This is part 2 in a series on why we are so afraid to be ourselves. And how that fear keeps us broke and invisible. Read part one here.
I can’t be liked by everyone, so when somebody doesn’t appreciate my cut-throat nature, I know someone else sees the value in it.
Those are the people I work with, the ones I don’t mind staying up for (who love me, regardless of my quirks and work habits).
But beyond that, I’ve learned serving other people is entirely pointless if I don’t take care of me first. It’s the same rule with any relationship: a love interest, a child, a friend.
If I’m shitty to myself, if I hate myself, I certainly can’t give anyone else what they deserve.
And it took me loads of mediocre relationships – romantic and not – and countless rocky attempts at entrepreneurship to figure out that accepting myself was key.
Let’s focus on the facts:
The world encourages us to be anything but ourselves, and it takes a stupid amount (that’s a lot) of courage to do the opposite and stand in your own gloriously-unique self.
As an entrepreneur, you won’t get far without embracing all of yourself – just as you are. That includes showing vulnerability so people will connect and resonate with your message and authenticity. (Did I mention I hate that word?)
The more you show who you are, the more you’re yourself, the more people find you and understand your value.
So why are we the most overweight, overworked and stressed country in the world?
Well, because being ourselves opens us up to real criticisms, real struggles and real vulnerability.
And we’re scared as fuck to hear that.
Trust me, I know.
I’ve been a mom for 18+ years now and I’m on my third marriage. On the surface, most people would run away from a woman with this history. My life and my constant desire to reinvent myself until I found the perfect outlet for my passion and creativity? People don’t understand that. In fact, they judge it (me).
The thing is, when I started adulthood, I had this vision of what I wanted to do: I wanted to write.
I wanted to be a journalist who covered worldly, society-shaping events, and I wanted to do this on my own terms. My goal was to help people by filtering the important stories down into shareable content that would keep them apprised of the happenings and decisions impacting their lives.
Crippling anxiety and self-doubt. I feared going after the job I wanted would expose all my flaws. This kept me from moving forward, but it also subconsciously reinforced the message that I was unworthy and wouldn’t amount to anything. Which kept me playing small for a long, long, loooooooong time.
This issue is common to most of us. We build our worth around how other people perceive us, so much so that we don’t pursue what we want because we’re afraid to hear their opinions.
Their opinions, after all, must be right.
I have a traditionalist mom who wanted her kids to play it safe and live a normal, benign life that brought adequate happiness. And she knew how to effectively deliver that message. My mother felt our happiness should depend on societal norms. Want what everyone else wants.
She was dismissive of every non-compliant decision I made (read: when I gave no fucks about anything or anyone). But the truth is it didn’t take me long to start feeling guilty when I stood up for myself. So I sometimes did what she wanted to avoid the hard, confusing and complicated feelings of doing what was best for myself.
Couple all that with a string of emotionally unavailable or abusive men who were more concerned about keeping me contained than letting me be the person I always dreamed I could be, and you’re looking at a forty-something Becky who carried massive amounts of guilt and shame while juggling the responsibility of raising with two young sons.
I consistently chose men who saw my intelligence and drive as threats to themselves AND the power dynamics they believed worked best in relationships. So they did everything they could to make sure I didn’t find my own strength and drive (and leave their asses).
I’ve been told – countless times – I am selfish for wanting to work on my own terms. I was told I wasn’t going to be able to make it. Shit, they even laughed in my face.
This, even before the word entrepreneurship entered my psyche.
All of this held me back for so long I found myself miserable and internally fuming, and I wasn’t even making enough money to pay my bills.
When you’re that wretched, it’s easy to believe a wrecked life is what you deserve.
My issue remained one many of us deal with now: Harboring a resentment of the vision I had because these other voices (whether internal or external) kept telling me I was selfish or absurd for wanting more, for not being thankful for what I had, for secretly entertaining dreams that made most people uncomfortable because I was talking about – gasp – what I wanted.
To combat the red-hot yearning and desire, I watered myself down. I told myself what we all do when we don’t know why we can’t live the lives we want.
I wasn’t good enough to be a writer.
I wasn’t smart enough to consistently share quality, important content.
I didn’t deserve to live out my dreams while so many others struggled.
In fact, dreaming was selfish and unattractive. Nobody would love me if I demanded more. That’s why my relationships kept failing (not because I picked people who were incompatible with me).
Good girls get whatever lands on their plate and show gratitude for it, even if it’s slop.
After realizing this was total bullshit, I convinced myself a lot of hard work could mean I could change anything about myself I didn’t like.
Fear and doubt are normal deterrents, yet we are willing to overcome them when the stakes aren’t too high. Why then can’t we go after the bigger things with the same resolve?
I wasn’t so sure.
That’s when I decided I wanted to go for it.
When I got my first job as a reporter at a daily newspaper, I soaked in a lot of lessons about the value of well-chosen words, especially after covering two Presidential Primary races. But I still didn’t value my own ability enough. I feared my boss would judge me, my bylines. I thought he’d ride my ass so hard the job wouldn’t be live up to the dream I’d been holding.
This fear turned into one so physically and mentally taxing, I couldn’t get my work done. I was behind on deadlines with next to nothing written. I literally psyched myself out.
