In my teens I could hide behind my clothes, my teenage attitude as I got a bit older cigarettes and alcohol.
As I progressed in my career I could at time hide behind my job title, my 'status' and my salary.
As I started Chrysalis I could hide behind the brand of the Chrysalis Crew.
Now I don't mean hidden as in hiding away, but it took me many years before I got comfortable being seen as me. No job title, no status, no cigarettes and alcohol just me.
Inexcusably, unapologetically me.
I remember one night in my late teens, I was out with a group of friends, some of whom had gone to the bar, some were playing pool and the group at the bar had asked if I'd look afer the table as was their round. It was busy Friday night, the table surrounded by coats and chairs, but there I sat. On my own. And by the time it took anyone to come back to the table, I'd smoked three cigarettes. Because behind the smoke I was 'invisible'. Just the way I liked it.
When I started Chrysalis I knew that it would always be bigger than me. This is one of the reasons why instead I chose Chrysalis. I wanted something that signified the change that we helped to create, the messy middle when it all feels a bit dark and lonely and you don't know what's going to happen when you come out at the other end.
I remember only a couple of months after starting the company I was asked to speak at a Natwest women in business event. I immediately said yes, agreed the topic, the timing and what I should prepare and take along for the goody bags. The morning of the event came and driving there I went into a bit of a panic. This was the first time, in my life that I wasn't speaking on behalf of a big company, or my school. This was me and my company where at the time my company was just me.
I couldn't go, I'd ring them and say I was ill. Who was I to think that I could stand on stage and speak to this audience without a brand behind me, without a big brand behind me, without my title and my status.
And yet I did it. The event was a success. I was a success, and it didn't matter that I was there as me.
And yet over the years, I've been called to do something as me. Something as just me. No Chrysalis, no team, no brand, just me. I've drafted a few ideas and never done anything with them. I've drafted a couple of websites and never done anything with them.
You see, when the pull gets too much and you just know that you have to be yourself, and be seen as yourself, and do something just for you, and help just your clients, and be comfortable being you and being seen as you, there's only so long you can ignore that for.
Over the last few years I've done a lot of work on myself, for me and for my clients. Some of it has been seen as a bit too out there, and so I've kept those bits hidden, knowing that one day I'll do something with it all.
Today I officially launch kellyswingler.com and all of the 'bit too out there' coaching - namely the Chrysalis Transformational Programmes - the coaching is coaching, but with my little bit of unique training and experience. Which of course you'd expect, because I can only be. Only I have my skills and experience wrapped up in the Kelly Swingler way. And do today, I become me.
I know when I was HRD that at times I stayed hidden. Not intentionally, and not with my team or colleagues across the business. But during the times when I needed help. During the times when I had nobody to turn to and nobody to speak to. It took me almost a year to get approach for a Coach, can you imagine! The CEO kept trying to assign me one, which I agreed to, but she was stabbing me in the back at every possible opportunity. The relationship was off, and I had times when I wanted to scream, but I didn't. I stayed quiet, and within the lines and within the limits and within the boundaries of the role and what was expected of me.
I waited quietly, knowing that if I chose the right time I'd eventually get to select my own coach. Someone that I could build a relationship with. Someone that could help me. Someone that got me and understood my role. And someone that would help me be that bit less hidden and that bit more confident and help me uncover that bit more of me.
It's taken me almost 40 years, but I don't hide anymore.
I can't drive change if nobody knows I exist, and I can't do the work I do if nobody knows I exist.
So I'm no longer hiding, at home or in my work - how about you?