When I was ten, my teacher wrote something on my school report which has stayed with me ever since. “Sarah looks after number one before all else”. There was plenty of nice stuff too, but that part stuck. I was selfish and bossy. I knew what I wanted, and bossed everyone else around to make very sure I got it. That stung. I felt ashamed not only of being that way, but that it was so bad it was called out.
It is funny how some words can resonate with an impact far beyond what they were ever intended to do. I don’t doubt my teacher had my best interests at heart, wanting to help me to learn to share more, to listen to others, to consider other points of view. But that’s not what I heard. Ever since that day the shame has driven me to go out of my way not to boss people around. To put the needs of others before my own – often instead of my own. To not say what I really think in case people don’t like me. That phrase fed my inner critic, providing a crucial piece of evidence when I feared I might be “too much” for people. Well, it had been said before, by someone I respected and looked up to. It must be true, right?
At age ten that part of me was pretty clumsy. She was definitely bossy. She went too far sometimes, and wasn’t aware of her impact on people around her. But she was only ten, and still very much learning and feeling her way into the world. I’ve not let that part of myself out for a long time. But when I locked her up, I locked up more than that. I locked up a part of my voice, a part of my leadership, a part of my power. A really important part of who I am.
And today, I’ve realised I’ve got as far as I can go without letting that part of me out. That part of me is essential to becoming the really bold and impactful coach, and the engaging speaker. The good news is that part of me isn’t ten anymore, and she has a load of knowledge and experience and self-awareness now. So, I’m choosing to invite her out to play. And, I’m discovering she is sassy, bold, funny, curious, playful – in short, a lot of fun to be with. She doesn’t really care if people like her or not; she cares about making a difference, having an impact.
We all tend to have a part of ourselves that we don’t like, that we are ashamed of – a part we hide away. We can usually do fine without it, but it also limits us. What part of you are you hiding? What is that getting in the way of for you, your team, or your leadership?
I’ve realised I need and want that part of me, so watch out world – she’s coming out to play 🙂