Sitting on the bed next to Treni, a friend’s 15-year-old, I was struck by the intensity of her anxiety. As we sat there in her pitch-black room, Treni kept one hand over her face as she talked. 

“What’s up?,” Treni, I asked, “Why are you hanging out in a dark room all day?”

“I don’t feel well,” she said. 

“What doesn’t feel well?” I asked. 

“My tummy.” 

“What’s going on with your tummy?” 

Feeling the Effects: How Anxiety Impacts Our Bodies

Surprisingly, she got right to the truth—“I have to go back to school tomorrow.” 

“So, it’s anxiety?” She nodded her head, “Yes.” 

After a bit of back-and-forth about the anxiety and the stomach pain, I asked, “Why do you have so much anxiety about going to school?” 

“Everyone’s just being fake,” she said, “and I don’t like it.” 

Me too!” I said, as we busted into laughter. “Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we all could be a little more of who we really are, and less of who society tells us that we are supposed to be?” 


“In my 40+ years on the planet I have only found one strategy that helps with this anxiety… okay if I share it with you?” 

With her nod of approval, I said, “It’s not necessarily comfortable for me, and if I’m honest, I don’t always do it, but I try…” 

Connecting Through Our Flaws 

She leaned in, as if to say, “I’m listening… anything to take away all of this anxiety.” 

“I show up as myself,” I said, “And… honestly… some people don’t like me, some really could do without me, but some do like me. I spend my time with the ones who do like me, and I try to ignore the rest. Of course, I still find myself pretending sometimes too, but I don’t worry as much about what other people are doing. Instead, I just try to do me. When I do that, I feel better.” 

It might sound cliché to say, “Just be you, and don’t worry so much,” but in a world that tells you what good looks like, it’s hard to ignore the anxiety that reminds you that you aren’t that. And, worse yet, your brain tells you that if you aren’t that, you don’t belong. 

Biologically Wired to Fit In

We all struggle. We’re biologically wired to “fit in.” Our survival depends on it, which leaves us vulnerable to the approval of others. 

What if they don’t like the real me?

What if they don’t invite me?

What if they reject my invitation? 

“Some people will not like you,” I said, “and that’s okay. When we let the wrong people go, we make room for the right people.” 

While I doubt this fifteen-minute conversation solved her anxieties, at least she knows that she’s not alone, and that there is something she can do to make a difference for herself. She can decide that she is wonderful just the way she is, that she is special, and perfectly normal. And then, when she steps into leadership positions, her confidence will serve as a beacon of light for all women (and men) who are struggling to see and appreciate themselves as they are. 

Cultivating Authenticity on Your Team

As a result of her courage to be her authentic self, she will naturally create a psychologically safe environment for everyone on her team who cannot help but want to fit in, feel included, and be liked. When we like ourselves as we are, we invite others to do the same. Awareness of our own struggles informs and strengthens our ability to understand and relate to the vulnerabilities of others. 

The last five minutes of our time together, Treni put her hand (guard) down and I got to see her whole face. This is the power of putting our own guards down and getting real about the challenges of bringing our authentic selves wherever we go. 

With courage, strength and the power of authentic self-expression, Treni has the power to create a safe space for all those around her who are simply trying to fit in and be liked. Her courage will open up opportunities for others to become aware of their own struggles and accept themselves for who they are. 

Let’s all join Treni on her journey and be inspired by her bravery to be true to herself, no matter what others may think! #AuthenticSelfExpression #BeYou #Courage #Acceptance

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister helps companies and leaders motivate and inspire excellence. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit