One of the great challenges of personal development is the willingness to be exposed. I do not think that anyone really loves to go through brutally honest personal inventory or to air their dirty laundry to a group of people. It is this process that often frightens individuals from attending a Connections program or to engage in any kind of group work. So; why is it so necessary to expose oneself?
Over my many years of leading personal development workshops, I have discovered that what people most want is to be authentic, real people. They want the freedom to simply be themselves without constantly needing to perform for someone’s acceptance and approval. I often see people coming through those doors on a Friday evening who are absolutely exhausted and looking defeated because they have expended their life’s energy trying to prove themselves to a world that places so much value on performance and appearance. What I do for you and how I look to you becomes the most important way for me to feel ok about me.
What would it feel like to live in a world that embraces imperfection and celebrates our messy humanity? Well; one thing for sure, we would not be so scared to expose that imperfection and messy humanity. We would not be afraid that we would be judged, rejected and abandoned by others.
The beauty of being honest with yourself and vulnerable with others is that you discover that we are all human and imperfect. We have all made poor choices and done things that we still feel shame about. Unfortunately, that shame is making us sick and often keeping us hidden behind walls of fear.
Maybe the greatest lesson I have learned in leading group work is that exposing myself draws people to me, not push them away. We are convinced that people will draw back in horror if they see the ugliness of all the scars we have accumulated over years of painful human experience. Actually, it is those scars that we can all identify with and feel empathy toward.
In the mid nineties I was involved with a Personal Development company that held a Sunday morning service after four days of a journey in honesty and vulnerability. On occasion I would be asked to speak at the Sunday morning service. At the very last program I attended, I was asked to speak, so, I thought long and hard on the Saturday evening wondering what to say. What I finally decided on was to talk about the greatest lesson I had learned in three years of attending these programs. So; I talked about the value of being exposed and living a life of honesty and vulnerability.
As I began to speak to the group, I was conscious that I had a suit and tie on. I was still a young man and looked pretty dam good in a suit if I say so myself. So, I talked about how we as a society love to dress up and look pretty for everyone. I would often wear a suit when I preached and was conscious of people’s approval. I felt good when I looked good and demanded the stage. What I continued to tell the group is that there is something crucially missing when I wear a suit. I looked out at the group and saw some very questioning faces as I began to take my tie off. Some of those looks became increasingly uncomfortable as I started taking my shirt off. What I said to the group as I began to undress was that my nice clothes would always cover up my scars. I have a large scar down the middle of my stomach from an operation when I was three months old. What I continued to share is that people would never know all of who I am if you were not aware of my scars. They are an important part of what makes me who I am and the experiences that have shaped my life. The value of exposing my scars is that it gives me freedom to be imperfect and human. It allows me to be authentic and real.
In what ways will you expose yourself for the sake of your freedom and authenticity?
Terry Lige is a Kelowna life coach and the founder & head facilitator of Inside Out Leadership. Experience life-changing breakthroughs in his transformational personal development workshops.