What are your "tells" that you're speaking to outside expectations and approval, rather than from internal grounding?
A big one for me is when I find myself using lots and lots of words.
A friend recently asked me who I work with. Five minutes into responding, I was just getting started. Truth be told, this question always brings up the part of me that wants to be all things to all people.
I was doing what I usually do in responding to this question: hedging my bets, saying this but simultaneously that — appealing to all possible audiences. I was heading off any possible criticism; trying to cover every possible base. I was fishing for the “right” answer and wanting him to know I had answer. I wanted to avoid his judgment and to affirm my connection with him, which some part of me believed would happen if we agreed on everything.
The words were cover. With every nicely crafted sentence I was weaving another layer of insulation around myself. The insulation is sometimes dyed in gorgeous colors and covered in glitter, but it still muffles what’s inside. I get lost in it, even pleasantly lost. But lost all the same. I can’t see anything clearly.
My friend left and I wanted to have the verbal version of a cleanse. Get rid of all the grease and filler. Get back to clean and simple.
So here’s my verbal re-do.
"Who do you work with?"
"Women who are struggling to be themselves."
Might the answer that feels honest be different 6 months from now? Maybe. But this is what is honest today.
And that is enough.