“You’re just not that big a deal.” These are the words (poor grammar and all) printed on a big sign that hangs just inside our front door here at the Slingshot25 office. Why would we display a giant insult to greet all our guests? Because we believe in sharing wisdom with all our guests. That’s what we’re in the business to do, after all, and this statement is some of the best wisdom we’ve got.
I’m sensing this one requires some explaining.
We’ve been coaching leaders in the corporate world for years. Frankly, it doesn’t take a genius to discover a common thread that runs through the challenges and emotional tangles that show up in those conversations. So many of these incredibly talented, hard-working, caring people have been picking up bits and pieces of a role they feel they must play as their star rises a little higher with each promotion. I’m sure you’re familiar with this role even if you’re not a rising corporate leader. You’ve likely picked up some of those bits and pieces, too. It goes something like this:
- I have the answers.
- Others need my opinion.
- I have to be there.
- I’m more important than other people here.
- My advice is coveted.
- I’m kind of a big deal.
And now begins the fundamental problem, the disconnect between this role and the person you really are…the person you fear is inferior to the role you’re playing. You worry that if you stop playing this role, your success will disappear. So you just keep playing the role. This disconnect over time leads to a feeling of, “I’m not enough.” That feeling comes gradually and sneaks into your life in all kinds of ways, from judging others harshly to cheating on a spouse. Those behaviors all serve to fill the gap between the role you’re playing and you.
At some point you might decide you’re going to let down the walls of pretending and polishing your image and let people see the real you. Many of my clients come to coaching with this idea in mind. Maybe they’ve finally run into trouble with the role they’re playing, taking it too far and damaging relationships with their “big-dealness,” or maybe they’ve grown so weary of playing the role that their job performance has started to slip. Either way, they’re ready for a new approach. They’re ready to be their true self.
Do you know what happens next? It’s truly amazing. They stop pretending to be a big deal and they start pretending to be themselves. Wait. What? Read that again. That’s right, they often have another version of themselves waiting in the wings. This is the version that plays the role of showing up like an authentic person. Which, of course, is not authentic at all.
One of the newest corporate buzzwords over the past few years is “authentic.” There are entire books dedicated to being authentic. Don’t you find that odd? By definition of the word, you shouldn’t have to do anything to be authentic.
What can you do to get out of this cycle? It starts with noticing. If you notice when you try to be yourself that you actually start to play some modified version of the role above, it’s time to stop. Coaching can help. You can also just decide to stop. If you need a quick nudge, stop by the Slingshot25 office. We have a giant reminder just inside the front door.