“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ~ C. G. Jung
I’m here to take a stand for BEING BIG. For me being me, and you being you, fully; for becoming who you are.
Here, BEING BIG is synonymous with BEING WHOLE, for knowing who I am, what I am and what I’m seeded for, and for aligning with this as I bring all of me to every part of my life.
In other words, BEING BIG is about allowing myself to BE ALL OF ME, every day, without apology or excuse. BEING BIG is also about being big enough to acknowledge that each of us is so much more than we think we are. BEING BIG is about imagining that life, as we know it, could be different, especially if we get to know more and more about ourselves and each other. And BEING BIG is about embracing the power to embolden, encourage and empower ourselves and one another, and that power comes from knowing and remembering who we are.
For the longest time, I struggled with the belief that “my bigness hurt people,” that because I was experienced as intense and demanding, or too serious and intimidating, that this was all of who I was and that this made it difficult for people to be around me. But I knew I was so much more than the parts of me people were in reaction to, whether they preferred them or not. I yearned to be seen, heard and validated, for all of me.
I was surrounded by BIG people with BIG personalities and didn’t know how to meet them in their power. In their shadow, I struggled to know who I was, which parts of me were preferred, when to say what to whom and who I needed to be in various parts of my life. Which part do I lead with and when? Which voice could be heard, should be heard and by whom? I recoiled in the presence of their abuses and did not want to imagine I might be like them. I was in a dance to please others, trying to create comfort ‘for them’ and creating confusion instead. I was losing myself in the process, at work, at home and in all my roles. And still, I’d hear that refrain, “my bigness hurts people.” It was easier to make myself small, get quiet and slowly disappear than try to understand what that actually meant and what might be required of me.
In 1984, when I was 24 and she was 18, my youngest sister took her life. We were going to her wedding and ended up at her funeral. It was a devastating time, for me, my family and everyone who knew her. I was ill-equipped to handle her death or be there for anyone else. I did not know how to ask for help, nor did I know where to turn. I needed someone, anyone, to show me a bit of tenderness and compassion, to let me be soft and sad, tired and overwhelmed, instead of needing me to be strong, smart and independent, all the things I was not at that time. These parts of me in a personal crisis needed expression and had nowhere to go.
I could not find that support within my family either. So, I did what was expected of me. I wiped my eyes, buttoned myself up and got on with my life. But when I returned to work, and no one, not a single soul, acknowledged my sister, her death, me or my loss, I went numb. Not a card, a flower or a word. I will always remember that.
I felt completely unseen, caught in a silent storm absent of any grace, empathy or compassion, disconnected from every other human being in the room, myself included. Why? Because that’s what we did in the office. Those personal parts weren’t welcome there. My personal experience was my business, not theirs. Nothing was allowed to disrupt the team. The sad, struggling Dori had to find a quiet place to hide. She wasn’t who was hired or needed there. At the worst time in my life, it seemed I’d become even more invisible than I already was. It reinforced a pattern of hiding my shame, my rage and my grief; but make no mistake, they were there, in that room, too.
I started to buy the lies, that we need to be the one thing people think we are and need us to be, the provocateur, the drill sergeant or the overly-sensitive storyteller, the exaggerator, the bull in a china shop or the book-smart-but-not-street-smart over-achiever, the butt of every joke, the creative one or the great mother, the warrior, the survivor or the successful corporate “B.I.T.C.H.” (Babe In Total Control of Herself). I had a lot of parts, but which one was I?
I started to believe that I needed to be this or that and ‘stay in my lane,’ even though I didn’t know what my lane was or where that meant I was going…and it was a very narrow and restrictive lane. I was in a giant fog.
I’d hear people talking about compartmentalizing and it didn’t make sense to me. They’d say, ‘I bring this part of me to work, and this other part stays at home.’ Yet, the part that they said stayed at home was the one that was speaking to me in that very moment (at work)! I’d ask myself, ‘Who’s fooling who here?’ I felt like the kid in the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. And just like that kid, I had to say it, “You are being THAT, don’t you see?!?”
