Why Is It So Hard to be Yourself?

“What the hell have I done?”
This was the thought in my head on the first day of my new life. I was sitting in a canoe.
I had just quit an advertising career that started in Europe and continued to Canada.
I’d spent 4 years at university preparing for this career. It was what I thought I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. It was how I was going to become a success (that exciting AND terrifying word).
I had landed a job with one of the largest ad agencies in the world. I was doing TV shoots, working on big money projects, and going from London to Paris for lunch.
I was supposed to be happy, but something was missing.
I wasn’t fulfilled.
It was the most heart-wrenching decision of my life, but I eventually worked up the courage to leave that career, follow my dreams, and was now leading canoe trips for Outward Bound.
I loved it but kept asking myself, “How can this be a job?”
Instead of sitting at a desk I was sitting in a canoe. Instead of a keyboard and mouse I had a screwdriver (I was fixing the seat, which I wasn’t totally sure how to do).
How could this be a career?!
Were my city friends right? Was I nuts to leave a high-paying corporate job to do THIS?
Uncertainty flooded my mind, “Oh crap, is this what I really want? What if this doesn’t work? Am I too old to make this kind of change? Why didn’t I just keep playing it safe? Do people think I’m stupid for doing this?”
But most of all I thought, “What if I fail?!”
It’s a terrifying feeling when you realize that your current reality (career, spouse, friends, hobbies…) no longer accurately matches who you are and what you want.
At that moment you realize you need to make changes if you’re going to be happy, but it may also feel like you screwed something up.
I’ve coached thousands of people to find the courage to be themselves.
Being yourself.
It sounds simple, but there are many reasons why it’s difficult.
Mostly because we worry so much what other people will think of us, and if you grew up like I did, “success” meant getting an office job, working your way up, and making more and more money.
These days I’m no longer doing what the world says I should do. I’m doing what I want to do and I’m putting my unique dent in the universe.
I want the same thing for you.

Bridging the Gap

The first step to this kind of change is awareness.
So, let’s take a look at your life. Make a list of the different areas, such as Work, Romance, Fun, Friends, Family… whatever is important to you.
Now, give each of those items a number between 1 and 10.
10 means that area of your life feels perfect right now. 1 means it’s not good at all, and a change is needed.
Now, for the area with the lowest number, think of an action you could take to improve it. Answer the following questions:
What needs to change?
What do you need to do differently?
A year from now, what will you wish you had started today?
Maybe you gave Family a 4 because you haven’t seen them as much lately, or the last time you were with them you had an argument. How could you improve that? Maybe reach out to them, plan to get together, clear up something that you regret saying Would that bump it up to a 6 or 7?
Someone once said, “The truth is like surgery – it hurts but it cures.” The numbers you just gave the different areas of your life may reveal a truth you’ve been trying to avoid.
Courage is being scared and doing it anyway because of a bigger want.
Your bigger want is tied to those areas in your life with the low numbers. You want those to be higher. Then you’ll be happier, perform like a f$%ing rockstar, and put your unique dent in the universe.
Do the exercise now to know your truth.
Then have the courage to be 100% you, every darn day.
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Billy Anderson is the founder of The Courage Crusade, teaching the discipline of overcoming fear so you can have the courage to be yourself.
He is a speaker, coach and author of “Your Comfort Zone Is Killing You.” He also writes for the Careers section in The Globe & Mail.         
Billy has been an advertising manager in Europe and Canada, a fundraising executive for UNICEF, an apple picker in New Zealand and a sugar cane farmer in Costa Rica.
He has traveled to over 35 countries, including running with the bulls in Spain, swimming with sharks in South America and building a school on a tiny island near Fiji. He has jumped out of an airplane exactly 101 times.  His personal philanthropy projects include carrying a canoe 42 kms in two days, as well as walking over 200 kms in the middle of winter to send kids with cancer to summer camp.
And he’s scared of the exact same things you are: failure, looking stupid, and not being liked.
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