Oprah: What is a lesson that took you the longest to learn that you kept repeating and it kept showing up wearing a different something, but was the same lesson?
Julia Roberts: I think we as people, or as women, or me just myself who I am in this world that I make myself less for someone else to feel more of whatever that “thing” was.
When I heard Julia Roberts share with Oprah on her podcast Super Soul Conversations this past October the lesson that took her the longest to learn, it struck a chord. Actually, having seen the above Instagram post on Oprah’s feed prior to the interview which prompted me to download the episode (airing on October 23 & 24 – it’s a two-part conversation), I finally felt I had found a word for what I had been doing for quite some time in my life but couldn’t understand what it was and why it was causing me so much frustration.
Shrinking, unconsciously becoming less of who we are so that others feel more comfortable, either to avoid confrontation that is unwarranted, but still we choose to prevent it from occurring by not being our full and awesome selves, or by not partaking in a life path because we don’t want to upset others or deal with the push back, can become a habit and mistakenly become accepted as who we actually are.
The habit of shrinking is something I became accustomed to for a long time – with my family, with my friends, in relationships – but thankfully, I find myself in the past 5-8 years refusing to do so, and the blessings of this conscious choice have been beautiful – primarily, a sense of peace and tranquility within myself which is especially felt when I am in own and only company. And more importantly, I have begun to find people who accept me for who I truly am, and have been more keen to gravitate to others who as well are being themselves and do not ask or expect or want me to shrink.
A common reaction to onlookers or individuals who have interacted with those of us who have become conditioned to self-select to become less is that we are ‘too much of ourselves’. In other words, arrogant. They skip over the observation of one simply being confident and jump to, she/he is too confident. Too full of themselves. But what they are really communicating is “I am not comfortable with you not being who I want you to be or what I am used to you being”. And often, it is women who when they choose to let go of being less, receive the comment from others of being ‘too confident’. I rarely hear this about men who are confident, and even those men who are well into the arrogant tier of confidence. Nope, primarily women. And this is what is known as social conditioning.
Even more unfortunate, it is often women, but men too, if they haven’t been conditioned or around women or any individual who is not adhering to what they believe to be ‘their societal role’ , they will push back. The irony is, if they are women pushing back against women, they are pushing themselves down as well.
What does ‘refusing to make yourself less’ look like? Certainly, women can step into the realm of arrogance and go beyond simply being confident just as men can, but too often we fear this misstep and thus never even dabble or try to exude our confidence of being exactly who we are. And being exactly who we are is what the world needs.
How to Be Your Full Self, Not Less, Not More
1.Understand what true self-confidence is
To possess and exude confidence is to establish a “firm trust” with someone else as defined in the dictionary. In episode 5 of the podcast, we detail how to gain confidence and why it is invaluable, an episode inspired by the book The Confidence Code .
And it is imperative, that in order to not convey arrogance, but rather confidence, you refuse to fake it. In other words, let go of the life advice maxim that seems to be quite ubiquitous – “fake it until you make it”. If you fake it, you overstep, you don’t have the credibility and people will not trust you. The goal is to gain authentically other people’s trust, which means, you need to be you and do what you love and what comes naturally, where you find your flow and where you acknowledge others’ strengths and successes, where you recognize new ideas and thus adjust your ideas. Being adamant is not being confident, especially so, if your stance on any issue needs to be adjusted as new knowledge is put forth.
In other words, excluding true confidence comes from showing, not telling. Simply put, our actions, how we carry ourselves, how we handle difficult situations, how we prepare for our projects/conferences/speeches/etc., how we respond to questions when asked, when we engage in conversations – what it is that we share and how we speak – our tone, listening skills, responses, etc., how we go about our lives when nobody is necessarily watching, etc.
Confidence is gained from continual growth, a bit of vulnerability to put yourself out there and show your strengths, but also a recognition that it is in your actions,, that build upon themselves to build trust with others and to demonstrate to yourself that yes, what you have to offer is valuable, but first you must acknowledge this truth to yourself.
