ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE...
It is. And we are "players" on it - however reluctant, at times. But maybe that's because we make it - being a "player" - harder than it needs to be. I hear what I call "negative typecasting" from people just about every day. "I"m not the 'creative type.'" "I'm not the 'operational type'" "I'm not the 'salesman type." "I'm not the type to stand up in front of people and talk. I'd rather kill myself!" Boy, I hear that one just about every day. Like yesterday. "No kidding?" I said to the guy who said it. "How'd you find that out? Was it written on your birth certificate? You know, 'length 25 inches, weight 7 pounds 5 oz., Not the Stand Up in Front of People and Talk Type?'" He cracked up.
"Negative typecasting" crops up out of nowhere. We've got to be vigilant...and reject it, whether it comes from ourselves - or somebody else. I worked with a wonderful, extremely talented young woman a few years ago named Laura whose boss was considering her for a major promotion...but felt she needed to enhance her "executive presence." "She's got all the right stuff on the inside," he said, "She just doesn't show it on the outside." Laura spoke very quietly, almost inaudibly at times. She didn't look people in the eye, either. Plus, she had a tendency to hunch. At one point as we were working on her voice, I said, "It's time for you to speak out. You have so much good stuff to share! People need to hear it!" "I know but I can't," she said. "I've always been the shy type." "Really?" I said. "How do you know that?" "Well, my teacher in the fourth grade told me. She said she'd never seen such a shy girl..." "Oh," I said. "Interesting. And you believed her, I guess." "Sure, she was my teacher." Laura said. "Well, I don't believe it," I said. "Not for a minute. That's just 'negative typecasting.' It happens all the time. But there's actually no truth to it. Unless you 'buy it,' of course. Unless you believe it. If you believe it - and act on that "label," it'll be true. Does that make sense?" Laura was mulling that over. "Sort of..." she said.
"Okay, good! I'll take that as a yes," I said. "So we're going to pretend you're in a play, okay? And we're going to cast you in the part of someone who is outgoing, even gregarious, someone who's running for office, someone who needs to be heard, got it? You're going to stand tall and proud. You're going to look people straight in the eye to prove you mean exactly what you say. You're even going to smile. You know why?" Laura shook her head. "Because you're actually going to be enjoying yourself." "But I'm not like that," Laura interrupted. "Not true! You just haven't acted like that," I said. "So are you game? Hey, it's just a play..." Laura was game. In fact, she threw herself into her new "part" and even "overacted" at times just for the fun of it. And it was fun....
Laura really was a great student. She even practiced her "part" in her private life - with her husband and friends. They were delighted and had fun "coaching" her. Within a few weeks' time she actually began to "pitch" her ideas and recommendations to me with vigor and conviction. She "walked in" to our pretend meetings with her head back, her shoulders squared and positive energy all around her. She smiled. She spoke out. I was thrilled. Actually, I felt as if I were playing the part of Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady!" Remember when he shouted to his colleague, Pickering, "I think she's got it!!" And she did "get it"...including the promotion. And she "kept it." She no longer thought of herself as the "shy type." Nor did anyone else. She wasn't. Actually, she never had been. She simply acted as if she were.
Here's the thing: Very few so-called "personality traits" are cast in stone. Yes, we might be "born with" a tendency to be a little more this or a little more that. But almost nothing is irrevocable. Just about anything - including standing up in front of people and talking (and being good at it) - can be learned...and actually enjoyed. All it takes is giving up the old "negative type" and re-casting yourself in a part that serves your purposes - both professionally and personally. And it's interesting, we become the way we act. So if we act as if we're strong, impressive, effective - even charismatic - we can actually begin to own those qualities. Our personalities are so much deeper and richer that we realize. Most of us have only scratched the surface of what we're capable of expressing - thanks to making up our minds at an early age that we're a certain "type" - and that's that. But that isn't that. There's no way it is. There's only the way you say it is. You are the way you act. And you get to make that up. So make it up good.
Because Shakespeare was right. "All the world's a stage..."
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