“As a developing leader, being true to yourself is vitally important to your success, health, and happiness.” This was some advice I heard being given to aspiring young leaders at a luncheon I attended today.
Being truthful with yourself depends upon a couple of the following things:
Self-awareness—This is the ability to develop a healthy understanding and appreciation of who we are—and also—who we aren’t. To know oneself is one of the most valuable forms of intelligence any person possesses. People who possess high levels of self-awareness have usually spent a lot of time discovering and critically reflecting on their abilities and limitations. The self-aware person knows their strengths, their talents, and the areas of their life that they are most comfortable in. Similarly, the self-aware person also understands and respects their limitations, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses associated with their own Achilles’s heel.
Several years ago, I discovered from my wife that I demonstrate a facial expression of frowning when I am in deep thought. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being in deep thought, and for that matter, having frowning facial expressions. Except when— you come home from a long, thought-intensive, and mentally exhausting day at work (still wearing the frowning face). Upon your arrival at home, although you might be hoping to grab warm hugs affections from your young children and family, your loved ones see your frowning face, misinterpret the visual facial cues, and behaviorally respond to avoid you mistakenly believing you are “angry” or “upset.” After all—the frowns make them believe you need some space to calm down. Positive changes resulted in the interaction patterns between my children and me because my wife assisted me in developing my “self-awareness” of this deep-thought/facial expression connection.
Self-acceptance is also important to being truthful with oneself. This is the ability to let go of perfectionist tendencies in order to fully appreciate and value the unique and different aspects of that make you—YOU. Sure, none of us are perfect and none of us will ever be. Instead of focusing our worries and obsessions on how we dumb we might look, or how we won’t be able to perform, or how others might negatively perceive us, we need to stop being hard on ourselves and enjoy how we have been wonderfully and uniquely made. We need to be able to find enjoyment in our unique and diverse qualities. We need to look for the goodness and blessings we have in our life. And in those stubborn hard to accept areas of our life, the healthy person finds a productive way to enjoy a good-natured laugh about themselves. All of these positive approaches are healthy for us and will ultimately contribute to our personal happiness and wellbeing.
Finally, being true with yourself also includes healthy forms of self-control and self-regulation. Being self-controlled and self-regulated means the ability to establish and enforce a healthy set of boundaries that govern or regulate our emotions, attitudes, moods, and temperament. It’s the ability to keep our lives in check and not allow ourselves to supersede our limits.
We have a wonderful new chocolate lab puppy. His name is “The Bear” (yes, named after the famous golfer–Jack Nicklaus). Because no puppy possesses “self-control” and “self-regulation,” for Bear’s safety, we installed underground fencing to protect him. To assist his on-going development of self-control and self-regulation, Bear wears a small collar that provides him plenty of short beeps (as a friendly reminder) as he approaches the outer and unsafe limits of the yard. Bear will probably wear this collar for several years—especially during the period of time he is a puppy. However, with time, as Bear matures, he will naturally develop a healthy sense of self-control and self-regulation about this boundaries. And in doing so, we understand that his need to wear his collar everyday might not be necessary.
Being true to ourself means improving our self-awareness, increasing our self-acceptance, and developing a healthy sense of self-control and self-regulation. While it would be great if we could all wear beeping collars like Bear to remind us of the importance of these characteristics—instead, we have to be focused and diligent on creating an internal system of sensors that enable us to be true to ourself.