Last week, I was facilitating a discussion for my women’s professional development circle on cultivating an authentic leadership identity. A member said to the group “I live my life in the gray, yet I hold myself to black and white standards.”
Her statement deeply resonated with me, as this is something I’ve observed in all aspects of life, both in my work as a coach as well as in my own personal experiences and interactions. The power of perception is truly amazing, as how we perceive things influences everything from how we see others, view ourselves, and how we make choices, so what happens when we see our world from a “black and white” perspective, and how does this point of view serve us in living our best lives?
Consider the following question: how often do we derive our identities based on “what we do”? There is nothing wrong with this, as what we do and the people we engage with are a large part of our lives. However, the tendency to assess our identities according to external factors can distract us from who we truly are, especially when it’s enabling a pattern of defining ourselves against black and white standards of success.
When we draw our sense of self from our external accomplishments and successes, it can lead to the perception that happiness is something that exists “out there.” When I'm successful, I'll be happy. If I stay within the confines of ongoing achievement and perfection, I will attain happiness. In a previous blog post on the benefits of gratitude, I shared how recent research proves that happiness and having a positive outlook are precursors for success, not the other way around. Yet it is still easy to ignore the joy of our present journeys by getting caught in the rush of chasing happiness.
A black and white perspective facilitates this vicious cycle by framing our self-worth as dependent on only when we're completely successful in achieving what we set out to accomplish—“I'm a success or a failure, I'm achieving or I'm not worthy.” This type of thinking creates a scarcity mentality, as we're operating from a place of "lack of," which is briefly relieved by our current achievement until we're onto the next. This can further impact our identities when we examine our personal choices through a lens of which society deems “acceptable.” Think of those times you’ve told yourself that you should do this, or can’t do that because of some rule that does not truly align with your values and aspirations.
You’re meant to live in the freedom of your gray and let go of the limitations of duality.
Shifting our inner perceptions is a process so be patient with yourself as you move forward. Below are three suggested action steps to help you get started:
Commit to using the word “and.” For example: Are you really a failure, or did you fail AND you’ve been successful in learning from this failure? Are you truly unmotivated and lazy, or are you feeling unmotivated this week AND you have goals that you’re excited to achieve? How do you think this shift would affect how you view and respond to situations?
Take an inventory: What are the limiting rules and beliefs that are holding you back? Where did they come from and how true are they really? How can you change these perspectives to align with your true vision of “grayness”? Furthermore, what would fully living in your "gray" look and feel like to you?
Seeking additional clarity in these areas of your life? Schedule a complimentary clarity session with me and we’ll explore it together!