Do you feel like you are enough?

It’s a big question, right?

It took me a long time to recognise that I didn’t and what choices that had caused me to make, but even longer to start to realise just how much of my ‘personality’ and behaviours are driven by that deep seated falsehood.

I thought I would share some of what I have been learning about me in the hopes that it might either evoke you into sharing some of what you have learnt with me about yourselves, or simply inspire you to delve a little deeper into your own voyage of discovery.

When I was very young, I was confident, fiercely independent and pretty intense, but also thoughtful and reflective. I knew I what I wanted and I had no issue asking for it. As soon as my parents start to feed me solid food with a spoon I insisted on holding it and doing it myself. That is who Ruth Penfold is.

In the years that followed, fairly quickly I began to observe what my being-ness did to others. I gradually learnt to unconsciously adapt my behaviour to create the reaction that I was looking for in others. This is how I created my persona; namely a set of behaviours that helped to make me feel safer in the world and a little more like I was enough.

Those were things like;

  • Finding a way to create warmth in interactions with new people quickly, ideally making them laugh by being silly and playful.
  • Holding back my voice and thoughts in interactions to make sure I speak in a way that doesn’t make people think less of me.
  • Not asking questions to create total understanding of what others are saying, so that they didn’t have a negative view of my level of intelligence.

By constantly calculating how I showed up in the world, what I was doing is not truly being present. I was (and sometimes still am) constantly searching for a way to create an opinion of me in others, rather than allowing them to feel me at my fullness.

I thought these behaviours were who I was.

I thought the warmth I was creating in interactions with new people was just me being that confident, unapologetic child I once was.

It wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, being able to inject energy into interactions with others in the right way is beautiful. It is something I still celebrate about me, but now I am careful to connect into myself before I do so and that means I can better assess who I am serving in those interactions. Am I serving my truth or am I simply serving what I hope will be others’ opinions of me?

How did I realise this?

I first really became aware of this when I found that I would often not be successful in interviews for leadership roles. I would get feedback that people loved the interaction with me and ‘thought I was great’ but they didn’t have confidence in my ability to deliver things in a structured way.

Whilst my brain is definitely creative, I actually work in a fairly structured way. I am meticulous around deadlines and continuous improvement. In interviews, however, people weren’t able to feel that side of me at all.

When I became aware of it, I learnt how to take a breath and connect to myself before an interview. That enabled me to become a little more aware of when I was in ‘performance mode’ so that I could make sure that (what I thought at the time was) both sides of myself could show up.

Where am I now?

Whilst I have worked really hard on learning to connect to myself and speak with (and trust) my authentic voice, people sometimes still feel that disconnect. This year I have really become aware of that. When my ‘safety persona’ is in play, it means that people think that is who I am. When I show up differently, it can create a lack of trust.

If that’s something you have ever experienced about me, then I ask you for your forgiveness. I am always working on deepening my connection with myself in order to create a safe environment within, so that I can show up in every interaction as my most authentic self.

Since April, this has been something that I have really been focussing on and I have done a few things to support me with this:

  1. Connecting with those I work with most closely to create the right environment for giving and receiving feedback. It is important to me that I make sure that they feel able to call out to me where they see something that doesn’t feel authentic to them.
  2. I did a block of sessions with James Hansen. Through my work with him, I also made a new commitment to my closest people to speak up when I feel negatively impacted with them. Giving feedback is a skill that I have learnt and continue to learn professionally, but I can still find myself holding back when it is something that creates an emotional reaction in me. Truly honouring and speaking my truth in those situations is something I am working on.
  3. I became part of a Tribe. A Tribe is a group that comes together once a month to coach one another on whatever they are experiencing. We are only three sessions in but it is an incredibly enriching experience. Learn more about Tribes and how it works here. Through this group, my ask to them was to support me by calling out when they feel like I am not bringing my authentic self to the group. It was wonderful but a little overwhelming to show up to that group in my honest, raw and vulnerable form – no performance, just Ruth and all the shades of emotion that brings.

Perhaps the biggest thing I have learnt over the past three months is to love and accept myself fully in spite of these modes I have created to survive. I love and cherish myself even when I catch myself slipping into performance mode.

At my core I truly believe I am enough, and I will continue working on developing that understanding so that I can one day show up fully to all situations at my authentic best. If any of this post resonates with you, I’d love to hear more from you about what you are doing to work on truly claiming the human being you were always meant to be.

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