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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 March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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