There was a time in my life when I was heavily engaged in a lot of mergers & acquisitions work. Since this kind of work is the very definition of "team effort," I developed a close relationship with a few of the advisors at a local firm. In turn, they invited me to attend a seminar about trends in mergers & acquisitions that year. As the lone in-house counsel at my company at that time, I never had the chance to interact with that many other attorneys, so I was buoyed by the prospect of a little networking. I was also grateful for the chance to break up the monotony of my work week by taking a morning off to attend.
It felt like a big deal, so when the morning came, I dressed in my smartest pair of black trousers and a freshly pressed blouse with thin blue, pink and yellow stripes. I thought a blazer would be too fussy, so I accessorized with a leather laptop satchel, high heels and self-consciousness.
I walked into a typical hotel conference room to find two hundred attorneys mingling, eating donuts, chugging coffee and shuffling past each other to reach their seats. Eventually, I made my way to a seat as well and got out my notebook. I was seated almost all the way in the back, which is unfortunate at my height. I craned my neck and realized that from my vantage point, I was looking out over a sea of attorneys between me and the presenter’s PowerPoint slides.
A sea of gray and black.
Not even navy blue.
Navy blue was, apparently, not conservative enough for most M&A lawyers. Oh my GOSH.
I spent the next three hours learning about leveraged debt and questioning my entire existence.
Embracing Your Self Expression
Self-expression is any outward-extending language of individuality and uniqueness. It can be helpful to meditate on all of the different ways in which you communicate to the world "who you are," especially as many of our most important forms of self-expression tend to be subconscious. Becoming aware of how we communicate our inner selves to the outside world is a barrier-breaking exercise. Simply bringing awareness to how we present ourselves is powerful and can be a catalyst for positive change. Out of all the people who walk into a room, you should know yourself the very best!
Here are questions to meditate on or journal about to help you to get in touch with your true self.
Ask Yourself About Presentation
What posture do you elect when standing up?
What posture do you elect when entering a room?
Do you enter a room with your head raised or eyes lowered?
What posture do you have when you shop for groceries or go about mundane tasks?
Do you lead with your heart, with your chest open?
Do you smile at strangers? Why?
What posture do you select when you meet someone new?
Do you have a tendency to cross your arms?
Do you have a tendency to physically reach out to the new people you meet? How?
Ask Yourself About Appearance
What are you wearing right now? How does it make you feel?
Do you style your hair? In what manner? Why have you chosen that manner?
Do you wear make-up?
What make-up or other cosmetics make you feel attractive?
Do you feel that cosmetics cover flaws? Which flaws?
Do you try to emulate another person, either consciously or subconsciously? Who?
Do you admire any particular celebrities for their style or manner of dress?
What do you think your appearance says about you?
Do you dress like your social peer group? What about your work peer group?
Do you feel you have enough time to present yourself the way that you want?
Do you feel that you have enough money to present yourself the way that you want?
Ask Yourself About Language and Sound
How do you speak to others?
How do you speak to your family?
How do you speak to your colleagues?
How do you speak to your superiors at work?
What tone of voice do you use?
Is your voice soft or loud?
What kinds of words do you choose?
Do those words come naturally, or are your speaking to others in way that you hope conveys a trait which you may or may not find authentic (e.g. trying to sound "smart" to a coworker or "assertive" to a boss.)
What does your internal dialogue sound like?
Do you speak to yourself with kindness?
Would you speak to another person the way you speak to yourself?
Do you feel that you have enough space and time to properly choose words?
Ask Yourself About The Written Word
When do you write?
Do you keep journals?
If so, what kinds of topics dominate your entries?
Do these topics align with what you value most in your life?
Do you send e-mails or letters in relation to work?
How do you address your coworkers or clients?
Do you send handwritten letters to the people that you love?
Are most of your written communications texts?
Do you like to use pictures instead of words? What emojis do you use most often?
Do these pictures or emojis have positive or negative connotations?
Do you express carelessness by having a lot of improper grammar or misspellings?
Do you ask for what you want directly?
Do you leave matters for others to "figure out" on their own?
Do you feel that you are able to be both honest and kind about challenging topics?
Skim a recent text conversation with someone important to you. Are you happy reading this? Did it make you laugh? Was there conflict? Do you see a path where your words either diminished or escalated the conflict?
Do you find that your apologize for things inappropriately (e.g. "Sorry I didn't send this to you sooner, but here is the monthly report.") Do you find that you keep people at arms' length via terse or formal responses? Do you invite people to respond positively to you, through courtesy and gratitude?
Ask Yourself About Creative Expression
Do you have any artistic pursuits?
Do you paint, draw or color?
Do you crochet or macrame?
Do you like antique furniture?
Do you engage a performance art, like singing, comedy or dance?
You do have a You Tube channel or Instagram page that serves as a creative outlet?
Do you want to shoot movies or make short films?
Do you like to design fashion, objects or buildings?
Do you like to collect anything?
Do you bake or cook for leisure?
What colors are you drawn to?
What types of raw materials do you love?
Do you find ways to bring your favorite creative expressions into your daily life?
Do you have a pocket sketchbook or notebook, or a bedstand notepad?
Ask Yourself About Defining Experiences
Can you describe yourself in five words?
What experiences have you had that are unique among your peers?
Have you traveled to an unusual or special place?
Have you struggled with an ailment or condition?
Have you taken a unique pathway to your present residence or career?
Have you established a relationship that seems unique, such as with an individual much older or younger than you, or from a completely different country or socioeconomic sphere?
What unique gifts or talents do you feel you are endowed with?
Have you felt drawn to a certain thing, structure, place or animal?
Do you judge your ideas as "good" or "bad?"
Do you give yourself permission to be surprised, shocked, or embarrassed by your ideas?
Do you forgive yourself for any internal "darkness" that comes to light when you create?
Do you use self-expression in ways that you find healing or productive?
Are you afraid that other people will judge you for the things that make you "you?"
Who do you love most in this world? How would you describe those people? Do you see those same traits in yourself?
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I've included stories, anecdotes and useful tips I've gained over my career as an Entrepreneur, Board Member, Executive and Senior Counsel. I hope you can find ways to navigate to your own dreams by learning from my experience! Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your own stories. Stay inspired!