From the moment we are born much of our life experience is determined by our gender - challenge the gender divide at your peril. The aim of this Blog is to help improve gender equality and combat gender discrimination and harassment.
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I was introduced to a powerful little book by John Powell in 1974 when participating in the first of many personal development training programmes in the early 1970's.
In the book Powell says, "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am and you don't like who I am – Thats all I have." So we create masks – we present to people an image of ourselves that we think they want to see. That way we can avoid the risk of rejection. Because if I present a mask, and you reject that mask, I can always create a new mask.
I spent my life until I was 50 living a lie. I know I should have been born female, but I was not. So to express myself the way I felt, would have led to ridcule and rejection. Instead I tried to be the man everyone seemed to believe I should be, I missed out on so much. When I finally did change gender and showed people who I really was I did experience a huge amount of rejection and ridicule. But the joy I experienced from the real acceptance I encountered, the real friends who accepted me just as I was, was worth all the rejection.
There was another benefit. All my life I lived in fear of being outed, of people discovering my terrible secret self. Once I showed the world who I was, all other fears were easy to face. It was like going through my own room 101 and coming out of that experience was the most liberating I have ever encourntered.
I spend a lot of my time coaching people to speak in public and most people believe that speaking to a group of people is the number one fear. In fact very few people are really afraid of speaking in public, What they are afraid of is making a fool of themselves... ridicule, embarassment – and standing up in front of a group of people and speaking without any training is a pretty good way to guarantee embarassment and ridicule. The problem is that many of us had teachers at school who did not understand this and ritually embarassed us. So we grow up belieiving that we cannot speak to a group of people, when actually we are just trying desparately to avoid the early humuliating experiences of speaking in public.
There are consequences to being yourself – not everyone will thank you and you have to be prepared for the worst – but I found that when things were even worse than my worst fears, when it happened, it was never nearly as bad an experience as I had expected. Our greatest fear is actuallyfear itself.. As a speaker I have had every possible thing that can go wrong go wrong. I don't often make the same mistake twice, instead I try to use the experience to prevent it from happening again - which in turn helps me to be more confident and successful.