There are many things in life that we define by marking their progress. I’ve had the “pleasure” of listening to countless “mom-versations” that centered on the single topic of progress markers.
“Johnny was fully potty-trained by 25 months,” or “Lily started saying full sentences before she turned three,” and “Peter can already tie his own shoelaces – he’s only four, you know.”
When you’re 16, your nosey aunt wants to know if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. When you’re 18, the same nosey aunt says she hopes you’re not too serious with your boyfriend or girlfriend because there’s still plenty of time. Then you meet The One and you do get serious.
Within a few months of dating, the family start asking when you’re getting engaged. After a while, they want to know when you’re getting married. It’s after the wedding the nosey aunts go into overdrive.
They want to know when you’re going to start with a family, adding in a whisper that, “you shouldn’t wait too long, you know.” And when the first baby arrives, they want to know when you’re planning to have a second one, “because you shouldn’t wait too long, you know.”
Leaning Into Love and Problems in the Bedroom
In my case, it wasn’t only an aunt. The cousins, the friends, the friends’ aunts and cousins, and the in-laws all closed ranks on me after a year went by and I wasn’t even talking of babies.
Then another year went by without a nappy in sight. Into our third year of marriage, one of the aunts cornered me at a family birthday event and, in a loud whisper, asked me if we had problems in the… (nodding her head toward the bedroom).
Not being one who can tolerate people sticking their noses into my business too much, I confidently said, “Huge problems. Can I tell you about it?” She scooted off to the tea table quicker than you can say, “Mattress.”
Leaning Into Yourself
The origin of their questions was the societal blueprint for the progression of relationships at that time. There were steps: find a boyfriend or girlfriend, get engaged, get married, have a baby, buy a house, have another baby…
While others fixated on it, I didn’t follow the pattern. It confused the people close to me. In my heart I always knew that I didn’t want to have children of my own. On the other hand, I also knew what the societal expectations were – and that there was a clash.
“Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows.”Native American Proverb
Around our fifth year of marriage, the pressure became intense. If I was less certain of what I knew in my heart to be right for me, I might have given in to the pressure. But I knew that wasn’t the path my heart wanted me to follow.
Following My Heart
At the time, the concept of “leaning into who you are” didn’t exist. It was only quite recently that I realized my decision not to have children was one of my first experiences of leaning into who I am. I never felt the need to defend my decision and I knew I had my own back.
Our minds make so much “noise,” and they’re often cluttered with many things – goals we’re chasing, progress we need to make, doing things that we think the world wants us to do.
But leaning into who you are requires you to develop an awareness of what your heart wants, and to listen to what it says. When you stand for a long time, it’s natural to look for something to lean against because it takes some of the pressure/work off your body. It’s a type of support, something that will keep you standing for longer.
In my opinion, leaning into who you are is becoming aware of yourself and living in such a way that you know you can lean on you. You know where to find your strength (your wall), and bring it to the fore if a situation requires it.
Last month, the world celebrated the LGBTQ+ community and our blog “What Pride Means to Us” is an ode to leaning in to who you are and the benefits that it brings to everyone.
It’s Not Comfortable
Leaning into who you are is also about a special kind of resilience – a resilience that you only have when you combine the following elements: energy/motivation, knowing your values, knowing your strengths, and knowing you can trust yourself.
We don’t like being or feeling uncomfortable. And we’re good at avoiding things that make us uncomfortable, like starting an exercise regimen when you’re unfit. We know the pain that’s going to follow, and we use Monday as a perfect way not to confront the discomfort today.
All we’re doing is postponing the pain until Tuesday and the muscle stiffness until Wednesday. Later on, though, when you start enjoying the benefits of being fit, you thank yourself for having started when you did.
Leaning into who you are requires you to be OK with being uncomfortable at times, like I was with family and friends and their prodding about having a baby. However, I have not regretted my decision. Today I look back and thank myself for being willing to endure the discomfort and to stand up for the voice in my heart. Because if I ignored it, I would have made a huge mistake.
