Does true self expression in entrepreneurship really matter, as long as you’re masterful at your offer?
“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” ~George Bernard Shaw
I am working with two entrepreneur coaching clients who share many things in common: fierce intelligence, a servant leader’s heart, a willingness to work incredibly hard, and a true mastery of their craft.
One is unapologetically (and kindly) herself; she continues to out herself and reveal where she is scared, resistant to change, frustrated, overwhelmed, and fearful when facing uncertainty. She will also boldly declare what and whom she loves, what lights her up, what resonates with her, and what profoundly inspires her.
I can easily see the art of whom she is and find her expressive vulnerability to be fresh air. I often experience an electric range of emotions when talking with her—it is an adventure to go on a conversational ride together. Up, down, sideways, and inside out…she gives me the full and raw experience of what it means to be her.
Filtering True Connection
My other client has perfected a series of filters through which she screens every thought, idea, comment, business move, and decision. In any moment, she could choose her family filter, her appeasing filter, her pleasing filter, her upbringing filter, and/or her control filter. She expends vast amounts of energy each day trying to second guess her innate wisdom and intuition and rely upon what she thinks the world wants from her.
Over the course of many months, I have been able to excavate her true self, pebble by pebble, and see the full range and brilliance of whom she is—unplugged. When I name and describe certain aspects and qualities of her aloud, she reacts initially with surprise and delight at being truly seen. Her giddiness quickly fades, though, into a mix of horror and shock that a piece of the greater puzzle of her is now exposed in the wild. Her self expression slipped. She gets antsy and immediately tries to rein in how much of her I can see.
Guess which one of these entrepreneurs is rocketing toward the stratosphere in her business? Which one readily connects with clients, drawing them to her like happy honey bees wanting to sit upon the bold colors of each petal of her?
Which one gets to the end of a pitch with warmth and humor, feeling as if she has won the business to only find out the client only occasionally buys or commits?
The Magic of Self Expression
We entrepreneurs and creators make the same mistake, over and over: we forget that our best marketing elixir and magic making is US.
The unvarnished, unfiltered us.
We forget that our creative self expression and our businesses at their best (and worst)—our art—is a mirror of whom (and how) we are…
The many ways we choose to fill our hearts and souls with song, poetry, beauty, and connection with nature and ourselves. The time we offer our ragged bodies to rest and recover. The gentle, yet firm boundaries we keep to protect our sacred energy. The quiet in which we can hear ourselves think and remember what we have forgotten or pushed aside.
You can smile at me through tired eyes that do not lift and crinkle, and I will not trust you or believe you are happy or sincere.
You can talk fast and push bonuses and deadlines to sign up, and I will not give you my credit card number.
You can hustle and holler, but if what you are saying (and whom you are) are hollow, or do not ring true…I will walk on.
Similarly, your creativity (as well as your unique, competitive edge) will get up and go, too.
We are not buying from you because we cannot afford it, or are not interested. We are not buying from you because we cannot see you. The real you. Your art.
Whom you are is what you create. And it is in that reflection that we can fall in love with your art as you.
We entrepreneurs can believe so much in business mechanics, amping our platforms, and finding productivity hacks. Our time and attention are much better spent in discovering the center of our broken hearts and showing THAT to the world.