Everyone has a dark side. You know what I’m talking about – that part of your personality you try to hide from others. Whether it’s when you get flustered, stressed, bored, disengaged or some other trigger, and another side of you takes over. The next acts can vary: you interrupt others, speak boldly, step on other’s toes, fall into the backdrop, become a ‘yes’ man or woman, neglect to share, or something else. The results are straightforward: you become someone you don’t want to be. We all have this dark side and try our best to hide it at the office. But what if hiding one’s dark side isn’t the best strategy? What if there’s another way to defeat it?
Over the years I’ve worked with a variety of people who tried everything to keep their dark side in check. Some try simple methods, others wildly elaborate. Regardless, the results were consistent – the dark side prevailed. The reality is we are all human beings who make mistakes. Nothing can be done to totally eradicate mistakes, slips of the tongues, or unhealthy responses because they are what make us human!
Over time, some people will accept the uncomfortable reality that the dark side will always exist. The dark side is just as much a part of you as other parts of your personality. Once this is accepted, the next steps are rather simple yet counterculture. Embrace your dark side, learn to recognize it, and articulate it to others. The greatest leaders accept their flaws and are even willing to discuss them with others. It’s no longer about hiding the dark side, it’s about being honest with yourself and others that it exists. When you can share with another your dark side, such as ‘When I become stressed, I withdrawal from others and don’t communicate.’ it’s no longer a black mark of shame, but an acceptance of who you are as a person. If others see it, shame does not rise within you, rather an acknowledgement that this is you and it’s okay.
Here’s a secret people rarely share, other’s already know your dark side. It arises more than anyone would like to admit and others see it. Yet when we can become aware it raises its ugly head, rather than try to hide, we can respond differently. You take ownership of yourself, the good and the bad, and move forward. “Yes, I withdrew and failed to communicate. My mistake. What can we do to move forward?” When someone admits their mistake without excuse, followed by seeking to make it right, people rarely become defensive. Something amazing often happens, they accept you as you are.
Acceptance of one’s struggles signifies strength, not weakness. When you stop trying to hide or make excuses for yourself, the only response is moving forward. You are your worst critic often pointing out your mistakes more than others. When we take extreme ownership of ourselves, other people move beyond blame to solutions. The only person holding you back if yourself. My challenge for you today is this: are you willing to be yourself, the good and the bad? Being your true self, the holistic authentic self, is how you make a difference. Are you willing to step into the light?