My authentic self. The person that I truly am. I am not sure that I know who that is anymore. If I ever did. I have had a lifetime of running away from all those things that are painful. And leaving behind the people who have hurt me. All of that running has clouded the real me.
Why am I not being true to myself? That is an excellent question. And one that I just figured it out this morning while out running. I was listening to episode two hundred forty of The ONE Thing podcast (for those that want to listen). In that episode, Geoff Woods was talking with Patrick Sweeney, author of the book Fear is Fuel: The Surprising Power to Help You Find Purpose, Passion, and Performance. My ah-ha came from listening to the podcast.
I am afraid of being me.
Predicting the Future
There is some neuroscience behind what Sweeney talks about in the podcast. I am not going to go into that in great detail here. Mainly because I have not done the years of collecting data and talking with neuroscientists that Sweeney has, because of that, I am pretty sure I would get it wrong.
One of the critical pieces of science that I pulled from the podcast is that our brain’s primary role is to be able to predict the future. The ability of our brain to predict the future is so that we survive. The brain drives that so it can tell us how to react in certain situations. Our brain relies on our previous experiences, reactions, and outcomes, that is has been storing for our entire lives, to “tell” us how to react.
The second key piece is that there are two primary areas of our brains that are active when we are in the decision-making moment. The first is the amygdala, the fear, flight, or freeze center of our brain. You may have heard of it called the lizard brain before because it controls our most basic reactions. The second is the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Never heard of it? I had not either. Until this morning, that is. The sgACC is what Sweeney calls the courage center. It is the area of the brain that helps us to push through the fear.
Many of the experiences that the brain stores occur when we are children. Our brain starts to catalog these experiences at a time in our lives that we have little to no control over what happens to us and how we react. That means we are basing our present-day reactions on old data. Unless we consciously decide to update the data.
I was always wrong. No matter what I did, it was wrong. My poor brain could not come up with a solution in which I wasn’t wrong. And when I was wrong, there was some level of punishment involved. Some of it was physical; a lot of it was emotional. It didn’t take long for me to hate myself—the awkward kid who could do nothing right. I hated the fact that I was quiet, introspective, and introverted. I wanted to be that confident kid in class that wasn’t afraid to raise their hand. But I wasn’t that kid. I was afraid all the time.
I figured out over the years that you had to act confident, be outspoken, and dress a certain way so that you could “get ahead.” Fake it until you make it, right? And so, I faked it. I did all of the things to be considered successful. Or what I thought success looked like. When I accomplished one thing, I moved right onto the next and the next. It went on like that for years.
Moving through Fear
I spent my entire life a miserable, unhappy shell of myself. Because I had denied who I was/am at the very core of my being. That’s going on forty-five years of some level of misery. That is a whole lot of unhappy walking around. I should know, I was the one walking around that way. It took a really long to get to where I am now.
All of it stemmed from a fear of being true to myself. And of trying to hide that part of myself to become someone that others would think of as being successful. I am tired of being afraid of myself. My truth is that being an introvert is cool. It is powerful in its own right. Most importantly, I figured out that being me is good enough. I am no longer going to be someone I am not.
It feels freeing that I am no longer hiding – that I am coming into myself and feeling good about me. Fear really can be fuel. Thank you to Patrick Sweeney for being on The ONE Thing podcast that I listened to this morning. And now to read the book! My lizard brain is fighting hard for fear to reign supreme, but my bravery brain is fighting the courageous fight.
It Wasn’t All Bad
It’s interesting that as I write this, and am about to post it on my blog, that I can’t help but think back over my life and the things that I have done. It wasn’t all bad. It didn’t all make me unhappy. I just don’t think I was happy being myself. I have had some pretty cool adventures and met wonderful people. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I am happy that I am beginning to realize some truths. I am ready to take those on my future adventures.