Embracing all of me (even the parts I don’t like)

You’d think I’d be incredibly happy while accomplishing one of my life-long dreams. Well sure, I was happy. But I was also blindsided at the same time by some pretty deep feelings of self-doubt.

Dreams don’t always show up quite the way we imagine.

The journey to my dream started twenty plus years ago when I read a book called Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Barbara Barron and Paul D. Tieger. My boyfriend at the time suggested it to me when I expressed some confusion over which career direction to take next.

OK I’ll be honest. I was actually in the middle of a major identity crisis at the time. After having just quit a very unsatisfying sales job.

When I say unsatisfying I mean it was the kind of job that made me utterly sick to my stomach. Every Sunday night I would anxiously bite off all of my fingernails as I contemplated my upcoming work week (I kid you not).

Clearly I was not born to be a sales person. But who was I and what was I good at? Or more importantly.

What was I meant to do with my life?

That was the real question.

In fact it’s what I’ve always wanted to know. Ever since I can remember I’ve been asking those big kind of questions.

Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?

After graduating from high school and wandering the globe for a few years, I decided to return to school for a Marketing and Sales Diploma. At the time I believed it was a very good fit for me. I was after all upbeat and people-oriented. And great at promoting things I believed in.

And besides, the personal coaching field (a much better fit in hindsight) was nonexistent at the time. So marketing and sales it was.

But taking a job as an outside sales rep turned out not to be such a great idea.

I hated working alone. Driving around the city. Hauling cumbersome bags of product in and out of my car. And being constantly turned away. Stood up. Or rejected by potential customers.

I was way out of my comfort zone. Waaaay out.

I felt insecure, nervous and completely frazzled most days. Quitting that sales job was a lesson in self-preservation if ever there was one.

During my big identity crisis that followed though, I was completely lost. I had absolutely no idea what to do next.

So when my boyfriend suggested I read Do What You Are to discover the kind of careers that suited my particular personality type best, I gobbled the book up. Then several more on the same subject.

Discovering the world of personality types was a big turning point in my life.

I was introduced to a whole new me.

I learned a great deal about the way I operate in the world. That I get my energy from people and taking action. I love working on teams and need harmony in my work environment. While l love freedom and variety, I also need some structure. And I’m passionate about lifting others up and inspiring them.

Most importantly though I learned I don’t need to be anyone else but me.

That there is no right or wrong way. Or better or worse type to be.

Embracing my own type helped to set me free. To step out of the box. To just be me.

unique red flower like the uniqueness of Myers-Briggs types

Over the years whenever I got off course career-wise (or any-wise for that matter!) I would often revisit those books. And be reminded of who I was at my core. What I was naturally good at. And what I wasn’t. So I could let go of those pieces with relief.

Inevitability I would always feel better.

Fast forward another couple of decades (and a few official Myers-Briggs assessments to confirm my type) and I’m still reaping the benefits.

I know my type (an ENFJ in case you’re wondering) almost inside and out. And I know when I’m acting from my strengths versus my weaknesses. And how to course correct.

It’s been a great self-awareness tool to have. One that has guided me along my path.

And the added bonus?

As I’ve learned about others’ types I’ve become far more understanding. Far more accepting of the differences that sometimes lie between us. Far more encouraging of others to just be themselves.

I knew that one day I wanted to take my passion for Myers-Briggs personality types to the next level. To become a Certified Myers-Briggs Trainer. In order to help others learn what I had learned: how to uncover and embrace their own unique ways of being in this world. And to let go of any self-judgement.

So it was surprising to me that after all these years of loving what Myers-Briggs personality types have taught me, so many raw emotions were triggered while completing certification earlier this month.

Sure there was the fact that the training took place just a few blocks away from my ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Where I’d spent many lovely weekends the previous year. Memories of our time together came flooding back. Along with some intense feelings of sadness and loss.

But still. That wasn’t all of it.

Somehow I’d imagined that sitting in that classroom with 30 other like-minded individuals would completely inspire me. 100% of the time.

That I’d feel on purpose. And would come away from each day feeling rejuvenated and revved up.

Nope. That’s not how it went down at all.

Instead of feeling lifted up and inspired, I often felt insecure and self-critical.

Instead of fully embracing my own natural preferences and strengths, and reveling in my own me-ness, I found myself doing something far less compassionate.

I kept comparing myself to others. And feeling crappy when I didn’t think I’d measured up. 

The very opposite of what Myers-Briggs is all about!

Ironic, I know.

One minute I felt high with excitement discussing a subject I was passionate about with others that seemed equally as passionate about it. The next I felt low with all kinds of self-doubt and self-judgment.

My inner critic whispered: You’re too sensitive, Kerry. Too emotional. You’re not logical and rational enough. You have too much energy. You come on too strong. Why can’t you be more like him or her (pick almost anyone else in the room)?

