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How I Let Myself Down By Never Being Who I Was Born To Be

How I Let Myself Down By Never Being Who I Was Born To Be

Throughout most of our lives, we stumble along, never really knowing which direction will lead us to the path created just for us. Perhaps, we never believe there is such a thing and merely come across it by accident. In my case, it was something I still have trouble accepting, even six years later.

I tell myself that I am just a simple woman in her late 40s who has been married for almost 27 years with three grown sons. The career path I chose back in college is nowhere near where I am now, and yet no college course could have ever guided me here. For years, I muddled through life without knowing it. I feel remorseful for cheating my husband and sons out of who I really could have been for them. The truth is that I didn’t know how to be more than who I was. I gave them everything I could and only now understand how I not only let myself down, but them as well.

Downplaying my talents

For years, I downplayed my abilities and denied my gifts and talents. Some of you might be able to relate. In the past, they brought me attention, even though it was usually the good kind. I was recognized for being an academic scholar and a superb athlete in high school. I was popular and many people knew my name. But that was just what everyone saw on the surface. I still had hidden underneath years of not feeling like I fit in or knew where I belonged. Even as a member of team, I never really felt comfortable there. I just played my game and let my skills speak for me — maybe so I wouldn’t have to otherwise.

And that worked for a great number of years.

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But it wasn’t just myself I had cheated. Or my family. I had cheated the world too. I had lied, been deceitful, and hurtful — all without ever intending to do so.

I had cheated everyone of everything I was ever born to be.

Letting fear take hold

Fear is a nasty slave and once we become its prisoner, it is very difficult to break those chains. For some, it can be downright impossible. For others, there is no one there to show them the way or to encourage them to be somewhere different. We convince ourselves that we are not worthy and that our mere presence is barely worth the ounce of breath we spend with that acknowledgement. Most would never see their lives as diminished, sheltered, and minuscule. This is why what we believe matters.

I didn’t believe in myself.

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I never wanted to stand out from the crowd, and even now it still makes me uncomfortable, but I am better at it. “Being ordinary” and blending in with the crowd, barely flying under the radar seemed to work — but that changed six years ago.

Making the change

Without knowing why, a friend and I had arrived at the same crossroads, asking ourselves the “big” questions of our “purpose,” and I became ready for the life I was born to live after just a few words. I allowed my heart to be free and soared higher than I ever had before.

It was scary, new, and yet something I couldn’t dismiss. My purpose had called to me and I was finally ready to hear it and do something with it. Not even really knowing what that meant and stumbling more than I ever had before left me with more questions than answers. At times, I felt like I didn’t know which direction to take, but I never felt lost.

I had spent my previous 40+ years full of logic and reason, following a plan I had no part in designing. I now felt in control of my life, as if I had just found my voice and realized that I could make choices for the first time.

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I took me a long way to get there and then once I did, I couldn’t even figure out how to get back to who I once was. Not that I wanted to, but I wouldn’t have had a clue. I was changed — changed for good.

Change isn’t always easy

Some of the roads I took were very hard. So hard, they made me want to run away as fast as I could without looking back. But something kept pushing me forward. I surrounded myself with people who encouraged me to keep going. I read as many books as I could that would enlighten me and bring my sense of awareness to a level I had never experienced before. Admission and honesty became my two of my biggest advocates. Forgiving myself was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do, and yet I knew in doing so it would give me peace and allow my true spirit to be released from the captivity I created for it.

I began to journal in notebooks in addition to my blog that I shared online. My journals are much more personal and one of my biggest fears is whose eyes will see them one day when I am no longer here. They are the most raw and vulnerable ways of expressing myself that I have shared. Getting these thoughts and emotions out of my head and somewhere else brought a sense of relief that I had not found anywhere else.

Probably the biggest thing I did was to believe in who I have always been. After spending too many years ignoring who I was and what I was capable of, I came out of the shadows — damaged, broken, hurt, and yet still I knew there was more to me than those attributes that I assigned myself a long time ago. I stopped trying to be who someone told me to be, following a road I never wanted to be on, and stopped caring about what others thought about my choices. I have but one life and I consciously chose to start living it on my terms and no one else was going to tell me differently.

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Throughout these moments of absolute fear and doubt, I found courage and strength in places I never knew it existed. It filled me with a sense of joy and excitement about life that I had never experienced. Every day was a blessing, not a curse or something to begrudge. As I shared more of my stumbles and struggles, more people began to feel relieved that they weren’t alone and would often sigh heavily as the words, “Me, too!” escaped from their lips. You could just see it in their eyes and feel it when we allowed ourselves to be who we really are.

Where to go from here

If you’re struggling with making similar life-altering decisions, these tips might help you out.

  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of the answers and be willing to accept them for what they are, not what you want them to be. Although you may be guided by others, including books about where to find the answers, ultimately the answers are only as good as the questions.
  • Fight through fear. It is easy to walk away and pretend it doesn’t matter, but you and I both know that at some point in your future, that decision to walk away will come back to haunt you. You can only get to the other side of fear by going through it. You cannot avoid it or pretend it isn’t there. Confront it, get it over with, and move on.
  • Be honest. Honesty will become something you hate and yet you are unable to grow without it. It will piss you off and remind you what you need to hear versus what you want to hear. But when all is said and done, you know where you stand.
  • Tell your story. Being vulnerable is one of the most daring things anyone can ever do. There is the fear of ridicule, regret of sharing too much, and even feeling alone, all wrapped into something that most can’t even imagine doing. Ask yourself why TED talks are so well attended and you will understand the value of storytelling and the connection we all make when someone shares a bit of themselves with us.
  • Keep going. Most people never get started, and yet the ones who have taken on the task of finding themselves can get frustrated and discouraged if the road seems too difficult. We forget that by consistently moving forward, even with baby steps, we inspire the world and people in ways we never even imagined. Every ripple begins with one simple movement.

The journeys we believe we are meant to take may surprise us and actually take us in directions we were never meant to follow. By withdrawing from life and every possible notion it has created, built, and envisioned for us, we trick everyone into believing that we have nothing more to offer and we become impostors. We become hypocritical and fake in a world that is hungry for more authenticity and honesty.

Our world is what we make it and living our true lives is how we add to it every day. In doing so, we make it better and make a difference in the lives of others. No more hiding, no more pretending, no more cheating. This is who I was born to be — I just never knew it.

So when you least expect it, when you are swamped with everything else going on in your life, you just may find yourself heading down a path you never imagined, and yet you know it is the one you must follow. Without a single regret, you will look back and smile, accepting that this very moment is why you are here, why you matter, why it called to you. Pay attention.

Featured photo credit: Jordan Donaldson via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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