The Terrifying Truth (and Joy) About Being Yourself

Image Courtesy | Bagel Bean, UK

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the unsaid was said? What would happen if we revealed our fears, dreams, and shortcomings? What is the immediate price and long-term payoff for revealing the enheartened, brave soul? How do you make the Vulnerability Journey? Where do you find strength in the face of adversity? What is your specific Option B? How can you work through that in the face of Perpetual Positivity Syndrome that is seen too often? How do you stay answerable to the burning question of your soul’s purpose?

Connect to Your Vulnerability

What I learned from Dr. Brené Brown and her research is that we’re here because of our ability to connect and form, deep, meaningful relationships. That journey, however, begins, with you. To be able to let go of Who You Think You Are and to simply observe and accept, Who You Really Are is terrifying. The emotional exposure that comes from that courageous act is incalculable. Not just to the outside world of your significant other, family members, and inner circle of friends. But even to yourself. Especially to yourself. You have to:

1.   become painfully aware of imperfections

2.   gather the courage to be joyful

3.   develop new-found perspective to your life’s narrative through a timeline of memories.

It’s the willingness to start the vulnerability journey and ask: How connected are You, to You? Being vulnerable is to “wound, physically, mentally, and emotionally”, as per the Latin definition. It’s worse than dental pain. It’s real work and isn’t nearly as glamorous as an Instagram post. It’s terrifying but it’s a baby step in the journey of leaning in to the discomfort.

Image Courtesy | Olenka KotyK | Unsplash

Accept Your Pain  

Waiting to meet the doctor after an ultrasound scan reveals an abnormal mass in your body. Watching a mom breathe her last, leaving behind her children and a loving husband. Meeting one’s beloved for the last time, before walking away in gut-wrenching grief. Finding the courage to address the elephant in the room and live in the moment of uncertainty of reaction. This right here is what’s terrifying about being yourself. There are no guarantees and you can’t control or predict the outcome or even the future. And no amount of wine or crying or therapy could make it go away. “The only way out is to endure, survive, and live through the pain.” You can’t work around it. I have a better understanding of this today, thanks to a wonderfully wise friend who led me to Cheryl Strayed, as part of my soul shaping journey.

The hard-hitting truth is that there is suffering in leading an authentic life. But there’s also deep joy, contentment, and spiritual growth. When we block pain, we also block joy. Accepting, working, and living through that is terrifying but it deepens the connection you have, with you.

Act in Faith vs. Fear

This journey does not preclude fear or anxiety in my work assignments, music, writing, or relationships. Even as I write this, I’m somewhat anxious and wonder: Is this post LinkedIn appropriate? How would people react to my thoughts? What would my leaders think of me when they read this? How useful is this in the professional world of business, career, and social networking? And I can easily numb all of this with many justifications because revealing is as scary as diving with the Great White or cliff walking or even volcano boarding. But ‘the price of invulnerability’ will catch up with me, sooner or later. So every day, I strive to make the conscious choice of dropping the shield to live the terrifying truth (and joy) of being myself.

What I learned

Here’s my personal learning from these extraordinarily brave women. In the journey to becoming the most fulfilled expression of who you are, you need to:

Connect to your vulnerability.

Accept your pain

Act in faith, instead of fear

How do you move from connection and acceptance to action? When you give yourself to be authentic, despite the possibility of rejection or judgment. One of the most poignant lines I heard in Dr. Brené Brown’s video was: “…faith is the vulnerability that flows between the shores of certainty…” It turned out to be one of the biggest epiphanies of my life. Suddenly, it dawned on me that vulnerability has been my true anchor, my whole life. It has defined my wholeheartedness. It is the single, most important reason why I take risks: in my career, in assignments, on people, and in relationships. And it’s at the heart of my personal brand which is healthy striving for continuous improvement. Kaizen isn’t just business philosophy. It’s a way of life that can be practiced. Every. Single. Day.

Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams. 


*This article was originally published by Anitha Aswath on LinkedIn*

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