When I Hide Part of Myself I Hide All of Myself

budda-gardenBeing inauthentic shows up in many ways and I recently had an experience where it slapped me right in the face. Remember that business retreat I attended last month in Hawaii? During one of the group exercises, I was offered the opportunity to share a secret I have been holding onto for many years. In that moment I felt COMPELLED to tell the truth, knowing with certainty that the truth would set me free. No kidding. I had kept this secret close, believing that if you knew the truth you would think less of me. After sharing my secret, I felt a rush of relief, tears were running down my face and it brought the women in the room closer to me, it allowed for more connection. Contrary to my belief, I received love, compassion, and understanding from the group. I came home wanting to shout my secret from the roof tops but I was still scared, still holding back.

Feelings of shame are my obstacle and the hurdle of humiliation is one I have refused to jump over. I pride myself on being authentic and a truth teller and most of the time I show up as such. What I refused to acknowledge was the impact that keeping secrets has had on my internal sense of integrity. I forgot that my underlying belief that I was a fraud would stay with me as long as I was keeping secrets and feeling like a fraud would impact every move I made, personally and professionally.

I want to stand in my power and acknowledge my brilliance without the obstacle of feeling like a failure because eleven years ago I didn’t handle a significant business transaction with grace and ease. This is what happened.

About 2002 I knew my time with Making It Big was coming to a close. I was heading towards the twenty year mark, I was tired, and I didn’t know how to take the business to the next level. More importantly, my passion had waned and I had accomplished what I had set out to do. The business grew beyond my wildest imagination. I was very clear it was time for me to move on and I spent the next couple of years trying to figure out my exit strategy. (Sidebar, this story connects to why I support my clients to know what their exit strategy is long before they are actually ready to exit).

I was committed to keeping Marking It Big open because it was a beautiful, profitable, and politically important. I had 25 full time employees, supported a vibrant cottage industry, and had thousands of loyal customers. I offered my key employees an ESOP (employee stock open purchase) but there wasn’t enough interest to make it happen. Two customers were interested in purchasing the business but I didn’t think they had the chops to take it on and I didn’t want to set them up for failure. Keeping the business alive was my number one priority. As time went on, I exhausted my options and I was exhausted. The long and the short of it, my secret, is that out of desperation I ended up selling the business to a person I didn’t like and for a very small amount of money. The small amount of money is where my shame comes in, so I am compelled to tell you how much it was. I received $3000/mo for 12 months and the new owner assumed about $150,000 in debt. That’s it. Truth be told, after 20 years I received a pittance for my multimillion dollar business.

I have used “selling my business” as a sign of my success and this is where my feelings of being a fraud live. Yes, I did sell it, but the picture I painted was rosy. I didn’t lie about how much money I had been paid; I implied a positive transaction and relied on your imagination to do the rest.

Exiting Making It Big was a very painful process, on every level you could imagine. The end was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was the relief I felt letting go of the business because it was the right thing for me to do. The curse was being desperate to get out and the consequences of the decisions I made. Hindsight has removed some of the sting, but I still consider this to be the biggest failure of my adult life.