Self- awareness is a huge gift. It shines a gentle light on the shadows of our subconscious and helps bring forth the parts of ourselves we have repressed for far too long. When we re-integrate these lost selves back into our psyche, we become radically more alive.

Without this self-awareness, we will perennially struggle to develop our character and the self-knowledge needed to uncover our passion. Lasting change will elude us forever.

Self-enquiry is brave work.

Despite what most gurus and self-development heroes proclaim and promise, we cannot fix ourselves without doing the work. Deep and lasting change is complicated.

Positive psychology certainly has its place and can help us achieve our material goals by motivating us forward. But with all this achievement, we often loose sight of the one thing we desperately long for: genuine connection to life. We may seem to have all the accoutrements of a “successful” life, filled with material and intellectual gains, but still suffer acute loneliness; an outsider, rarely feeling a part of anything meaningful. How many times have you reached a goal only to think “what next?” The goals we achieve are often pleasing in the short-term but fail to provide us with lasting satisfaction.

So, how do we transform our lives and find our place of belonging where our creative and emotional needs are actually met? How do we begin to speak from a place of power and truth? How do we believe in ourselves when our value seems endlessly determined by our accolades?

The first step is to stop this relentless seeking outside of ourselves and to start looking within. We must undertake the hero’s journey into our subconscious to uncover our deepest values and befriend our multi-faceted self.

This is courageous stuff. We may discover parts of ourselves we never knew existed and will start to realise how much potential we actually have – and have squandered. By journeying inwards, we can at last become clearer on who we really are under the everyday façade. And with this clarity, we begin to see where we really need to go.

Do not under-estimate the power in discovering a self we may have hitherto quashed. The most compelling people are those who are hugely self-aware. They use their deep inner knowledge to truly connect with life. And their words and actions have the power  to move mountains.

To become a brilliant communicator, we first need to define our values and connect to our deepest convictions. We need to ask ourselves the right questions and listen to our own thoughts and feelings. When we listen to ourselves without judgement, we start to realise that who we are matters, and we begin to act from a more inspired place within. When our words are connected to our inherent value, we cannot fail to compel others to think a little differently. We develop a symbiotic relationship with others laying fertile ground for new and exciting opportunities.

I have found that the number one thing that stands in our way of powerful communication is simply this: our fear of fear itself. Even those who seem the most confident on the outside, particularly those who show little vulnerability, are often hiding a pervasive inner fear, and in suppressing this fear, they sabotage their best attempts at change. Hating to feel exposed for fear of shame, they construct fabulously stubborn veneers through which they interact with the world. But all they really achieve is a huge disconnect from their own power. Vulnerability is strength, not weakness.

Our fear is not the problem. It is human to feel vulnerable. What suffocates our creative voice is actually just our run from fear. And many of us spend our entire lives running.

We need to stop the escape. Empowering ourselves involves becoming aware of the exact moments when we run and daring instead to stop and turn the inner lights on. As we gently peer under our defensive layers, we can start to challenge some of our questionable narratives around fear and then expand ourselves into new realms of self-expression.

There are many wonderful ideas posited through the ages by philosophers, writers and artists to help us to reflect on our fears and maybe even loosen their grip. But ideas alone are seldom a match for fear itself, especially when it is coursing through our veins, energetically holding us back from expressing who we really are in the moment.

Ideas and insights are important, but it is the synergy of these ideas with authentic human connection that spurs us to look directly into fear’s eye and turn our biggest foe into our closest ally. Reframing thoughts and perspectives is certainly helpful, but unless we can face our fear on an experiential level, embrace it, perhaps even come to accept it, we can never truly transform the way we communicate with others. With fear at the helm, we retreat behind our false masks and ultimately rob ourselves of the joy of genuine self-expression.

What is the antidote to our fear of fear?

The answer lies in daring to speak with a little self-exposure, a healthy dose of vulnerability, plenty of self-compassion and a knowing that you have your own back. There is nothing inherently wrong with us. We are not broken. We are simply human.

The kinder we are to ourselves and the more accepting we become of our uncertainty, the braver we feel to draw back the curtains to our hearts. Bit by bit, we can welcome our many hidden selves into our psyche and begin to speak with greater depth and power. Our words come alive because we come alive, and as we progress, we learn that we are safe to be ourselves without fear of failure. In fact, we will realise that our mistakes were our friends all along, warmly directing us into the moment and all it has to offer. Perfection has always been the antithesis of creativity. Failure can lead to moments of genious.

‘If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original’ – Sir Ken Robinson

Life will always be complex and challenging. People will criticise, attack and attempt to tear us down. But, if we believe in ourselves and refuse to let a single person diminish our spirit, we will continue to flourish. We have to be protective of our spirit, letting it shine without fear and irrespective of the energy of others.

So let’s stay open to the entire palette of human expression and embrace as much of it as we can. We may not be “perfect” and will not always succeed, but every experience is grist for the mill. We can use it to evolve and step into our greatness. We can embrace our fear, seize the moment and discover what lies beyond the edge.

Why look into the eye of fear at all? Indeed, in recent years, with the advent of pop psychology, quick fix therapies, NLP and other pseudoscience, it seems less popular than ever to want to truly grapple with our fundamental fears. We would much rather put a band-aid on our weeping wounds than acknowledge them, breath into them and transmute the energy therein into something more powerful. We let fear stare us down and we reach for the nearest drug.

But fear will never go away. It will pull at us and nag at our spirits like an itch we cannot scratch. We could keep on running, looking for the next fix, or we could stop, turn to face our fear and say – hello my friend, where have you been so long? Let us settle in for a time and have a conversation. Let us get to know each other. When we look fear in the eye and face our vulnerability head-on, we increase our compassion and learn to express ourselves in more enriching ways. We finally speak with truth because we feel it at the core of our very existence. Fear is the price we pay for this self-awareness, and self-awareness is the source of all growth.

“Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”

Edgar, King Lear, Shakespeare