It can seem a bit of a surprising truth that one of the biggest things holding us back in life comes from a slightly unexpected source; the enemy within. No matter what it is that we may feel inspired to do, create or try out, there is often a voice lurking below the surface telling us exactly why it is a very bad idea.
One of the simple reasons for this nagging self-doubt is that it's crazy scary to put yourself out there. To show up, and in the process risk judgement, criticism or failure, is certainly not for the faint hearted. Yet not wanting to be seen, or perhaps more accurately not wanting to be seen unfavourably, is one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of you drastically improving your life and potentially the lives of others in the process.
In fact most people I know are constantly holding themselves, their potential and their personal growth back because of a fear of being trulyseen. We want to wait until we're better prepared before we reveal ourselves, until we feel more ready and better equipped, until we have more experience, until we have completed more study, until we can make sure everything is “just right”. It sounds on the surface like a logical strategy. The problem is...
You will never feel truly ready to fail.
You will never feel truly ready to be judged.
You will never feel truly ready for criticism.
The bottom line:
You never feel truly ready to be seen.
As a life long people pleaser and perfectionist I struggled for many years with being seen by others. A naturally opinionated and passionate woman, I tried so desperately to walk the line of interesting yet still palatable (and in the process failing almost every time). Because that’s our deepest darkest fear after all, right?! What if when I fully show myself, they don’t like what they see? What if I give it my all, and it’s not enough? It’s a partially founded fear too if we’re honest, as to quote a very British phrase, you are never going to be everybody's cup of tea.
Why is it so important to learn to be seen? There is something about those tenacious people who unapologetically step out into the open that make a mark on society. The writers that get published are those who allow their words to be read, the entrepreneur whose start-up makes its first million is prepared to be laughed out of the bank several times and the scientist who makes a ground breaking discovery stares public failure in the face time and time and time again.
I often wonder what societal advancements are being lost and what personal gains are being missed every single second of the day from ideas and dreams left in hiding.
Despite knowing that behind every success is a littering of failures, it doesn’t in practicality make being seen any easier to attempt. That's why the remedy is to do it anyway, and like with everything in life, the feeling becomes more familiar with practice.
4 tips for overcoming the fear of being seen:
You don't have to begin with world domination. Just aim to do achievable things that push your comfort zone and prove to yourself that you will survive. When you gain confidence you can become bolder with your actions.
See yourself through others eyes.
The chances are that you already have plenty of skills, talents and ability to at least make a start on what you want to do now. It can be difficult for us to see the positives in ourselves, but easier to notice them in others. Take an objective outside look yourself and try to find the encouraging words that you would speak to a close friend.
Drop the need to be perfect.
Nothing is perfect. I repeat…absolutely nothing you ever do in life will be perfect. The good news is that nobody else is perfect either, so take the pressure off. See your actions as an experiment and all just part of a learning process. When it comes to personal growth; imperfect action wins every single time over perfect inaction!
Ask what is the worst that can happen?
Write down the absolute worst case scenario. Now that it’s there in black and white, take an honest look. In the grand scheme of things is this worst case SO bad? Does it really matter? Will you care about it when you are lying on your deathbed? Will you care about it in a years time even?
Whilst there's no way to totally avoid the uncomfortable feelings being seen can create, there are things you can do to reduce it. Be bold, be seen!