A few days ago, I recorded a podcast with Jack Eason who has a new book coming out called, The Loneliness Solution. He contacted me to have a conversation because of my last post, It’s Time to Talk About the Real Dangers of Wearing Masks. Specifically, he was interested in one of the most difficult questions I unapologetically ask people:
“Is the loneliness of leadership self-inflicted?”
The reason I refuse to relent on this question is because it strips away all the pretensions we use to protect ourselves and gets to the heart of being human. (And yes—it is self-inflicted.)
As you already know, aloneness obviously isn’t just an issue for leaders. This timeless problem transcends every aspect of life which is why it remains the cause of most of the unhealthy behaviors we employ to cover up the residual pain feeling alone exposes.
[Jack and I share the same vocation. We’re "professional Christians”. I look forward to doing an exclusive series on the unique aspects of our pastoral occupation later where I’ll share my views on how churches are guilty of creating an artificial culture that make it almost impossible for people of faith to live and lead with authenticity. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it.]
Begin with Self-Reflection
The older I get, the more I find myself looking in the mirror and wondering where the years have gone. And I’m also asking harder questions than I want to answer—at least publicly. Here’s the one confronting my conscious lately: What have I really accomplished in my career anyway?
Some days, I ask that question and honestly believe the answer is—nothing. I can really beat myself up when I feel like it (which feels slightly better than someone else doing it to me). But there’s a fine line between self-reflection and self-pity. If you want to know if you’re practicing for a pity party, here are three telltale signs from Aletheia Luna:
You find it hard to laugh at life and at yourself.
You tend to crave drama.
You tend to crave sympathy.
Self-pity lends itself to being fake and artificial. Self-reflection leads to becoming true and authentic. Introspection is the first step in revealing enough of yourself to connect with others. Now, you do need to practice some discretion because exposure creates exposure. My CompleMentor, Monty Hipp, shared that with me recently. [BTW: If you’re looking for a new personal growth and professional development plan, you must check them out.]
I’ve worked hard to be an authentic leader for 30 years, but I admit that I’m guilty of exaggerating my successes to compensate for my shortcomings in order to feel significant. Unfortunately, that formula is how most people attempt to meet the unrealistic expectations created by our culture. Demanding perfection every day isn’t possible—it’s damaging—because it forces people to perform which only increases their aloneness.
I’ve had enough. And I’ve come to a point where I am unwilling for the “alone” to be alone any longer.
If I have to reveal my weaknesses in order to remove the aloneness of others, then I will expose myself in every post and podcast I produce regardless of the risk. Because fake eventually falls anyway—so you and I might as well expose our flaws before someone else exploits our failures. People see through charades. So today, I want to give you some strategies toward becoming more authentic that have helped me from Tina Meilleur.
Reflect on the following tactics:
Get real about defining your authentic self.
What don’t others know about you?
What about your personality and your life lights you up?
What is so crucial to who you are that you can’t describe yourself without including those values and traits?
Paint a picture of how your present yourself—your “public” mask.
How would others describe you?
What are the things you try to portray when interacting with others?
What do you think you are trying to protect by portraying yourself this way?
Create an inventory of behaviors critical to expressing who you really are.
What behaviors are a true reflection of your authentic self?
What happens when you show your authentic self?
How do you feel when you exhibit these authentic behaviors?
Create a list of behaviors that have served you well in the past.
What are the behaviors and traits that you have portrayed and have served you well?
Have you experienced deepened relationships and interactions as a result of these behaviors?
Do these behaviors reflect your authentic self?
Craft a plan to utilize these new behaviors to illustrate your authentic self.
Can you take a risk and decide to be more vulnerable in your interactions?
Can you decide to let go of the fear of how others might react to you acting differently?
Can you embrace this new way of “showing up” more authentically because it makes you feel good?
Perfection + Production + Performance = Pressure
Undue pressure is the leading cause for anxiety in life—from the boardroom to the bedroom. No wonder people feel forced to fake it just to fit in today. I’m inviting you to join me and say, “I’ve had enough.” Be your authentic self in an artificial world. Let’s end aloneness once and for all and stand #togetherforone.
A couple of years ago, Forbes published an article titled, The Real Difference Between True and Fake Leadership, I’d encourage you to read it today. Review their two apposing lists and ask yourself which camp you fit in most frequently. Be honest!
If you’re willing, please take a moment to share your own struggle with authenticity in the comments below. Your vulnerability may be exactly what is needed to help somebody through their struggle. So go ahead—expose yourself—you’ll feel better.