When this blog is shared on social media, I’ll be standing on stage in Chicago delivering a keynote on innovation, leadership and partnerships. I’m sure I will be poised, strong and all smiles. I’m sure I’ll be keeping it together. The truth is that I’m struggling big time. The outside world sees someone who is put together and on a mission. That image is true but there’s more to the picture. Recently, I shared the highlights of what’s going on with a friend and his response was “Wow, you’re going through so much right now. I’m kind of glad to know you’re human, though.” He’s right. I am human. Not superwoman. I’m a thinking, feeling, breathing human and I need to be honest about that instead of only sharing the badass, take-no-shit version that takes on the world. I owe it to myself. I owe it to those who know me. I owe it to those I mentor and coach. I owe it to those who want to be like me.
My family is experiencing a season of pain inflicted by the powerful grip of mental illness. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s raw. The illness impacts not only the individual but the family and village of people surrounding the individual. It’s stealth. It’s powerful. It’s scary. The details of my family’s situation aren’t necessary. The understanding that I am on the complicated life roller coaster right now is important. It’s a ride but not always a fun one. There’s some comfort in knowing that everyone in the world gets to ride at some point. Everyone goes through seriously tough times at some point in their life. It’s easy to forget this fact in a world of carefully cultivated social media feeds. We are all human. We need to be gentle with ourselves. We need to be kind to each other. We need to be quick with empathy, not quick to judge. We will never know the full human story of everyone around us. Remember that.
As I’m weathering this season, I realized that I’m coaching others on things I need to do myself. Just as I coach leaders on how to empower others, I need to empower myself and my family. I talk about transparency and authenticity but simultaneously grit my teeth and smile when someone asks how I’m doing. I don’t want to unload. I don’t want to break down. I don’t want to share the truth. And it’s just too much. I work with leaders and tell them to share, solve, participate and expand to empower their teams. They need to share information generously, so people realize what’s going on. They need to let people solve problems when and where they occur and let those that must implement decisions participate in making decisions. I show them how to empower others by expanding roles and responsibilities with clarity and support. I teach these things with passion yet abandon these fundamentals in my own life. I don’t share information generously and frequently take on everything. I embark on solving problems and making decisions. I can whip up a 3-pronged attack plan yet forget to breath. My oldest son told me once that he’s “the luckiest kid in the world to have such a badass mom.” I’m flattered that I’m his rock and the family rock. It’s my job. I’m a wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, neighbor. However, I’m doing myself and everyone else around me a disservice by not being authentic and practicing what I teach.
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” -John F. Kennedy