The Power of Authenticity – Partem

The power of authenticity

How to value others without devaluing yourself

Ever have that feeling that you are surrounded by people that know more, have more, achieved more? How do react? Do you puff up, shrink or seize the opportunity?

Starting as a trainer, I had this excitement in me. Then came my first workshop. The room was filled with high achievers and I was challenged to bring my A game. As soon as the workshop was done, I rushed to check-out the feedback forms and was delighted with the positive feedback the workshop had gotten. I was on cloud nine until I heard one of the participants telling my senior trainer (a good friend of his) that he doubted my credibility to lead the workshop by myself.

I was devastated.

Over the weekend I didn’t sleep well. I went over every second of the workshop in my head, considered giving up on training. I was on a rollercoaster of emotions, from being sad to being mad and finally returning to the office on Monday with a long of arguments supporting my credibility.

Needless to say I had gone over that list of arguments in my head a dozen times and had the perfect words to prove my point. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I ignored the real lesson in there.

His feedback didn’t mean I WASN’T credible but that I hadn’t BELIEVED I was credible. At the end of the day, all my emotions and reactions to this feedback were merely symbols of that insecurity. If anything my indignation just proved his point.

In Holland we have a popular saying, “just act normal, that is crazy enough”. And that was very much how I was raised: don’t think too highly of yourself, you are not better than anyone else. However, we misinterpret the message and don’t realize it applies to others as well meaning that others are not better than you either. And that’s too bad because being too humble can actually undermine your strengths.

In his book “How to talk so other people will listen”, Steve Brown adequately points out that if you project yourself as too humble,

people will assume you have something to be humble about. If you doubt yourself, other people will doubt you too.

At the start of that particular workshop I found myself surrounded by people that I perceived as way more successful than me. Among them being a millionaire, successful international coach and well-known CEO. I felt intimidated with lots of enthusiasm and ideas but only small internal workshops under my belt. Through the intimidation, not only did I feel the need to minimize my own achievements but also felt compelled to pretend to be someone I was not.

In doing so, I forgot that they were people just like me, with passions, insecurities, fears and dreams like everyone else. I abandoned my strengths and duty as a trainer, which is to help them connect with their fears, passions and dreams through my expertise and experience as a trainer. My openness has always been strength of mine and has allowed me to make others feel at ease. Why didn’t I just come out and say, “Wow I feel impressed here today!”

I also came to another important realization: By not believing in myself, I devalue my audience. In reality I wasn’t thinking very highly of my participants by assuming they would spend their time, money and energy on listening to someone (me) who had nothing to offer to them. I discounted people because of their success. And by being intimidated, I missed out on the chance to share some of my strengths with them and to grow from their expertise at the same time.

The challenge is to surround yourself by people that you can learn from without getting intimidated. Show up as yourself and give everything you’ve got, even when that means falling flat own your face.

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