Why Being Yourself is Hard

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

What hard thing is life asking you to do that you haven’t done yet?

Confession time: I’m going to tell you what I was avoiding, and still wrestling with.

Last autumn, I got a very sweet and tentative email from a coach I trained years ago. Here’s a piece of it:

“I feel a little like a heel sending you this email, but please understand that I’m coming from care… So here goes… If you haven’t done research on your logo… In other words, if you built it yourself or had a company build it without getting customer feedback… You may want to. I dislike it so much that I feel a responsibility to let you know.”

I groaned a little, but mostly I laughed with gratitude. This was just the sign I needed. My current design is not even a 1.0. It’s more like a 0.1.

It’s a long story why, but I created the Clear Workspace, Open Mind online course, the website, and set up all its infrastructure in three months. I wasn’t going to have a logo except that a friend of mine had a crude vision and wanted to try his hand at Illustrator.

So, that was my very reasonable excuse for avoiding my arch nemesis: design. In content, it goes back to feeling like a klutz in middle school art. High-achievers like me tend to avoid anything we can’t completely rock. But in context, it goes back to never feeling like I fit in as a kid, and that I had to become someone else to get along with others. Maybe you can relate.

I realize now I was unconsciously glad I didn’t have time to do a “real design.” But it’d been niggling at me, and life spoke to me through this criticism.

It was time to do the thing I thought I couldn’t do.

I’ve helped hundreds of clients find their brand voices and identities. I know a lot about it, but it was time to take my own medicine, and that’s different.

There’s a lot to it: the time commitment, difficult creative decisions, finding the right people, the expense, etc. But the essence of the challenge that I think all people face is saying to the world in a deeply vulnerable way, “This is who I am” and risking painful rejection.

The fact is that I was hiding behind a crude design and a part of me loved it. I got to play safer and smaller than I was capable of. It protected me from risk and failure. It kept things more or less the same. But I didn’t realize any of this until I saw my designer’s first draft.

It scared me.

It scared me because I knew it was me, the best version of me, but I was only being that maybe ten percent of the time. The new design challenged me to be better, to step up, to risk bringing all of me to my work, without hiding.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” — Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas

Since the process began about two months ago, I’ve struggled with overwhelm, stress, existential fear, doubt, and anxiety.

“Will people respond to this?” “Whatever there’s nobody who resonates with my new direction?” “What if it doesn’t work?”

The answer to all of these questions that inevitably arise is to trust the process, trust life, and trust yourself. The biggest mistake people make in marketing is to try to appeal to everyone. If you don’t alienate some people, you’re not being yourself. Even the biggest brands in our world turn off large portions of the population. Trust that you’re worthy and good enough to have a place in the world without having to compromise who you essentially are. Trust the process, and so trust the outcome.

So, my new design is coming soon, and while I hope you like it, if you don’t I can live with that, too. In the meantime, here’s some food for thought, “Where are you hiding, holding back some essential aspect of yourself, to avoid rejection, and causing yourself suffering as a result?” Life rewards risk. See where it takes you.

P.S. I couldn’t announce something this big without giving you at least a little bit of a teaser. Here’s a glimpse at my new logo and a taste of what’s to come over the next few weeks.

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