When I was 33 years old, I went to a week long medical conference in Hickory, North Carolina as part of my training to pass my Family Medicine Board exam. Thankfully, I passed that year, thanks to the VERY BORING training and months of hours of study I did while nursing a baby and taking care of a toddler and two school agers. Those were good times.
The first day of the conference, I walked into the room and it was a sea of gray and navy and black suits with slim briefcases and those fancy pens with the nibs. 80% or more were men and there was a very serious vibe hovering over the room.
I walked in like Elle Woods walking into Harvard Law, minus the dog and the expensive suit, my papers spilling over from my colorful tote which was holding my 10 tubes of lip gloss and scads of colored pencils and pens and highlighters and Sharpies. Wearing a summer dress and wedges and a denim jacket. I did not look like any of the other physicians there. NONE of them.
I sat down by a very respectable doctor and his very respectable and tidy leather binder with a steno pad in it. Pulling out my inspirational notebooks and my plethora of colorful writing utensils, he probably wished I’d sat somewhere else, except that by the end of the day, we were chums and I knew EVERYTHING possible to know about him—his wife’s name, how many kids he had, where he had trained, where he was practicing, what struggles he was facing in his town, and many more details.
Right away, I could tell he was shy and genuine and trustworthy and despite the fact that the two of us were NOTHING alike, I think we’d both say we were glad our paths crossed.
At first glance around that huge conference room, I felt self-conscious of who I was, maybe ashamed. I had thoughts like: I should be more serious, I should buy a suit, I should wear more navy and black, I should stop wearing so much make-up, I need a leather binder, I should stop using colored markers, I should, I should, I should.
Later when I set up my own family practice office, I did it like no one else I’ve known. The rooms were repainted and decorated. I bought lamps and artwork for the exam rooms and games and puzzles for the kids and I did it because that’s what came naturally to me.
I wasn’t trying to be a rebel. I just wanted to be a doctor like I would naturally be a doctor.
I couldn’t change how I was created, I could only make myself more of who I already was, focusing on what made me unique, what made me me.
It taught me something valuable about life. I’m never going to the best or the smartest at what I do but I’m the only person who can do what I do in the way I do it—whether that’s cooking dinner or blogging or writing a book or folding a load of laundry.
Not to say that we shouldn’t keep growing and learning because we absolutely need to improve our skills at life—things that make us better wives and moms and creatives and leaders. I spend a lot of time and money trying to do that.
BUT. My shoulds look different than they looked when I was just wanting to fit it. You know them well, they’re the shoulds that tell us we should change who we are to be more like whoever else we’re idolizing at the moment. My shoulds now look like: I should learn better people skills, I should take a course on business for moms, I should learn how to quilt, I should take a nutrition course, I should take a course on finances, I should read that book on parenting, and so on and so forth to infinity.
We all need better skills.
But we need you to be you.
And we need you to keep learning so that you can serve the world with the best version of who you were created to be.
And that’s what you need from me too.
When I put away my fears at that conference and let my real true self shine, I focused on the doctor sitting next to me and honored him, instead of spending the whole conference focusing on myself, trying to figure out how to fit in with a sea of black suits, I did what I do best—used my passion for people to show interest and honor to him. I would never have done that if I wanted to act like everyone else in the room.
And trust me, sometimes I still try to hide who I am. I’m still learning.
But what is different about you and me is what makes us special, not what is the same.
Use your uniqueness to honor and serve others with more passion!
One of the things I study to get better at being myself and at honoring others is through personality study. I’d love to know what personality tests you’ve taken and what your results were.
I’m a Blue with yellow and red qualities and ZERO green qualities. My faults are all Blue.
(I’m making the girls take Marc Accetta’s color personality test as we speak.)
I’m an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs but I’m probably actually an extroverted intr0vert because I need a LOT of downtime.
I’m an Enneagram type 4.
I’d love to know yours!!