We are puppets, manipulated by the hand of our insecurities -- Until we learn we can cut the strings. We are immobilised in the status quo, clenched in the jaws of fear -- Until we stop holding the jaws shut on ourselves. We are powerless victims, waiting to be rescued and freed -- Until we stop persecuting ourselves. Baillie Aaron
I am terrified that my deepest wish is a naive pipe dream.
When I listen to visionaries like Michael Singer, Brené Brown and Joe Dispenza, I feel a twinge of envy alongside inspiration.
Because I secretly dream of being a 'thought leader' like them: sharing my unique perspectives on a global stage. Feeling the pride of profoundly impacting millions of people. Writing best-selling books. Giving memorable talks. Teaching popular courses.
But for my entire professional career, I seem to have done everything in my power to subvert this aspiration.
My dream petrified me. I kept it hidden so far deep within my psyche, that even I was almost unaware of it. What excited me the most also scared me the most.
I declined opportunities for radio, TV and film interviews. I rejected a publisher’s book deal. I didn’t promote my articles or TEDx talks. I led my organisation from behind, the invisible CEO shining the spotlight on those around me.
But one day I was asked the question: “What is your dream?” And I was compelled to look deep within myself and open the locked door.
On my inner journey of self-reflection, I had an uncomfortable epiphany.
I was a thought leader too afraid to share her thoughts.
Taking the First Step
I wanted out.
The moment I considered vocalising what I desired, my inner critics came out in full force.
"Who are you to be a thought leader?"
"Why do you think your wisdom is worthy?"
"Waste of time: nobody cares what you have to say, anyway."
In other words: “You're going to fail; best not to try. Pick a safer ambition."
My inner critics were like pernicious weeds, abusing my fertile soil and preventing my little seedling from sprouting. They were stifling the nascent dream inside of me.
In the past, I listened to my risk-averse inner jury. But this time, emboldened by the teachings of Singer, Brown and Dispenza, I challenged its ruling.
Against the cacophony of self-doubt, I raised the courage to meekly consult close friends. In language couched in self-deprecation, I sputtered: "I know this might sound ridiculous but... what do you think of this crazy aspiration I had to be a prominent thought leader…?"
I waited for my friends to confirm my delusion, gently take my hand and walk me back to reality.
However, their responses stumped me. They looked at me quizzically: “What do you mean? Of course you can do it. I already think of you that way.”
A head-scratching moment.
How could there possibly be such a disconnect between the way I saw myself, and how my friends perceived me?
Marianne Williamson famously wrote, “Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Playing small by remaining in the dark keeps us feeling safe. There, no-one will notice our flaws, our imperfections, our vulnerability. We cannot fail. But it also prevents us from experiencing the bubbling ocean of joy lying just underneath the polluted surface of fear.
As long as our inner critics dominate our mental chatter and dictate our actions, we remain paralysed.
Dealing with the Inner Critics
Key to our journey of self-liberation is how we approach our weeds.
Our instinct might tell us to "slay the dragons", “confront the demons”, and “defeat the evil voices”. But our inner critics are part of us. If we silence them, we silence a part of ourselves. If we seek to eliminate them, we eliminate a part of ourselves. If we ignore or deny them, we ignore or deny a part of ourselves. This approach will not work.
We must hear each aspect of ourselves, before we can expect to be heard by others.
This means spending time getting to know each of these less-attractive aspects of self. Giving them space to share their messages. Who's at our inner table? What are their objectives?
I wrote out a back-and-forth debate occurring between my opposing aspects of self:
People-pleaser: “If you share your dream of being an influencer, other people might think you’re arrogant.”
Ego moderator: “You raise a valid point. But isn’t it also selfish to hold back and diminish myself, preventing other people from accessing the knowledge I believe could benefit them?”
People-pleaser: “Well-played. I just want you to be liked, so you’ll be happy.”
Ego moderator: “I know you’re trying to help. Thank you. But let’s focus on pleasing ourselves.”
With each inner exchange, I reached an understanding with myself. I realised my harsh inner jury was simply aiming to help me grow, belong and be accepted.
The tension and turmoil I felt melted away, replaced by peace and harmony. I felt ready to embark on the journey toward my dream with the full support of all aspects of myself.
Welcoming our Weeds
In nature, every plant has a role. Weeds serve the vital purpose of building and maintaining soil quality. Yet we often curse them, rip them out or kill them with pesticides.
Once we change how we interact with unwanted visitors to our inner gardens, we learn to see their contributions.
Fertile soil provides the foundation for seedlings to reach for the sunlight. In time, buds forms with the promise of flowers to follow.
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