Being overly sensitive to how people judge us isn’t always a sign of low self-esteem; confident women also worry about making an impression. We are supposed to be perfect, or at least outstanding, so we work hard to maintain this status.
What is the price of impression management? What parts of ourselves do we keep in exile?
I learned a great lesson about uncovering and claiming the parts of me I have imprisoned in my first improvisational acting class. I attended a week-long camp in the woods in New York. I fumbled and mumbled through every scene and hid out from my fellow campers in the evening. I knew I looked stupid. I couldn’t wait to get home.
Then I met Carol Fox Prescott. After begrudgingly performing a short song and dance on stage, she blocked my retreat and told me to repeat the performance.
She made me do it again.
She said, “Until you arouse every man in this room, you can’t leave this stage.”
I was appalled. I saw myself as a consummate corporate trainer and keynote speaker, not a sex object. I was instructional and motivating, not seductive.
She made me perform again. And again. The angrier I got, the more I belted out my song and thrusted my hips around the stage.
During the ninth rendition, I felt what it is truly like to be totally open and vulnerable, releasing all of me with relish, anger, passion and fun. Everyone cheered, hooted and whistled throughout the performance. At the end, I fell to the floor in tears.
Carol took my hand and said, “You have disconnected from your sexuality. Until you find this beautiful part of yourself and share it with the world, you will never fully connect with your audience or anyone else in your life.” I knew in my soul that she was right.
Carol brought me back in touch with the silly, sexy, loving woman that I had lost contact with in all my years of being the perfect achiever. While trying to be the perfect performer, I was not being authentic. Now, being perfectly authentic became my goal, a nobler aspiration than trying to look and act with precision. I still planned on doing well, but I put all of me into the act.
Carol helped me to see the pleasure in giving 100% and to find that people love my messy, silly, imperfect self even more than the “confident high-achiever” self I tried so hard to uphold. I may not sing and dance on stage, but when I teach and speak, I laugh whole-heartedly with my audience and even at myself.
Do you have a story to share about reconnecting with your hidden self?