The False Self Series, Part 7: Not Speaking Up

I recently listened to an Emotional Healthy Leader Podcast episode by Pete Scazzero (The September 6 episode, Silencing the Seductive Voice of Your False Self) that greatly impacted me. In the episode, Pete said, “one of the most destructive temptations leaders face is living and leading from the veneer of the false self.” He then listed ten examples of how this can happen. 

These examples made sense to me — and I think they’ll resonate with you too. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll talk about all ten. I am doing this because overcoming the false self is the best way to head into 2023. Leadership is about doing things with and through other people, so leading yourself past your false self is step one to leading effectively.

The False Self Series, Part 7: Not Speaking Up

I was living by myself in Chicago. The year was 2005, and I was single — and frankly speaking, looking for my soulmate. My memory is fuzzy all these years later, but I think it was a friend from my grad class that first mentioned an online forum called “Craigslist.” And one of the most popular forums on Craigslist was “missed connections,” where people would share what they wish they’d said when they had a chance encounter with an attractive stranger. 

In case you aren’t familiar with Craigslist, let me give you an example to explain what I mean: Let’s say you’re riding the L from one side of Chicago to the other, and you make eye contact with someone you find attractive — maybe they even smile — but you don’t say anything to them. Then, they hop off the L at the next stop, and you’ve missed your chance to start a conversation. You might decide to post to “missed connections” about the situation in the hopes of making a connection and getting another chance. 

What struck me about Craigslist back then was why someone would post something like that on the Internet! With the benefit of a bit of time and maturity, however, I realize now that people were sharing both humor and regret. And while you may not regret your missed encounter on the L for the rest of your life, other regrets can fester and become part of your life’s story. 

The Pitfalls of Putting Your False Self Forward

Speak up. That’s the focus of today’s post — I’ve found that having trouble speaking up may indicate that you are living out of a false sense of self. Here’s what I mean: 

As I wrote last week, the false self is often the person we beat up for not being “good enough.” It is the “us” we hold back because we fear being rejected. Maybe we act out in a way that, we think, makes us more likable. But in reality, this is not us. It is just us playacting, trying to be someone we are not. This means that the “self” that speaks up to the person we are attracted to might be false. 

I say this because one of the most important moments of my life started on a platform waiting for an L in May of 2005. The girl I was into — Adele — was on the phone trying to convince me to come to a twenty-something church group that met at Joe’s Bar. I was all in, but she was going to be late. As an introvert, I struggled (and continue to struggle!) in situations where I know no one. The last thing I wanted to do was go somewhere by myself where I didn’t know anybody. Talk about a place where my false self would come out due to my own insecurity! 

Adele had already been brutally honest that she wasn’t looking for a serious relationship with me. I tell you this so you don’t judge what happened next: I walked into Joe’s and found a friend from grad school. Thank the Lord, I thought! Then, a few minutes later, in walked the rest of my life. Of course, I didn’t know it then. But after Sarah sat down and we talked for a while, I had a strange sense that this was one of those before-and-after moments. Everything that has followed has certainly been part of my after.

The Power of Authentically Speaking Up

I’ll save the rest of the story for some other time. But the reason I’m telling you this story is this: I know that my conversation with Sarah “worked” that night because I was my real self. Oddly, strangely, and perhaps even divinely, my guard was down because my crush-slash-friend Adele was coming. There was no pressure to meet someone — I could just be me. And Adele saw it too. Or, as Sarah and I have joked ever since, Adele saw her way to get rid of me! 

What’s the implication for leadership? Leaders are worth following because they speak up. We all know this. But the kinds of leaders worth following speak up from a place of authenticity and security. They are confident in their ideas without being bossy or know-it-alls. In short, they are not playacting for the world to see because doing so would just be that, acting. 

God made you as you are. 

So be you. 

Speak up from a place of authenticity, and you’ll be someone worth following.