Ugh. I left one day feeling exhausted and close to tears.

As I sat on the bus home that night I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why was I always so darn sensitive, so emotional? So worried about what others think?

Why was I trying so hard to be something I wasn’t?

Why couldn’t I just embrace me? All of me? All of the time?

And then it hit me.

I was once again learning a valuable lesson from the Universe. That we often end up teaching what we ourselves need to learn.

That my greatest gift (and yes perhaps even my purpose on this planet) of encouraging others to love themselves just as they are, comes from my deepest pain.

My own lack of self-love and self-acceptance.

In order to help others love and accept themselves – to embrace their own imperfections and be gentle on their own souls – I have to learn those same lessons myself.

Again. And again.

I wish I could say the rest of the training was a lot easier as a result of that light bulb moment on the bus. And maybe it was a bit.

The emotional triggers still came. As did all of my self-doubts.

But I was far more aware of my inclination to bash myself over the head. And I was far gentler with myself, too.

And maybe that’s all I can ask for.

More awareness.

More kindness to myself in those moments of imperfection, and moments of self-doubt.

And more willingness to embrace all sides of myself. Even the ones that are hard to love.

Especially those ones.

As long as I’m open and willing to learn how to be kinder to myself, I’m moving in the right direction.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life when you were kinder to yourself? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)

Step into your "enough-ness"

Recently I heard a woman on the radio use the phrase: step into your enough-ness. It stopped me in my tracks. 

Wow.

Step into your enough-ness.

OK, I get it. What a great reminder for a woman like me, a recovering perfectionist.

And what a terrific book or workshop title. I wrote it down in my journal of great ideas, as I have done so many times before, and then promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to today. I was out walking on the seawall, all alone in the rain. It was just me and my thoughts. And my growing anxiety about writing my very first blog.

What should I write about? 

What speaks to me? Comes from my heart? What would resonate with other women?

As my anxiety grew, my thoughts suddenly turned to the word ‘perfectionism’ and how it keeps showing up in my life. 

How my desire to do things perfectly (or to not be seen as imperfect) holds me back.

And how I use my fear of imperfection as a way to procrastinate. To not do the very thing I wish I could do: find my voice. Imperfect though it may be.

How hard I’ve had to work at believing in my core that I am good enough. That I can step into my own enough-ness.

I could certainly write about that.

Truth be told, I have wanted to write a blog for years.

But every time I took a step towards it my inner critics would rise up. And they were very, very convincing.

They would say cruel things like: “You’re not a writer. You have nothing of value to say. Who the heck is going to listen to you?”

And the kicker: “Who do you think you are?”

Ouch.

I thought about all the ways I had blown my blog off.

All the excuses I’d made for not expressing my voice. For not shining my own unique light out into the world.

I thought about all the people I’d believed in, cheer-leaded and coached to follow their own dreams. To not give up. To speak their own truth.

But when push came to shove, I had not been able to do the same for me.

My inner critics had always won. So instead of expressing my voice, I would go underground again. I’d tell myself it was OK. It wasn’t my time yet. Maybe it never would be.

So here I was, back at the starting gate. Back to the blog.

My inner light was craving to be set free, and my inner voice unleashed.

A few weeks ago I had committed to writing this blog on a whim. I promised a dear friend (who’s also my coach) that I would post it by the end of this week. I was excited at the thought of it, and knew I could do it – would do it – this time.

There would be no more excuses.

But suddenly with my deadline looming, I was procrastinating all over again. Same old, same old. I was ready to shove my voice down once more.

I felt sick.

How could I let my coach down? How could I tell her I was throwing in the towel? But even worse, how could I let myself down? Again?!

Before my inner critics won their battle, something else happened. Out on that seawall, today in the rain. Something magical. Something that changed everything for me. And gave me the courage to write.

Up, out of the calm waters, popped a seal. My totem animal. Spirit guide. Inner coach.

I’ve had an affinity with seals my whole life. I see them all the time. And every time I do, I believe they have a message for me.

totem seal representing good enough

So today, in the soft rain, I closed my eyes and asked this seal, this spirit guide of mine, what message it had for me.

Within seconds my answer came: don’t give up.

Keep moving forward, one step at a time. 

My heart lifted. And I realized that I was not going to buy into my procrastination this time. I was not going to listen to my fear. Nor let my inner critics win.

I was going to write my first blog, once and for all, damn it.

So here I am. My first blog is almost done. And like the seal rising above the surface of the ocean, I’m ready to let my spirit free.

I’ve found my voice. And I won’t let it go underground again.

This is my first big step towards embracing all of me. With all my imperfections. I know I will make mistakes. I have before. And I will again. But as they say: go big or go home.

I’m not ready to go home. I just got here.

And after all these years of fear and procrastination, I have finally found the courage to step into my own enough-ness.

(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life where you’ve felt you were good enough? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)