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A Year of Authenticity: What Happened When I Lost It and Tried Something New (Part 1 of 2)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 3:33 PM | Kevin Smith (Administrator)

December’s ATD-MAC theme is Authenticity. In this two-part series, Erin Lavery shares how she went from crisis to a new normal on a year-long journey to build Authenticity in her work and life. In Part One, Erin focuses on the crisis and beginning the journey. She shares 6 of the 10 commitments she made to herself to find better relationships, results, and realness in her work.

A Year of Authenticity:
What Happened When I Lost It and Tried Something New (Part 1 of 2)

by Erin Lavery

One year ago, I sat in a meeting at work where everyone (myself included) dug in a bit too much and it got messy and uncomfortable. On a stress scale of 10, I was a 17, and I realized in that moment that I had to make a choice. Either I could make a conscious effort to radically change my approach to work, or I could dive head first into total and complete burnout.

Let’s back up a bit and I’ll give you some history.

I’m a chronic do-er. StrengthsFinder calls it an Achiever. I call it waking up every morning at zero and needing to earn my right to a ten out of ten (or higher, I mean, let’s not limit ourselves after all). Brene Brown calls it a “hustle for worthiness”.  I have lived my life firmly and totally believing the lie that my value is derived from my ability to be the best fill-in-the-blank [Best worker. Best designer. Best facilitator. Best wife. Best mother. Best friend. I have always operated under the assumption that if I was the best, I could hustle my way past Imposter Syndrome and into real worthiness. I imagined I would wake up one day and feel like I had finally earned it (respect, value, intelligence, you name it).

So, back to the pivotal meeting.

 I was presenting a program design that I had put my whole self into. In my mind, this wasn’t just a program. It was the quintessential representation of my Best Self. It was the Thing that would catapult me to worthiness. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well.  People had questions, feedback, ideas, opinions . . . all those benign things that people have that make end products better.

And. I. Lost. It. Inside.

Every suggestion wasn’t a suggestion. It was a challenge to my ability … my knowledge … my worthiness to be at the table. And I believed it. I was left beat-up, broken, and raw.

And here was the moment of choice: Either I shut down, or I change up.  I chose to change up.

I started by making one commitment to myself. That commitment was “I will be curious first.” Instead of jumping in, diving in, hustling, clawing, and scraping it together, I decided I would only be curious. I adopted the phrase “I’m having a thought that X. I wonder why I’m having that thought.” And that is how it started. Every day, every time making the conscious choice to say onl“Hmmm…I’m having a thought that X. I wonder…”

From curiosity, I dove into showing up. From showing up to worthiness. From worthiness to authenticity. And on and on. And every moment I make a choice for the following growing list of things.

Erin’s Commitments (Part 1):

1.     I will be curious first. Instead of judging or trying to change what I am thinking, I will get curious as to what I’m thinking/feeling and why. I will not try to change it. I will only be curious about it.

2.     I will show up for today only. Every morning when I wake up, I wake up for that day and not all the others in the future. This commitment came when I decided to start running again. My immediate thought was “when am I going to do it? Should I wake up early every morning? Run after the kids go to bed? I have to plan this out.” And it turns out, I don’t. I just have to do it today.

3.     I will believe I am worthy now. Brene Brown said it best when she wrote, “Worthy now. Not worthy if. Not worthy when. Worthy now.” When I’m at work, I will believe I am enough. When I am able to do this, I put down the burden of trying to prove myself and open myself to more creativity, productivity, and connection.

4.     I will right-size situations. As I explained with my project last year, it was no longer just a project. It was indicative and representative of my whole ability as a professional. When I start to get that feeling of the bigness of something, it’s a red flag to me that I’m blowing it out of proportion. This always leads to heartache and disappointment. Instead, I make a conscious effort to right-size something back to what it really is (and isn’t). “This isn’t my Life’s Defining Moment. This is just a meeting.” “This isn’t my Intelligence. It’s just an idea.” 

5.     I will wait to act. Just recently, a friend told me “The more chaotic things are, the more still I get.” When something happens and things feel chaotic, I am forcing myself to wait a day, an hour, sometimes just 10 minutes before I act. You won’t believe me until you start trying it, but you would be amazed at the number of great innovations that surface when you wait just 10 minutes to act, reflect, and get curious.

6.     I will act from what I value and not what I fear. When it is finally time to act, I have made a commitment to choose the action that fulfills and restores what I value rather than simply avoids what I fear. This started with having to understand what I value and what I intend to build in the world with the time that I have.

Join us next week for Part Two of “A Year of Authenticity” as Erin shares the 4 commitments she made to her team that led to more fulfillment in her work and better outcomes for her organization.


Erin is a Learning & Development Specialist focused on Leadership Development at UW Health. She holds a Master of Science in Adult and Continuing Education Leadership through the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Literature and Pedagogy from Calvin College. In addition, Erin is a certified trainer for Development Dimensions International and Crucial Conversations as well as a certified Life Coach for students with disabilities. Erin currently serves as the VP of Marketing for the ATD-MAC. 

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