I like to own the stage. I channel my inner showman, and turn on the razzle dazzle. I’m really one jazz-hand number away from selling tickets. And, inevitably, whether in a public arena where I’m teaching leadership, or in a quiet coffee mentoring meeting, that stage persona always leads to the same question.
“When did you become so fierce?”
To be fair, I’m not always called fierce. Sometimes, it’s “bold.” Other times, it’s “strong.” Most often, it’s variations on “daring” or “brave” or “confident.”
But, here’s my dirty little secret: I’m none of these things, and I’m especially not fierce. But, I know how to play fierce on TV.
So, what’s the difference? You see, fierce is not my fundamental state. Don’t get me wrong; I am THE friend you want in the foxhole. As a team member of mine, I will fight for and with you as if you were my own flesh and blood. But, fierce connotes a level of confidence that the flesh-covered bag of insecurities I call my psyche does not even remotely recognize. I was never that girl growing up, and vestiges of that social awkwardness and self-doubt are still relatively close to the surface.
And that’s the difference: perception versus reality.
Over time, I’ve learned that, from the outside, I look like I have my shit together. I mean, really together. No one sees what it takes to make the magic happen. Hell, even my spouse of 20 years thinks that mani/pedi, facial, hair color, cut, and blowout I get on a semi-regular basis takes about an hour in total. (Shhh, let’s keep that between us.) And, yet, objects in Facebook may appear better than in real life. It is an unrepentant truism that everyone around you rates your level of organized fierceness not through the lens of your reality, but through the lens of their own. They perceive that you are better than them because they feel that their life is not all it can be.
And, this leaves you with a fundamental choice: you can spend your days tearing others down by unilaterally agreeing with them and husbanding the oxygen in the room only for yourself, or turn that perceived wonder back on them like a mirror that shines a fiery reflection of their own greatness and illuminates their way forward.
Simply put: if someone thinks you are great, and you tell them they are great, they will be great.
So, you want to be fierce? Go make people great.