Being Myself Part 1: Relational

A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.
–Jacqueline Bisset

Recently I was given advice from someone I’ve come to trust. The advice was “Leah, you need to be YOU. Be yourself.”  I was both grateful for the advice and bummed that once again I was at a place in my life where I had to be given that advice. 

So I started thinking…what are the elements of being myself? Being Leah? And if I opened up about those things honestly would it help me to be a better friend, a better leader, a better person? So over the coming days/weeks I will tackle one element of being myself per blog until I either get tired of doing it or feel like I’ve covered the majority. I will try to be honest with and kind to myself in these blogs while demonstrating integrity for you as a reader.


Just this past week I was talking about how important building relationships is to me at work. A co-worker said “Not all of us are good at being with people like you are Leah”. The same week with the same co-worker I was trying to describe how I believe that in order to be a leader you have to lead at a micro level and trust that over time it will help with macro changes. Again this co-worker said “I’m not really a micro person. I’m better at macro level stuff so I have to push change from there.”

I knew then that this person beleived that the things I was saying and the way that I choose to work was something that just came naturally to me. That I just wake up eager and ready to build relationships every single day. And of course as if to put a giant exclamation on their perception I then proceeded to win the “SOCIAL BUTTERFLY” award at the office Christmas party later in the week. (OH THE IRONY!) 

One of my truths is that my base personality is a bit of a hermit. I am happy to be alone with my books, the cats, and the occasional tv show on DVR. I often refer to myself as an extroverted introvert. I have a long history from childhood of hiding with a book in a quiet corner to avoid chaos. As a young child this ability…to be in a room and go unnoticed…made me believe that I could honestly make myself invisible by just believing it. If you scratch more than the surface the idea of being invisible is both precious and carries some scary baggage with it.

Another of my truths is that I do love people. I love to watch people. I love to see the way people process information, how they choose their words, how they move through life. I love facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and body language. This too comes from a place with baggage but has turned into a habit/skill that I adore! I have used this tendency to watch people to my advantage in life sometimes but have also had it be a disadvantage when I’ve known someone wanted to hide something from me. But admittedly watching people is very different from choosing to engage with them.

To be in relationship is very hard for a person with my past and who lives with PTSD. For me it is often my default response is to shut down and close people out when I see the first sign of being too engaged or loving them too much. It takes energy and effort for me to be a person who shares myself and who purposes to engage a person in relationship. But oh it is worth it.

I’ve come to a place where I can’t  imagine workdays without laughter with Mark or a hug from Tyler or engaging in a plan with Chris or a brief discussion of mission with Mattias….and so many other exchanges with other folks. Maybe these exchanges are more important to me because I worked alone from a home office for several years. Or because I was on the road way too much for 18 months of my last job. Or because I was out of work for most of 2010. Or because my last two companies were full of people who hated their jobs and the company’s leadership. Maybe it is because I live in a new city and have no foundational friendships to fall back on. Or maybe because I’m finally willing to admit that I don’t just like to watch people…I like to be with people and be liked by people.

Likely it is all of these things combined.

So what does this mean in terms of “being myself”?

I think it means:
…not worrying about what those who are not good at building friendships think about my ability and desire to do so
…trusting that I am a likable person
…acknowledging the good in most people and trusting my ability to spot an emotional vampire now and then
…believing that I have something to offer and that I can accept with joy what the other person offers as well
…offering myself the kindness of knowing that not everyone is going to like me, without that meaning that there is something inherently WRONG with me
…a willingness to examine and consider changing parts of myself that are not beneficial to either me or my friendships
…not trying to change the parts of me that are fundamentally ME and bring me peace and joy
…embracing both my relational nature and also the fears I associate with building relationships
…enjoying people and enjoying who I am when I am with people

I think this social butterfly must just embrace her flittery, fluttery self and go build some relationships!

Next Up: Part 2–Being Fearful

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