2. Let go of the need of wanting everyone to like or approve of what you do/say
Become more comfortable walking away and not taking it personally when someone doesn’t “approve” of your behavior, ideas, lifestyle, etc. First, this is where having confidence will help strengthen your resolve to not be so shaken when someone speaks ill of you or your work. Second, this doesn’t mean constructive feedback shouldn’t be considered. After all, in order to grow, so long as the source who is relaying the feedback is trusted, credible and wishes only to help, not tear down what you have put out into the world, consider their feedback.
On the other hand, whether it is with relationships, career pursuits, lifestyle choices, or political ideologies, while we may intrinsically want others to like us, agree with us, go along with our ideas, accept us, date us, marry us, hire us, vote for us, etc., we want them to like our full self, not a version of what we think they would accept. Because in time, we will no longer be able to stay confined inside the box we have initially put ourselves in and the other has accepted that we stay. Our breaking out will come in all different forms – getting angry, ending a relationship, etc. – but rest assured, it will come eventually.
3. Find the courage to be vulnerable
The most frightening part of being our fullest selves is knowing that there is a possibility we will be dismissed, rejected, ignored, laughed at, simply not accepted for who we are. But the comfort, the safety net so to speak, is the self-confidence we have built up and take with us everywhere we go.
If you understand your self-worth, which has been with you since the day you were born and will be with you your entire life, you know that you have immense value that the world is fortunate to have. In 2011, I wrote a post sharing 10 Ways to Strengthen Self-Worth and one vital point shared was that “we all have self-worth; it’s a matter of finding it within ourselves. Once we accept and acknowledge, and know, that we are worthy, the amazing journey of finding our purpose, of discovering our passions and living our most fulfilling life can really begin.”
Once you acknowledge how awesome you are all on your own, those rejections, those negative responses that none of us are seeking, will more easily become a part of the past and roll off your back. But first you must establish your self-confidence.
“It’s no surprise that confidence is the foundation that makes it okay to be vulnerable. It’s the layer of self-trust that allows you to take a few bricks out of that wall and know you’ll be okay, to really show up and to show others who you are. Real, natural confidence is trust rather than second-guessing. It’s congruity rather than compartmentalization. It’s ease rather than resistance.” —Steve Errey, a confidence coach
If you are someone as well who has felt they have had to shrink themselves in order to live life, then you know how uncomfortable and confining it can be to live such a life. Such experience is not wasted because now that we know how to become our full selves we can make sure we don’t expect others to shrink or become less around us. With empathy we can make sure this harm to others doesn’t continue – to women or men. But we must stand strong in our full selves and become comfortable with walking way, communicatively clearly, but with clarity and calm certainty and recognizing that these are both skills – the shrinking to be less and the expanding to be our full selves – and so while it took time to learn how to shrink, it will take time to learn how to be fully who we truly are out in the world.
For me, there are three aspects that are the most difficult part of being fully who I am: not holding on to the past of how I have been treated by the same people I am trying to be fully myself with and bringing unhelpful rash and reactionary emotions with me (while I have walked away from those I could, sometimes we don’t have a choice as we either work for or with them or are related to them and see them at holiday occasions whether by our own invitation or not); letting go of the guilt that had been instilled by society for being stronger than it wanted me to be – whether that guilt was exhibited by having a voice, an idea or letting someone go; and lastly, believing in what I wanted to bring to the world more and considering the certain critics that will inevitably arise less.
As you can see, it takes time, and awareness of what is most difficult for each of us, but we each can attain the place of being fully who we are each day and moment of our lives no matter who we are with. And in knowing this, we can support and nurture others who are daring to take this brave step to be themselves and encourage them, not laugh or limit or dismiss, so that we all rise to our best selves. However, it starts with supporting yourself and giving yourself permission to be exactly who you are. Just be you. And in your being, you will dazzle, amaze and find the people who delight in exactly who you are. Trust your journey.
—Agatha and the Truth of Murder, on Netflix
starring Irish actress Ruth Bradley as Agatha Christie at the age of 36 as her marriage to Archibald Christie was coming to an end.
Set in December 1926, during the 11 day period in which the novelist went missing. The movie is a fictionalized version of what might have happened.