Sure as shit, my issue became so internal, I couldn’t get the words out of my head to see if my original fear of being harshly criticized by my boss were true.
Was this what I wanted?
No. I wanted to prove everyone in my life wrong, including myself. I wanted to feel powerful and needed and sought after.
Yet I couldn’t get far enough out of my own way to be any of those things. So I quit and became a stay at home mom. You can guess how that ended up feeling. While I loved taking care of my boys, being a mother didn’t fulfill me at all. Yes, there is reward in being a parent and raising kids. But the facets of my personality that weren’t tapped by parenting became neglected, and I found myself filling hundreds of blank pages while my boys were napping.
A writing job stifled my creativity just years before. Yet the dream remained alive well past my first semi-failed attempt at being a professional writer, and imagination burst from my head when I dulled myself for a less-than-luxurious position as a mom.
Even though my writing breaks helped me realize words kept my soul alive, I refused to put myself out there again. I blogged anonymously for four years because I didn’t want people to judge me a bad parent or shitty writer (or both). I’d already given up the chance to do writing once, so I knew my mother and husband would wonder why I was trying it again.
Instead of confronting them, I hid away and played out both roles in a half-assed way, feeling guilty about neglected both my kids and my art.
Guys, that shit is crazy-making.
In 2012, I finally came out as myself and wrote a book, my first. It did well, my talent was seen. And I began rebranding myself so my audience would start learning who I was without hiding half of myself away.
Through that decision I met incredible people online who taught me my transparency and vulnerability inspired them. Though most of these other bloggers and writers wouldn’t cuss as freely as I did, they didn’t seem to mind because my talent was exposing the rawest parts of my life. Cussing was cathartic for me and I refused to apologize.
And they never asked for an apology. In fact, they asked me how to be so exposed in their own writing. They wanted what I’d created viscerally, but on their own terms with their own stories.
Suddenly being myself was enough.
I learned people would accept me for who I was if I myself. Before, the woman with insecurities and fear (old me) allowed people to walk all over her and stay stuck. In that moment? The applause boomed because I told fear to fuck off.
At the age of forty, I finally started living with the intention of making every day worthy of knocking something off my bucket list.
What I learned in my thirties shaped me to become a writing coach who took on countless Amazon best-selling projects, including my own. Some of my clients built themselves speaking platforms leading to advocacy work while others are on their 5th or 6th book, making enough money to consider leaving their real-world jobs behind.
Yet I still struggled with my own worth on different levels, the core issue realized but not eradicated entirely. Because when you’re doing the work of finding out who you are and what makes you tick, you realize the layers aren’t superficial and finding yourself requires constant effort.
My next problem, though smaller in comparison, was undercharging for services because I wasn’t sure of my own worth. Could people afford what felt like a sensible price? Would they pay that price if another coach was charging significantly less? How could I convince them they’d get more value and better service with me?
Attempting to answer these questions and stifling my earnings landed me several instances of a full inbox and calendar, yet an unoccupied, hungry bank account. May days, I’d scrounge through the house looking for loose change to buy us groceries, even though my name was well-known in the writing industry.
Seeing my hungry kids made me realize I needed to start working smarter, not harder. I gave everything I could to anyone who believed in my ability, yet I needed to make sure I could put food on the table while making my clients happy.
Several price increases over the next few months made it possible for me to take fewer clients while providing the same level of care. This meant I was working with less people for more money, saving myself from impoverished exhaustion once and for all.
And that’s when I realized that all the things I put into place in my own business, overcoming the fear, working through the beliefs that were limiting me, and putting systems in place that made sense (so I didn’t burn out) were valuable to all the people attempting to build their own businesses.
Rebecca T. Dickson went from a writing coach to a bullshit slaying business coach quickly, though it wasn’t overnight like some people believe. And I still had to deal with growing pains. I still had to face harsh realities about the way I was living and the people I allowed in my life, and I still had to make some decisions – both personally and professionally – that resulted in failure.
Some months I make a ton of money. Other months, I do more internal work on myself than with clients.
Through each moment, I’ve grown thicker skin and learned to appreciate the parts of me I once viewed as detrimental. I explored my personality, wrote and cussed more, shared my opinions freely and observed people’s reactions to that. I grappled with what it means to fail, what it means to lose, and what it means to win.
Does making a shit ton of money quickly actually make you successful?
Or is success about staying true to who you are and building success around that, without having to fake who you are or what you stand for?
Is success about being comfortable and showing up as yourself?
Because being someone else sure as fuck felt like failing.
I know I’ll always be working on my business because I’m always working on me. Just as trends evolve, so do people, personalities, and the way they should maintain their businesses.
This is a fact, one of four I share with all my coaching clients. Here are the other three:
- Embrace evolution and never stop growing.
- YOU are different from everyone else.
- YOU have skills to share that nobody else can share exactly as you do.
By accepting these facts, you can fulfill your desire to earn a living doing what you love, without feeling like a sleaze-ball schmoozer.
While it might be true that authenticity is a shitty word, it’s also a critically important component to making your personal and professional lives healthy and beneficial.
Are you curious about what entrepreneurship can look like for you? Wondering if building your own business means you’ll benefit from being yourself?
The answer is yes, obviously.