Is there really a right and wrong way?
I have seen many of those articles in recent years with headlines like “The Top 10 College Degrees to Avoid” or “What Guys/Girls REALLY Find Attractive” or “Top 10 Most Miserable Vacation Destinations”, etc. Aside from the instant bout of nausea that I experience after reading these types of click bait-y titles, I’m also frequently compelled to scrunch up my face and ask “according to who, exactly?”
The fact that these lame articles exist in the first place suggests that people are eating them up. We’re all so curious (obsessed?) about what other people think that many times we don’t even know what we, ourselves, think on a particular topic, so we just follow what somebody else has to say. We’re busy trying to live our lives in the “right” way as defined by somebody else’s criteria. Young people think they have to earn a particular degree to work in a particular field (which is not true for most of us). Once people are in a job, now the objective is to figure out the “right” way of doing the job; the concept of making unique contributions is replaced by the counterproductive activity of trying to stand out by blending in.
In our personal lives, we may think we need to have the newest gadgets, the fanciest cars, the biggest houses, etc. There’s nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, but we’ve got a real problem when we pursue these things by default because we’re trying to compete with other people, or we’re afraid of what social ramifications may occur if we don’t pursue those things. We’re stuck in the land of pretension, and for what? To impress people we don’t even like, and more that we don’t even know? It’s a sad state and we can do better.
This discussion speaks of authenticity, a concept that has received a lot of attention in recent years. Something in leadership literature that I find particularly exciting is that in the Theory of Authentic Leadership, self-awareness is the most critical quality of an authentic leader. Authenticity is the gold at the end of the rainbow of self-awareness. This is another arena where professional development and personal development are really quite similar. And again, I feel so inclined to highlight my belief that in order to become stronger professionals, we should first invest in becoming the best people we can be.
Personal Development as Self-Discovery and Expression
One of the great parts of pursuing a personal development effort is that it forces you to learn more about yourself, or maybe even, to confront the parts of yourself that you really don’t like. That is a scary idea, but thinking objectively, isn’t it a really interesting thing? What exactly is it that you don’t like, and why? Fascinating stuff!
As you learn more about yourself, i.e. becoming more self-aware, an interesting thing may happen as it did for me: you’ll learn to love yourself. I cannot, as I’m typing this out, formulate an idea of why this happens, but I don’t think mine was a unique experience. The process of self-discovery leads to self-love, self-respect, and a desire to express your identity. It’s not so much that you want other people to see your unique self, like in a boastful manner, but rather, you simply want to be expressive of your true identity. Feeling good about yourself leads to self-expression and self-expression leads to feeling good about yourself – a beautiful cycle!
What makes you feel badass?
Most people don’t really live their full self-expressive life, though. Most people play it safe. We do and say the things that we think other people expect of us. We play by the rules. If you’re reading this now, I’ll go ahead and assume you need to hear it: you don’t have to play by the rules. You don’t have to stay where you are, tolerate the status quo, or put up with excuses (especially your own excuses!)
And it may surprise you to hear it, but by exploring your uniqueness, you will actually become more powerful in all of the ways that you are currently strategically playing it safe. Your career. Your relationships. Whatever it is, your uniqueness is your power; you just need to believe that and stop letting people tell you otherwise.
The personal development journey is of course about fueling your desire for growth, but it is also about taking back your uniqueness. You may remember from an earlier post that Dr. Arnold Beisser taught us that the change efforts that actually work for people are those that return us to our true identity; this is what he was talking about.
So let me ask you, what makes you feel like a badass?