Let’s say you’re in a room full of people and everyone knows each other very well. Everyone except for you.
You’re the new guy, and you’re feeling understandably self conscious. You immediately start analyzing everything about yourself. Do you look OK? Are you worthy of being a part of this community? Will they accept you for who you are?
Maybe you start doubting your worth. You feel sure that these people see you for what you are: a fraud, a wannabe, a poser. They see right through you, so you shut yourself down. Or maybe you play yourself up, boasting about your achievements and seeking approval because of what you’ve done or who you know. The point is, you do everything except let people see who you really are.
It’s a performance.
It’s how most of us choose to stave off loneliness.
And it’s got to go!
Most of us live within the confines of performance. We don’t realize it. We definitely don’t call it “the confines of performance.” But that’s exactly what it is.
Here’s what it looks like: You rate your self worth according to your ability to perform and produce. There’s no intimacy. There’s certainly no authenticity. It all comes down to your behavior and what you do. Any real relationship is secondary to your performance and therefore it more often than not, leaves you feeling alone and unsatisfied.
It’s time we lay down the performance and exchange it for connection!
The reason laying down performance feels so extremely vulnerable is because, chances are, you’ve learned to use performance as a safety net. It’s something you can fall back on to feel good in the moment. But having a connection to yourself, the people you love and to the work you do means allowing the real you to be fully seen. You must lay the actor aside and be you.
Yes, it is scary. But it is so worth it.
Connection happens when you are open and vulnerable with your heart. The result of this vulnerability is a real, authentic you. It is a level of excellence that was untouchable while you lived in the cycle of performance!
Let me say it again. Only being vulnerable with your heart can create connection—not some form of mental conceptualization or principle-based behavior.
More so, in order to be vulnerable with your heart, you’ll have to start with—you guessed it—yourself.
If you want to be vulnerable and authentic with others, you must be vulnerable and authentic with yourself. Real connection in relationship comes from real connection to your own heart.
We are all looking for intimacy with people. We want those beautiful, healthy, interdependent relationships. The problem is we have been using our performance to gain and maintain our relationships, which leads to pressure rather than freedom.
If you want to trade the pressure of performance for true connection, you must connect back to your own authenticity and begin living from that place. The process of getting there is a simple one, and you can use it any time you realize you’re feeling disconnected or feeling the pressure of performance.
Here are 5 steps to self-connection!
1. Realize you are not fully being you.
This is about you realizing all the places where you have sacrificed your own authenticity by conforming. It is you seeing every area where you have covered your own worth by giving ego (what you do, what you have, and what others think) the power to define your worth.
This awareness often comes in like bomb being dropped on you. At times, it feels very offensive and discouraging. However, after the initial feeling of offense, you are poised to act powerfully and see real change.
An illumination takes place concerning the dysfunctional patterns in your life. You begin to see what those patterns are and where they come from. During this illumination stage, you will likely move in and out of denial and acceptance. That is very normal. Realizing you have lived as a phony is a painful realization.
2. Let yourself feel the good, bad and the ugly.
Once awareness has settled in, you know what you didn’t know. Now you can start allowing others into your immaturity.
This is very countercultural. You have been taught to hide your ugly places from the people around you. You have probably believed weaknesses are a thing to be hidden or fixed before anyone can see them. As you share these parts of yourself with others, the lack of reality and self-awareness with which you have lived your life becomes more and more apparent.
This is a time when you need the freedom to allow these ugly parts of yourself to come out. You need an experience where connection is not conditioned on your ability to act out of maturity, but where you are able to be fully yourself without punishment.
You must let go of your restraint and the temptation to pretend.
You are who you are.
The good and the bad need an opportunity to come into the light.
This is a huge part of you accepting yourself, which is a necessary step in anything you desire to change. Usually, honesty without a filter is what comes out. All the nasty blame and punishment you have secretly held over people comes out. Believe me, it doesn’t feel very pretty.
I’ll tell you now, it can be awkward to let the bad feelings you have held towards people come out, but that is what is needed for you to move into your maturity. The only way to maturity is through your immaturity. This is where massive growth is able to occur.
3. Stop pointing fingers.
In this step of the process, the blame and judgment you have had towards others starts to shift towards personal responsibility. Another layer is peeled away and you start to take back your personal power. You see that you control you.
You’ll realize you’ve made some choices out of bad heart beliefs, and this will be sobering. You begin seeing how your heart beliefs have affected others. It isn’t a fun thing to look at, but it is necessary to move through it. Brokenness and repentance is a huge part of this season. It is a time when you take responsibility for your old heart beliefs and acknowledge how it may have hurt others.
At this point, a change takes place in the way you think. You start creating new pathways in your brain. It becomes clear that you have a choice to do things differently. You become more aware that between stimulus and response you always have a choice.
This time of change is usually very uncomfortable, because you are creating what we’ll call a “new normal.” You are used to doing things one way and now are proactively choosing the opposite. Chances are, in the midst of this, you will feel high levels of insecurity. That’s OK. That’s what change feels like.
Think about it. If you’re choosing to lay down your protective walls, then all the things you have fought so hard to hide are now in the open. It’s going to feel awkward at times, and awkwardness is a feeling most of us avoid like the plague. Just embrace it. It is a sign you’re becoming a new you.
When you push through and allow your heart to be seen over and over, a new normal is created. The space between stimulus and response grows larger and larger. Your freedom to choose starts to expand.
4. Process your life with your inner circle.
Vulnerability is power.
This is your opportunity to continue allowing others into your life. Allowing others in to see your process of transformation gives them a bridge into your world. When you give people the ability to wound you, this gives people access to the deepest part of your heart. That is connection.
As this heart connection takes place, covenant relationship starts to develop. Strong relationships based on deep, heart connection become your reality. The old baggage in your relationships gets dealt with and new relationships begin. You leave a trail of intimacy through all your relationships.
Rather than having relationships based on agreement and performance, your relationships are based on the real you and the real them. You’re going to have moments where you look around and think to yourself “This is too good to be true.”
5. Stay accountable to your greatness.
When I say “accountability,” I’m not talking about the sort of bean counting, checkbox, behavioral accountability you may have tried in the past. I’m talking about vision-based accountability.
Vision-based accountability is about helping someone stay aligned to who they really are, rather than lapsing back into behavior adjustment. This type of relational accountability is only possible after people have been vulnerable and allowed others into the scary places of their heart.
It’s very different than the behavior-based accountability than most of us are used to. For example, your average, behavior-based accountability looks like a friend coming to you and saying “Hey, you said you didn’t want to watch as much TV anymore and you’ve been watching a ton lately!” It doesn’t even get closed to addressing who you really are or what’s actually going on.
Vision-based accountability says “Hey, I noticed you’ve been watching a lot of extra television lately. Is there something going on that you’re not wanting to feel?”
Feel the difference? One helps you breakthrough to the root of what is really going on, while the other just brings guilt and shame.
This is a transition from keeping people accountable out of punishment and obligation to keeping people accountable to their destiny through connection. Confronting one another at the root of an issue is about holding someone accountable to their own greatness and authenticity.
This type of confrontation is not about control. It is about loving someone enough to illuminate what is keeping them from their greatness.
These five steps are not a one-time process of transformation. In all likelihood, you’ll have to return to them again and again, but over time, you’ll get more used to it. I predict the result will be so powerful that you’ll actually start to look forward to it. It’ll become part of your life rhythm, and connection will become your normal instead of a deep, unmet desire.
You have everything to gain from authenticity. You have nothing to lose from giving up your performance mindset. The only real question is: What’s holding you back?