We all just want to be free to be ourselves, don't we? Isn't that what we're really after?
But most of the time we don't feel like we'll be accepted as just that.
So instead, we learn to act a bit differently for acceptance. Maybe it's an age thing, and my compatriots are still working through it, or perhaps it lasts a while because you get used to it, like an automatic action that's hard to break.
We even develop multiple new ways of acting, depending on who we're around. Playing the part for a group instead of playing ourselves becomes habitual, even though playing the part is exhausting.
And you play along to pay the bills because they want you to drink their kool-aid, not your own. And of course, you have to collaborate and mesh with your team, but the best teams allow everyone to share and accept their various truths on the matter, and empower you beyond (instead of trapping you in).
So on some level, some parts of us get stuffed down, hidden from view. And what we're pretending to be, gets reinforced by others. Because if you mess up your lines, what does that say about their role?
But deep down we've all got that urge.
And so when someone stands up, despite their own fear, we tend to rally around them. This is how a tribe gets started—someone speaks the truth of others. They create a safe home for those that feel like they're an outcast (we all feel like an outcast). And they give you permission to be you.
That's the power of a leader. To create a magnet for those to awaken something inside of themselves that was lost or covered up, and allow it to flourish. That's the power of an individual, which is why the impact can ripple across a culture...like MLK.
But the impact comes at a price.
So, often, there's a tradeoff. Money or impact. Acceptance or truth. Devotion or stability. And the bigger you go, the bigger the system pushes back.
MLK gets killed. Nelson Mandela goes to prison...
We've got some internal math to do about how much we're willing to trade. Because no matter how big or small the act is, speaking our own truth is difficult. It could be as simple as sending an email or telling your friends to come see you in a play. It takes building a tolerance to live with the pushback or act despite the fear.
And some of the biggest truths we learn, the biggest impacts that happen to us, we learn solo. And even if we tried to describe it, we fear we'll be seen as crazy, or it won't come out right when we tell others.
Or sometimes, we fear if we let the truth slip, it will disappear from our grasp, and so our truth remains a secret.
How do some do it? I think they just can't help it. Playing along is just too much effort, there's no will for doing it any other way. Not that it makes things easier, often they may wish they felt otherwise.
But we all feel it.
Here's an email I got today from an artist we work with...
"Some days I wonder if doing something so different is worth it?"
Ironically, it's being ourselves that makes us feel unsure.
But if we can do so successfully, we give others the assurance that we've been seeking. And if we build our confidence, our message will spread far without any other effort.
That's power. That's being you.