“Leaning Into Who You Are” Chat
During the #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we talked about leaning into who you are and how to become your own best supporter. Here are the questions we asked and some of your most insightful responses:
Q1. How do you understand “leaning into who you are?”
@JKatzaman Leaning into who you are is not bending yourself into the mold or demands of others.
@SizweMoyo Becoming less of the opinions that I hold about myself, and more accepting and embracing of who I really am, even if it’s not at the best level yet.
Q2. Isn’t leaning in just self-acceptance, or is there more to it?
@CaptRajeshwar It is more about other directly connected factors which turn you towards self-actualization and realization of yourself.
@ColfaxInsurance I think a big part of it is self-acceptance, but it’s also self-understanding and reflection, and how you can better work with yourself to get to the goals you have.
Q3. How and where did you learn to make excuses/apologize for who you are?
@nitinwelde When we keep searching for the Q “am I enough…?” That makes us apologize for our perceived shortfall. Rather than giving excuses we must accept who we are. That is the mantra, ain’t it?
@DhongdeSupriya It’s common across cultures to please and prioritize others before you! Any time it’s different then guilt sets in and we become apologetic.
Q4. Leaning into who you are can be uncomfortable. Agree/disagree? Why?
@lg217 It can be depending on the situation you are in. Always try to be around people who understand you and avoid those that judge against others. Accept you for who you are. Remember, you don’t need to please anyone or be forced to change you.
@Yolande_MT Leaning into yourself can be uncomfortable if you’ve denied yourself being you throughout your life. You literally have to learn “being” in a new way.
Q5. What prevents us from leaning into who we are?
@SustainedLeader We create comfort zones that do not challenge us or stretch us. This is why we must leave them and explore new paths and new opportunities.
@SizweMoyo It’s hard to break out of old habits and patterns. And breaking these routines usually displeases our friends and family, so it’s a risky decision to make, and easy to shy away from because the effects don’t all unfold at the same time
Q6. Do you know anyone who leans in to who “they” are? What does that look like/what is the impact on them/others?
@Mphete_Kwetli Mostly we see it in disabled people as they don’t let their disability set boundaries for them. They do what their heart and ambition inspire them to be.
@Yolande_MT When you get out of your head and go into your heart, you have more compassion and empathy for others.
Q7. What are the benefits of leaning into yourself?
@pavelStepanov77 You gain confidence and become more self-dependent.
@Dwyka_Consult The picture I see in my mind is of you “settling in” to you, like one would settle into a cozy duvet. Becoming comfortable with that place. It’s great to be like that with yourself. You’re less critical of others, easier to work with.
Q8. What happens to relationships when you lean into who you are?
@nitinwelde Improve beyond expectations. Your relationship with yourself improves & that improves the rest of your relationships. Since you accept who you are, you are more open to accept who others are. It’s a self-fueling cycle.
@JKatzaman Leaning into who you are keeps relationships from deteriorating into dependency one way or the other.
Q9. How do you go about leaning in? What strategies can you use?
@ColfaxInsurance I’ve learned to ask myself, “Am I doing xx thing/behavior/etc because I want to, or because I feel it’s expected of me?” It’s helped me focus more on what’s actually important to me.
@MicheleDD_MT Stay true to your values and your purpose. The times that I stray from my values, are the times that I question who I am.
Q10. How can you encourage others to do it?
@HloniphileDlam7 By being exemplary and coaching people through speech, comfort and support. Nothing beats action.
@MarkC_Avgi A person has to truly understand who they truly are, before they can ever hope to “lean” into themselves. Far too many people go through life swaying from being one person for someone & someone else for another person. Figure out who you are & stick to it.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat over here.
Even if you feel strongly about leaning into who you are, there are other elements that might influence you. We are what we consume and everything we watch, listen and read informs our thoughts and influences our behavior.
In our Twitter poll this week, we want to know which area of your life is most affected by the things that you consume. To see the poll and cast your vote, please click here.
“Leaning Into Who You Are” Resources
In the meantime, here are some resources that explore Leaning Into Who You Are. (Some of these may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club. and to Mind Tools for Business licensees.)