. Maybe some will find your pink too intense, or your yellow too exotic. The art that you have poured your soul into might meet with harsh criticism. The class you carefully prepared may have students falling asleep in it (true story).
And the reality is that those criticisms or the lack of interest hit much closer to home when that home is precisely what you’re showing a piece of.
Why exactly is it so hard to show yourself? What is it that makes us feel vulnerable? What precisely do we fear?
Well, the answers to that can be many. We each have our own convictions that stand in the way of our confidence and self-love. We each deal with our own very specific demons. That’s what our coaching is about: It’s about recognising what keeps you from connecting with yourself, connecting with others and showing who you really are with joy, with confidence. It’s about seeing what gets in the way and dealing with it.
Most of our convictions boil down to a version of ‘not good enough’. Most of our fears boil down to the fear of being rejected, of ultimately being alone and dying. As a species, we have community built into us. Being alone wasn’t only life threatening when we lived in caves. Study after study shows that it’s still detrimental to our health and takes years off our lives. No wonder it scares the bejeebies out of us.
So why would you show yourself if that’s what you’re risking? Because in the end you don’t really have a choice. If you want to feel like you belong, you’ll have to show yourself authentically. When we present others with a mask, and they enthousiastically accept the mask in their midsts, we are still left with the feeling of not being good enough as our true selves, of not truly being seen, not truly belonging, and in the end feeling alone.
So we venture forward and peel off those masks, little by little. We break down bricks in our walls. Tear down our own defenses. crack open our shells. Little by little, or sometimes all at once. It’s hard, but it’s a easier when you get a little help, when someone points you in the right direction. Showing yourself starts with remembering or finding out who that true self is, or who it isn’t. It starts with figuring out where you turned (or turn) yourself into someone else, and how to recognise when you’re not acting according to your own values.
I don’t think it will ever feel 100% safe and comfortable to show myself fully. There might always be an element of fear involved, but that’s okay. I can take the fear along with me. As Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her book ‘Big Magic’: ‘You give fear the backseat in the car. Sure, it can come along, it’s going to anyways, but you never let it drive the car.’ (paraphrased)
My blog has been a constant challenge in showing myself fully. You, my readers, have made that possible. Thank you for taking the time out of your day and sharing it with me <3.
P.S. For those of you who speak Dutch and want to help us spread the event, you can find the facebook post of the event here. Please share with friends and family who might be interested! The website of Show Yourself also gives more information.