What is the one thing you hide because you are so scared of what other people will think? What’s the thing that you really don’t want other people to discover about you?

That is your “dirty little secret”, and that is the one thing that most stands between you and your power, your purpose and your best life. It is also one of things that makes you human.

The truth is that we all have dirty little secrets that we don’t want other people to find out. However for men especially in business this is even more true.

An example of a dirty little secret

Steve is a senior business leader in a large international company. He is “successful” by many people’s standards as he makes excellent money, he has great vision and his team love him. On the outside he is a very confident, charismatic man.

However, Steve has a number of secrets that he spends a lot of time and energy hiding from other people. He feels isolated personally and professionally and feels quite lonely. He has problems in his relationships because of the hours he has to work. Steve is also scared of public speaking but has to do a lot of it in his job.

Possibly worst of all, he is scared of being found out as being an impostor or a fraud who shouldn’t be in a senior position. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Steve is extremely competent and capable, however, he secretly has poor self-esteem and believes he is not good enough.

Steve might sound extreme, but his story is far more common than we would care to admit. Sound familiar?

Why is this a problem?

If we all have these secrets, why is this a problem? Surely that’s just human nature?

The fact that we all have the secrets is the problem.

Steve doesn’t want to feel exposed, vulnerable or weak as he fears what his colleagues will think of him if they find out that he has fears and insecurities. He suspects that his colleagues in the boardroom also have insecurities, but because no one wants to feel exposed or vulnerable, they hide and mask their fears and do not talk about them.

These dirty little secrets are the white elephant in the room. It just isn’t acceptable for leaders in business, especially guys, to appear weak or vulnerable…or human.

How many times have you sat in a meeting feeling nervous and insecure, thinking you’re the only one who feels that way? However, if you really think about it you know that everyone else in that meeting is only human and have their own worries as well.

Keeping these fears secret takes a huge amount of energy, time and concentration.  It also exacts a toll on your self-confidence and self-esteem. These secret fears exert huge contrl and and stop you playing fallout. They stop you living your purpose and enjoying your best life because they would rob you of power.

The problem is not so much that you have the fear, but rather that it is secret.

Try this

I’m going to give you a principle to work with that was given to me by one of my teachers, Sonia Choquette. That principle is “if you name it, you claim it“. In other words, those fears and insecurities have less power over you when you name them out loud.

Obviously, getting past your “dirty little secrets” goes way beyond a single blog post. However, here is an activity you can try which will help to loosen the grip of these secret fears now.

Version 1 — the stretch version

Have a conversation with a person that you trust intimately — that could be trusted friend, a close colleague, a partner, even a coach or a therapist — and voice your worries and fears  to them. This only has to be to one person, but the act of speaking your fears out loud breaks the power of the secret and allows you to reclaim your power.

This has to be with someone that you trust, but the power of someone witnessing your vulnerability is hugely freeing and creates a high degree of connection with the other person. If this is one step too far, you could try the other version.

Version 2 — the easier version

This version of the exercise is certainly simpler and easier but still may not be easy. It is extremely powerful though, and is worth doing.

You will need to be in a room where you can close the door have some private time when you will not be disturbed. You will also need a mirror as you will need to look yourself in the eye for this exercise to really have clout. This time, speak your fears and your worries out loud while looking yourself in the eye in the mirror. In effect, you are acting as your own witness.

Don’t only speak about the things you are worried about, but also why you were worried about them or why they are fear.

You have to do this out loud though and doing in your head or on paper simply isn’t enough. This is, in effect, hiding out. Saying it out loud means it’s not a secret any more, even if the only person who is actually heard it is a person in the mirror.

The effect

Doing either of these exercises (or both if you really want to get on top of these fears) will loosen the grip that these fears have on you considerably. They simply won’t have the same power over you. This frees up not only energy, but also resources and choices that were previously available.

In other words, you reclaim your power and gain more freedom. That has got to be worth it.

[reminder]If you felt brave enough, what is the one fear or insecurity that you are ready to release?[/reminder]

Image Credit: Alon/Flickr