This is a powerful thought experiment prompt that could reveal far more about who your are, now during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, than at any other time.
The easiest way to complete this prompt would be to think large.
For example, as a condition of the shutdown and stay at home mandates, what have you seen revealed that’s been hidden or forgotten? How have the layers of the onion have peeled back to reveal aspects of society, the economy, and human behaviour?
Have you noticed that healthcare workers are incredibly underpaid and, up until now, undervalued? Have you really understood how bad homelessness and mental health issues truly are as you notice random individuals roaming the streets? Have you read about the utterly selfish actions of seemingly intelligent people and businesses?
For the purpose of personal transformation, focus on what scares you the most with this question.
Why not make the choice to see yourself for who you really are, during this disruptive, unique, and existential moment in time and ask,
If ever there were a time to tell the truth, what do I need to say? Who do I need to say it to? Why have I avoided speaking this truth for so long?
By absolute necessity, we are keeping apart from one another by two metres to save lives.
As responsible citizens, we are staying at home, away from friends, family, lovers, and the people we see week-in-and-week-out who we know by sight, and maybe or maybe not by first name. The people we now see are those we hardly know at all but who appear behind plexiglass, wearing a protective face-mask or other personal protective gear, while they serve our needs as grocery store clerks, bank tellers, independent shop keepers, building cleaning staff, and so on.
The current majority of social connections for anyone who is currently working from home, or has been laid off and is staying at home, is either virtual or behind a barrier (a physical one like plexiglass, or the social agreement and respect for others by “social distancing,” which should instead be termed “physical distancing”). This lack of human physical contact has profound emotional consequences that we may or may not realize. If we add to this experience the conscious awareness that we should act as if we are asymptomatic and infected with the Novel Corona virus, my thought exercise question takes on a whole new level of urgency:
If ever there were a time to tell the truth, what do I need to say and to whom?
You might not find this a difficult question, or…
This could also be the sort of question that makes you feel immediately uncomfortable. You might get angry or feel depressed as you thinking deeply about your answer. There are many good and valid reasons for why we hold back and protect our deepest truths. Revealing our secrets or fears to others requires emotional vulnerability, personal responsibility, and courage.
As a personal leadership coach, I’m always working on myself as part of my personal and professional growth (which are really one and the same). I teach what I most need to learn and I risk teaching while learning as a way to develop new and stronger neuro associations (associating what I know with what I’m learning to more deeply reinforce new practices and behaviours).
My revelation and answer to this thought experiment is that I feel like an imposter.
For some time now I’ve been speaking and writing about what I’m calling, “Queer Leadership” which I intend to turn into a book. A couple of weeks ago I began reviewing what I’ve published thus far about Queer Leadership on my podcast, on my publication, Th-Ink Queerly on Medium, and in my book of aphorisms, “Think Queerly: Meditations & Critical Reflections On Liberating Humanity.”
Think Queerly: Meditations & Critical Reflections On Liberating Humanity | Darren Stehle
In my new book, Think Queerly, I advocate for inclusion and acceptance, as well as elevating consciousness - not just…
I began to consider the format and style that I will need to employ so that I can espouse my ideas… as a philosophy. While the ideas for this book is built upon the foundations of Taoism, I have not read any other authors making the same connections that I’m witnessing between Queerness and Taoism. Perhaps because of that influence, the aesthetic of this work — and what I envision as the necessary creative approach to reflect the layers of contemplative meaning that make up “Queer Leadership” — I begin to doubt myself, my ideas and my abilities.
Even as I see the words I’ve just written I begin to imagine other people reading the finished book and I feel fear. I am afraid of the criticism, condemnation, judgment, and accusations that I don’t have this training or that certification, and, “Who are you to write a philosophy?”
But I know that this fear comes from my gay shame and the deep-seated fear of being seen for who I really am. That fear has been a nemesis and limiting belief in my life, something that rears its head whenever I am most visible (in particular, publishing my ideas in words or on my podcast). Thankfully, I’ve been aware of this pattern of behaviour for enough years to understand it for what it is enough to manage it. However, it’s still a primal reaction based on a narrative formed over many years during childhood and adolescent development.
I see my experience of imposter syndrome as an important, personal revelation that helps me remain humble and to continue with my own transformation.
I can only be who I am, not what others expect of me. When I come from my deepest place of courage, from the heart of who I am — my creative uniqueness, my wisdom, and my difference — then I am not an imposter. I am a fully realized human being as worthy and equal as any other. I feel compelled to share my ideas and to demonstrate being the change I want to see in the world — whatever the reception.
If ever there were a time to tell the truth, that is mine.
“Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.
— Tao Te Ching, Ver. 36. Tr. Stephen Mitchell
Darren is a leadership coach in Toronto, Canada who helps his clients to connect and embrace their uniqueness and freely create the life they want. He writes and podcasts regularly about Queer Leadership.