Self – awareness is a huge gift. It shines a benevolent light on the shadows of our subconscious and helps us bring forth parts of ourselves we may have repressed for far too long. By re-integrating these lost selves back into our psyche, we become radically more alive. We renew our spirits and we feel more energy and engagement with life itself. With greater self-awareness, we are better able to communicate with passion and can start to truly believe in what we say and do. Conversely, without self- awareness, we will struggle to develop the self-knowledge necessary to uncover our personal why. And unless we can dig deep into ourselves and connect to our deeper why, we will remain unable to change our fundamental behaviour. Lasting transformation will elude us.
Self-enquiry is brave work.
Despite what most gurus and self-development heroes proclaim and promise, we cannot fix ourselves in a day or a week. There are not many real overnight transformations and there is sadly no magic wand. Deep and lasting change is more complicated than that. We need to work at it. We cannot simply think a new thought, reframe a perspective and subsequently expect life to manifest completely differently. Positive psychology certainly has its place and can help us achieve our material goals by motivating us forward. But with all this achievement, we often loose sight of the one thing we desperately long for: genuine connection to life. We may seem to have all the accoutrements of a “successful” life, filled with material and intellectual gains, but still suffer acute loneliness; an outsider, rarely feeling a part of anything meaningful. How many times have you reached a goal only to think “what next?” The goals we achieve are often pleasing in the short-term but fail to provide us with lasting satisfaction.
So, how do we transform our lives and find our place of belonging where our creative and emotional needs are actually met? How do we begin to speak from a place of power and truth? How do we believe in ourselves when our value seems endlessly determined by our accolades?
I believe the first step is to stop this relentless seeking outside of ourselves and to start looking within. We must undertake the hero’s journey into our subconscious to uncover our deepest values and befriend our multi-faceted self. This is courageous stuff. We may discover parts of ourselves that we never knew existed and we will start to realise how much potential we actually have. By journeying inwards, we can at last become clearer on who we really are under our everyday façade. And with this clarity, we develop a profound level of positive self-regard. Do not under-estimate the power in discovering a self we may have hitherto quashed. Our inner potential is the fountain of all creativity. The most compelling people are those who are hugely self-aware and self-accepting. They use their deep inner knowledge to truly connect with others. And their behaviours and words can quite literally move mountains.
To become a brilliant communicator, we first need to define our values and connect to our deepest convictions. We need to ask ourselves the right questions and listen to our own thoughts and feelings. When we listen to ourselves without judgement, we start to realise that who we are matters, and we begin to act from a more inspired place within. When our words are connected to our inherent value, we cannot fail to compel others to think a little differently. We develop a symbiotic relationship with others laying fertile ground for new and exciting opportunities.
I have found that the number one thing that stands in our way of powerful communication is simply this: our fear of fear itself. Even those who seem the most confident on the outside, particularly those who show little vulnerability, are often hiding a pervasive inner fear, and in suppressing this fear, they sabotage their best attempts at change. Hating to feel exposed for fear of shame, they construct fabulously tough veneers through which they interact with the world. But all they really achieve is a huge disconnect from their own power. Vulnerability is strength, not weakness.
Our fear is not the problem. It is so human to feel vulnerable. What suffocates our creative voice is actually just our run from fear. And many of us spend our entire lives running. We need to stop. Empowering ourselves involves becoming aware of the exact moments when we run and daring to stop and turn within. As we gently peer under our defensive layers, we can start to challenge some of our questionable narratives around fear and expand ourselves into new realms of self-expression.
There are many wonderful ideas posited through the ages by philosophers, writers and artists to help us to reflect on our fears and maybe even loosen their grip. But ideas alone are seldom a match for fear itself, especially when it is coursing through our veins, energetically holding us back from expressing who we really are in the moment. Ideas and insights are important, but it is the synergy of these ideas with authentic human connection that spurs us to look directly into fear’s eye and turn our biggest foe into our closest ally. Reframing thoughts and perspectives is certainly helpful, but unless we can face our fear on an experiential level, embrace it, perhaps even come to love it, we can never truly transform the way we communicate with others. With fear at the helm, we retreat behind our protective masks and ultimately rob ourselves of the joy of genuine self-expression.
What is the antidote to our fear of fear? The answer lies in daring to speak with a little self-exposure, a healthy dose of vulnerability and plenty of self-compassion. There is nothing inherently wrong with us. The kinder we are to ourselves, the more accepting we become of our fallibility and the braver we feel to draw back the curtains to our hearts. Bit by bit, we can welcome our many hidden selves into our psyche and begin to speak with greater depth and power. Our words come alive because we come alive, and as we progress, we learn that we are safe to be ourselves without fear of failure or admonition. In fact, we will realise that our mistakes were our friends all along, warmly directing us into the moment and all it has to offer. Perfection has always been the antithesis of creativity and a mistake can sometimes lead to a moment of genius.
‘If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original' – Sir Ken Robinson
Life will always be complex and challenging. Let's stay open to the entire palette of human experience and embrace as much of it as we can. We may not be perfect and will not always succeed, but every experience is grist for the mill. We can use it to evolve and step into our greatness. We can embrace our fear, seize the moment and discover what lies beyond the edge.
Why look into the eye of fear at all? Indeed, in recent years, with the advent of pop psychology, quick fix therapies, NLP and other pseudoscience, it seems less popular than ever to want to truly grapple with our fundamental fears. We would much rather put a band-aid on our weeping wounds than acknowledge them, breath into them and transmute the energy therein into something more powerful. We let fear stare us down and we reach for the nearest drug.
But fear will never go away. It will pull at us and nag at our spirits like an itch we cannot scratch. We could keep on running, looking for the next fix, or we could stop, turn to face our fear and say – hello my friend, where have you been so long? Let us settle in for a time and have an open conversation. Let us get to know each other. When we look fear in the eye and face our vulnerability head-on, we increase our compassion and learn to share ourselves in more enriching ways. We finally speak with truth because we feel it at the core of our very existence. Fear is the price we pay for this self-awareness, and self-awareness is the source of all growth.
“Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”
Edgar, King Lear, Shakespeare