It’s Not Enough to Know Yourself – You Have to BE Yourself Too

JessPettittJessica Pettitt ( is an expert on social justice, diversity, and organizational effectiveness. She is also a nationally known speaker, facilitator, trainer, and consultant. She works with organizations that “want to have tough conversations with humor and a sense of history.”

I recently heard Jessica address the Northern California chapter of the National Speakers Association. Her topic was “Be Yourself; Everyone Else is Taken.” Here I want to share just a few of her insights about how to find what makes you special and share your gifts with the world.

First you have to get over the feeling that you don’t matter, and just get to work sharing your values and your experiences with the world. And accept the fact that, while it may feel as if there are no new ideas in the world, what matters is applying your own perspectives about those ideas to the challenges you face every day.

We all tend to believe that others see the world the same way we do, or know the same things we know. Not so!

Becoming an effective leader (at any age and any level in an organization) basically means recognizing how unique you are and believing in the value of your experiences and perspectives. That may sound abstract and idealistic, but it’s a very basic outlook on life that many of us never fully grasp.

As I have suggested previously, each and every human being is an individual, with a unique combination of talents, experiences, values, and personal styles (see “0” for more details). And each of us has the capacity to make a difference in the way the world works.

What Jessica helped me to understand is just how difficult it is for many of us to accept our individuality and unique value.

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others who may be more widely recognized as “experts.”

Here’s a simple (but profound) exercise that Jessica took us through to help overcome those awful feelings of personal inadequacy that so many of us experience every day.

First, build a list of people you know and admire, and who have done something that you want to achieve (written a book, given a speech, made the kind of difference in the world you want to make).

Second, look at each of those individuals and write down two or three ways in which you are NOT them (e.g., you are younger, or older, or have worked in a different industry, or lived in a part of the world they have not experienced, and so on). This step is about discovering what you bring to the world that no one else can.

Then ask yourself how you could offer something of value to each of those people you admire. In other words, think about what you can do to make them even more successful. Find opportunities to do things like:

  • write an review of their book
  • ask them to write a forward for a book you are working on;
  • quote them in an article or on your own blog;
  • tell your friends about how much you admire and have learned from someone.

Do you see where this is going? That simple exercise helps you discover (or rediscover) your own unique talents and accomplishments, and it puts you in a constructive mode of collaborating with, and supporting, capable people. In the long run that can only help you become more effective, and more widely known, yourself.

Contact me for a free consultation about how you can create more clarity about your own values and impact. And ask me about how you can join my ongoing monthly “Talking About Tomorrow” open conversation series.