What happens when anxiety builds to the breaking point and you decide to get “naked” with your audience? This.
Somewhere between posting my first social media update back in 2008 and today, I’ve become a master in spin. How this happened I’m not entirely sure.
I don’t know if at some point a switch flipped, or if it’s been a gradual process. What I do know is, the person I present myself as on social media is someone I often don’t recognize.
Whether turning a minor irritant into a chance at a humble brag on Facebook (like when I “complained” last week of the recent influx of publicists pitching guests to my podcast) or sharing on Twitter how I already have more speaking gigs lined up this year than all of last (while conveniently leaving out I’ve scored a whopping three gigs so far, versus two) it seems I can’t pass up an opportunity to present my life as nearly perfect.
Social media is only part of it of course. It extends into nearly all of my communication. If you can relate, then this is for you.
An Experiment in Vulnerability
This year, I’ve committed to letting down my guard. In my podcast, in my coaching, my e-mails, and social media, I’m making a public promise to share more about who I am, the real me, warts and all. What I’d like to ask of you is, will you join me?
Before you squeal “No,” hear me out.
In a message to my email list last week, I shared openly and honestly about some recent issues I’ve had with anxiety. Before last week, I’d only shared it with my wife and my best friend. In fact, the thought of sharing it publicly seemed liked the ultimate in embarrassment. I mustered the courage, however, after hearing former Disney executive Lee Cockerell share about his struggles with anxiety on his “Creating Disney Magic” podcast with co-host Jody Maberry.
To be clear, I’ve not been officially diagnosed. Let’s just say that in at least two instances in the last few months I’ve been gripped with a fear and dread strong enough to leave me unable to speak in moments requiring me to do exactly that.
I shared how that, in both cases, I was being interviewed on another podcast. Only the interviewers and I were present for our conversations so, in light of my radio past, they shouldn’t have been a big deal. But each time, deep down, I felt I was sharing on a platform I didn’t deserve to be on (Imposter Syndrome anyone?). I nearly turned down the invitations for that very reason. In the end, though, they seemed too good to pass up.
Their first question – “Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be doing what you are now” was one I couldn’t have been more qualified to answer. Yet, there I was. Frozen. Unable to say what I wanted to say.
In an attempt to avoid embarrassment, I feigned a coughing fit in the first instance. In the other, I had to go check on my wife after hearing a “crash” in the next room. I actually said that. A complete lie.
I ended my message with an apology and a request for forgiveness. “This is either brave or stupid,” I thought. Then I hit send.
An Outpouring of Support
As you might have guessed, the responses I received were immediate and numerous. Vulnerability is funny that way.
Many responses came from those who have dealt with similar issues with sentiments of thanks for how sharing my struggles had helped them. Every last reply included words of encouragement. Just as encouraging was that, in all the responses, there wasn’t one word of criticism. Not one.
That afternoon I began a back and forth dialogue with dozens of people who, before, had only read and deleted (or just deleted) the emails I sent. Rare were the replies. Until now.
In the end, it’s not as if I was overly surprised. But then, “What had I been so afraid of?” I thought. “What took me so long to get real?”
Embarrassment? Fear of rejection? Concern that the real me wasn’t good enough? All of the above?
All of the above.
Whatever you’ve built: a business, a family, a team, if you’re not giving it you — the real you — realize your relationship to it, to them, is built, partly, at least, on a lie.
You’ve only got this life. Don’t get to end of it with the regret of not living it true to you. Just like with me, it’s not too late.
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