Far too many of us walk around regurgitating what others have said, doing what others have done, that we forget about our own "you-nique-ness", as I've called it before. We want "blueprints" and insider help from a so-called "guru". We want the answers when we don't even always know the questions yet.
Yet, we see and understand truths we don't always articulate. We hear the voices in the heads of those around us not yet courageous enough to say what they're thinking. Sometimes we're one of them, and sometimes we speak up, step out, and shine a little - even if only for a moment.
But standing out (even briefly) can be scary or painful.
One woman I know said it was like a big target was on her back. To her, being visible meant people were poised to attack her the minute she began to shine.
I hope I'm not the only one here who relates to that idea.
One of my biggest fears is being abandoned
by those closest to me. This fear - like many fears - is not completely unfounded, but rather borne from a seed of truth that grew up like a weed in my heart.
As a child, I watched helplessly as my oldest brother was excommunicated from my family. Then, my parents separated, divorced, reunited and split up again during my adolescence. As I got older, I began to believe that any guy I grew fond of would "leave me."
My fears would be confirmed when my youngest brother (older than me) was also estranged from the family and tragically died when he was 38. Then, Dad died at the ripe old age of 80 - as I was just becoming a mother myself. Many of you know the story of how Mom died the night we buried my Grandfather (yesterday marked the 5 year anniversary of her death).
Woven in between those "milestones" I loved and lost more times than I care to count. For more than two years, my oldest son was at a wilderness camp for boys with emotional issues. He's been home for a year now, and it's been a difficult, rocky transition, in part because he, too has abandonment issues that we're trying to work through. He was the one that found my mother dead, after all.
Is it any wonder I'm afraid anyone I get attached to will disappear?
But I've also managed to build some pretty remarkable relationships along the way with some pretty amazing people. Relationships that fear tries to cover over, ignore, or otherwise discount, so that my lizard brain stays focused on the need for safety.
This is how fear - your Shadow Self and his evil henchman Safety - infiltrates your spirit.
It decomposes the living, organic heart that beats within you, triggering all kinds of scarcity issues in your life - and your business.
It's how you end up "modeling" the work of successful people around you, instead of becoming the best you that God intended for you to be. We see other people "doing it" successfully, and think that all we have to do is do what they're doing, and we'll be equally successful.
There's A Masterpiece Inside You
Inside you is this gorgeous, magnificent Masterpiece waiting to be displayed. And you harbor it, shield it, and protect it from gawkers, onlookers and would-be haters of your brilliance.
Over time, it gets a little dusty. Then, as the dust settles on the canvas, embedding itself into the top most layers of the colorful oils, it becomes grimy, and then the cobwebs begin to span the edges of the frame.
You tried to dust it off and bring it into the light of day once, but people didn't get it. They didn't understand your brilliance. They suggested you make a few "enhancements" or modifications. You tried to oblige, but your heart wasn't in it. Someone threw a tomato or two, so you decided it's better to place that canvas back in the dark recesses of your heart.
Or worse, life happened, and your brilliance wasn't suited to what was going on. That's not your area of expertise, so you spent countless hours doing everything you could to manage your existence, instead of honing your brilliance.
Hidden in the attic of your soul, back behind the chimney and the old steamer trunk of good ideas, decades of neglect have done more to age your Masterpiece than any onlooker ever could. New ideas enter your heart and you fill up the room where your great Masterpiece resides. Thinking that quantity will somehow override quality. Hoping you'll forget what's hiding in there, because it's just too painful to expose it to more abuse.
Congratulations. You have buried your voice deep within you. That's what fear can do.
Where is your voice?
When we moved, it took me more than a year to whittle down the boxes in my living room. It was filled - floor to ceiling, wall to wall - with boxes from our relocation. I committed to taking one box at a time and giving everything in that room a thorough examination. I explored every box for treasures worth keeping, items that no longer serve my family, and that ever repressive "maybe" pile that never seems to quite go away. Those "maybe items" ended up back in a box to be reconsidered at a later time. But I have a lot fewer boxes now to consider.
I am determined to continually work on reducing the "maybe" pile. They are the objects, trinkets, and also-ran ideas that keep me from accessing my Masterpiece in the back of the room. In my living room, that Masterpiece is my mother's oak buffet that was hand crafted from wood scraps when I was a toddler. In my business, that Masterpiece is a faith-centric media company that I've hidden in the back corner of my mind for decades.
I've had so many people tell me to steer clear of anything faith-based, without giving me substantial justification. I just took their advice at face value. The first objection came when I was still in college working on my first album.
"You don't want to go into Christian music. That's too small a market."
Today, that market is roughly a billion dollar industry. I think I could've coped with that. Instead, I buckled to "safety" and recorded an "ecclectic, jazzy" first album, and followed it up with a nice, safe album that leans more in a Christian direction, but isn't a very strong musical offering.
Although I sold out the last run of my first album, neither album sells/sold very briskly. Still, I'm proud of the effort I put into them, and the lives they continue to touch.
Don't settle for "good enough" when you can be amazing.
The next objection was when I wanted to shift my business focus from brass-tacks, how-to stuff into a more intuitive, faith-based approach, because I believe that my biggest successes have come when I've allowed faith (not religion, but pure belief and faith) to be at the core of everything I do - my life and my business. My desire was to open a dialogue and begin speaking openly about the transformational effect faith has on business, in a non-denominational, ecumenical way.
"You don't want to start talking about faith. You'll close too many doors and cut off your audience."
Um, isn't that the point of target marketing? Because it was one of my coaches that said this - whom I admired, trusted, and was paying good money to learn from - I nixed the idea, and instead tip-toed around discussions of faith for several years.
Again, I chose safety, over the bigger, "scarier" more gratifying direction in my business. I squelched my own voice.
Recently, I released The Secret Watch - a business parable that the lady on the airplane suggested I write. I'd never done it before, but I studied up on how the genre works. The story was so inspired, it felt like it was exactly what I was supposed to be writing.
But a conversation with an "expert" in the publishing field left me grasping for safety:
"If I were writing my first book, I don't think I would do a parable. If they're done well, they're great, but if the story doesn't hook the reader's interest... you could just do a how-to book and people can still glean the nuggets."
This time, I didn't settle. The results speak for themselves. I've surpassed my own sales expectations for the book, and people continue to reach out to me about it.
I'm getting back to that Masterpiece, and this time, I've brought the cleaners in. I'm ready to gussy up this work of art and put it on display in a big way.
I'm rediscovering my true voice, and inviting you to do the same.
Where in your life have you stopped speaking up because of past hurts? Where in your business have you chosen to let others speak for you? What are you doing to change that?
"Be a voice, not an echo."
-Laurie Beth Jones