I’m not sure what comes up for you when you hear the words “take a chance” but I can imagine that it is something that you have been wanting, meaning and hoping to one day do with your life.
Maybe it is something concrete like learning a new language, writing that book or hiking a mountain.
(You know, just any mountain…)
Most of us, however, are haunted by something less concrete and more fundamental to our core. The “chance” that we need to take, the big risk that we are avoiding is within ourselves. It is in trusting ourself and believing in the value of our own human-ness, regardless of all the warts and weaknesses. The leap that many of us are avoiding and wanting at the same time is the leap into our own authenticity.
There are so many people out there selling an idea that we can fix ourselves, as long as we push ourselves to do and be more. Selling the idea that you can fix who you are is a big business.
(This guy has made a pretty good living)
Authenticity is even being sold as a commodity, as though it were a thing that could be consumed. We have authentic Mexican food and authentic Chinese. I even once owned a pair of jeans that proudly stated that they were “authentically stitched.”
(So I’m told.)
So what do I mean when I say “take a chance” as it applies to our authentic selves?
At the core it is about taking the risk to stop trying to be something that you think people want you to be.
It is about letting go of the belief (and it is a kind of fanatical belief) that there is a “perfect” you out there, if only you could learn how to juggle chainsaws or write a best-selling novel.
(Although the flames add a certain special touch…)
The risk is in trusting that who you are is enough. All people really want from any of us is our true selves. That is the greatest value we have to offer this life.
Now, that’s a risk.
As I have written before, nobody really cares where you went to school or how many push ups you can do. (#nobodycares) While those things can grab a person’s attention at first and maybe it opens some doors to new opportunities, it doesn’t, however, make you a better person. It doesn’t make you any more you.
When people ask “what do I have to do to be more authentic?” my first suggestion is to stop thinking that authenticity is a thing you have to achieve. When we operate from the premise that there is something wrong with us, we are inherently going to communicate inauthentically.
Think for a moment, what you would do or say if you believed in your core that what you had to do or say was of value, regardless of what others might think? What would communication look and sound like if we all just dropped the pretenses, the defenses and the stories?
A couple of years ago I was working with an acting coach at Shakespeare and Co in Lenox MA. (His name is Dennis Krausnick and he is one of the founders of that organization and a great teacher.) We were working on a text from Richard II and after I flailed around for awhile trying to get the language exactly “right” he said something to me that has stuck ever since.
“You’re going to have to be a little braver.”
I was trying so hard to show that I belonged with these words and that I was enough for Shakespeare’s language, but the truth was that I was underselling myself. When we hide from ourselves by trying to be perfect or when we create an expectation of ourselves that insists that we need to be more, we are operating from a smaller, more frightened space.
When we take the risk of embracing our true selves, regardless of all the tics, stutters, accents and whatever else we deem “less than,” we begin to speak from a braver place and a fuller place. When we make friends with the embarrassment we might feel about our true selves, we begin to grasp a bit of that “authenticity” that everyone supposedly craves and needs.
Most importantly, we feel the freedom of trusting ourselves completely, regardless of how goofy our dance of joy might be.
- Notice if you are trying to be something for others.
- Be a little braver: Who would you be if it were okay to just be you?
- Take the risk of embracing your whole self, warts and all and see what happens.