I didn’t believe that compartmentalizing was possible. Yes, we might lead to one part or another at any given time, if we’re skillful, but it’s fair to see that our inner critic, saboteur or victim is standing at the ready at all times. Instead, what I experienced was an inability by most of us to be with or see ourselves or one another, all of ourselves, as we were. Even as everyone seemed to be longing for connection, we weren’t making that happen. And all the while, my heart was breaking. Because, in the process of trying to be just this or just that, I was clear that, both individually and collectively, we were wasting enormous amounts of time, talent and energy and we were missing out on the wealth, relationships and beauty available to us when we honor that journey to wholeness and who we are at our core.
I set out to prove that compartmentalizing hurts more than it helps and is not a natural way of being. I wanted to know myself better, like myself more and feel whole, satisfied and solid in myself. And I wanted to surround myself with other people who were willing and wanting to learn how to call each other forth to be our whole and better selves.
What I know now is that all my life, I’ve been on an inner journey to wholeness, to a place within where I could get curious about who and what is there, where I could begin to appreciate that each part brings gifts and learn how to channel these gifts and their energies in ways that serve. I’ve worked hard to turn toward and see my parts, the ones I preferred and the ones I didn’t, the ones others preferred and the ones others didn’t, and build a healthy relationship with each. Now I’m learning how to celebrate my bigness and fall more in love with all of who and what I am.
And here’s a hard truth I’ve also learned: sometimes, my bigness does hurt people, and for others, it empowers, encourages and emboldens. It’s my job to own that too, to know when I’ve crossed a line and made a mess that I need to clean up and when that’s someone else’s to clean up; all of which means, I’m awake, alive, paying attention and in healthy relationships. I’m seeing you and I’m seeing me (or, at the very least, I’m trying).
In our society, we tend to see one side of a picture, a situation or a person. We do this in our homes and workplaces too. It honors a deep need for simplicity but ignores our complexity. Doing this is a recipe for disaster, for playing small, for leaving a legacy of hurt and harm we never intended, and for missing out on all that’s possible when we learn how to harness and enjoy the many facets of ourselves that we have to share. After the loss of my sister, the message I received was that it wasn’t okay to bring all of me to the office. Not acknowledging our whole selves and our whole experiences is a guaranteed recipe for sadness, scarcity, separation and unnecessary suffering.
The society I envision is one in which it’s not a tug-of-war between the personal and professional, the practical and the spiritual; rather, it’s a place where all of these co-exist. As each of us turns toward our own inner journey to wholeness, we will be able to bring so much more of ourselves into our lives and encourage others to do the same. No more hiding, playing small and disappearing ourselves; instead, there can be more curiosity, creativity and connection, expansion, potential and fun.
In my worldview, each of us is a leader, at the very least, in our own lives. We are many parts, many voices. When we are on a journey to wholeness and choosing to BE BIG in our lives, we can learn how to choose which parts get to lead and which need to stand down in any given situation. We can cultivate a vital inner life and the capacity to let it inform and enhance our outer lives. Servant leaders look inward to serve outward. Each of us can do both.
This journey to wholeness and BEING BIG is what can connect us to one another, deepen our relationships and give meaning to our lives – individually and collectively. I know this is possible because I’ve created this in my life, in my marriage, with our children and with my clients, colleagues and friends. We have to put ourselves back into the equation and tend to the individual (all of ME) within the collective (WE), just as each of us, as individuals, needs to tend to the collectives we are a part of. Both are needed, not just one or the other. This is the birthplace of service beyond self (US), where together, we can leave the world a little better than how we found it.
We have to acknowledge and address the “me,” not just the “we” in our lives. Conscious and skillful leaders do this, however uncomfortable or uncertain the process. And that’s part of leaning into the complexity of what is and being willing to go to the depths of what’s possible. Life is hard, yes, and it’s beautiful. BEING BIG and embracing wholeness is about saying yes to all of life, within and around us, no matter what life brings; and loving what is.
You have to believe in, connect with and see the potential/possibility within you (the grand view of who you are, what you are and who you want to be), to reach it and step into it every day. I call this BEING BIG, being who you are at the core of your being and honoring that bigness in you and others. By bigness, here, I mean power, your power, your truth, the power that we all have access to when we know who we are, what we’re seeded for and choose to own it, live it and embrace it. Magic happens when we choose to be this kind of BIG and, therefore, powerful and whole.
If you want to learn more about how you can BE BIG and embrace wholeness, join Katherine and Complexity & Depth Coach Dori Klass for our next LinkedIn Live episode of Authentic Conversations with Entrepreneurs on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 pm ET.