What better way to explore the topic of treating one’s self with significance than to have a good conversation with a trusted friend. That is just what I did when walking with my friend Ian. Ian is a world citizen having worked and lived all over the world. He tends to hold a broad view of the world and can also focus his view inward and be introspective. When I asked him about his thoughts and experiences around treating himself with significance, he recalled a critical moment when this very question was illuminated for him.
Driving on a dual carriage road in England, the kind of 4 lane road between the major motorways, Ian dozed off. He was jarred and shaken awake as his car went off the road onto the foot or two of gravel along side the road. While the gravel achieved its purpose in stopping Ian from plunging off the road, it took its toll on his body. After a thorough examination at the hospital revealed no serious physical injuries nor any cause for his exhaustion, it was suggested he talk to a therapist to gain additional insight. After talking to the therapist for a few sessions he had an epiphany that he was living his life as 7 different people as he tried to skillfully adapt to the many roles in his life; working with commodity traders, managing his own business team, navigating marriage and a new baby, etc.
He realized that all of his efforts to adapt and fit in was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting him. Ian said that at that moment, he made a decision. He was ready to take a risk and just be the best ONE person he could be.
I once read a sentiment that went something like this: “I refuse to serve as an itching post for your yearnings”. While working in a trading company with its fast pace and “you’re only as good as your last trade” mentality, Ian made a decision not to trade his authenticity for approval. He refused to satisfy everyone else’s yearnings for their version of a perfect Ian.
His moment of clarity was transformative as the Ian that I met some years after, wearing his trademark red socks, was and is one of the most authentic and consistently best persons I know.
As Ian’s story indicates, showing up as our authentic selves is surely an important way to honor our own significance.