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May 30, 2017

Everyone Wants to “Lean In,” but I’m not Having it.

Self-help jargon is one of my least favorite things in the entire world. Seriously.

Once I started reading an article, busily ignoring all the things I should have been doing, I read the words “lean in” and felt the inevitable wave of my brain shutting down at the loathsome overuse of the phrase.

It made me wonder: Why is our culture so quick to adopt a word, phrase, diet, mantra, or way of life just because everyone else is? We grab on to whatever it may be and turn it into a fad—something catchy that will inevitably leave its mark in history like those hot pink shorts with a signature hand print on the ass. I had a pair. Not my proudest moment, but I’m not gonna lie about it.

Here’s what I have to ask: Why are we so quick to define ourselves using other peoples’ words?

I get it, Sheryl Sandberg wrote the best seller, Lean In, about women leading and excelling in the workplace and life in general. I’m sure it’s probably a great read because there’s a huge demand for motivation and insight to help women break the glass ceiling.

However, by the time I figured out where the term came from, I still hadn’t read it, and I couldn’t stand the thought of reading an entire book about this catch phrase. What I don’t get is how “lean in” became as common as “lol,” “wtf,” and “smh” (which is how I typically respond whenever I see this loaded term).

If “lean in” means something specific, personal, and profound to you, then by all means, carry on. But if it doesn’t, think about what it is you’re really trying to say. Because once you say “lean in,” I can guarantee that I, and countless others, will shut down.

I want to hear what you have to say, and I want to know who you are. Tell me, please, but do it in your own words. Don’t tell me about who you are with definitions, concepts, and ideals prescribed by someone else.

When I hear “lean in,” I imagine someone who needs to lean in to something to be fully engaged or supported by something other than themselves. What happens when the thing you’re leaning in to tips over? Breaks? Smashes into a million pieces?

Yup, you guessed it. You’re going to fall over because you’re leaning in to it. Would you want to live in a building that’s leaning into another building? No? Me neither. So why would we want to live our lives leaning into other things?

Linzi Hawkin, founder of Hello Glow and extraordinary branding professional, credits “Be You on Purpose” as the reason she does things. It’s an admirable and original way to approach life, and it got me thinking about how to “be me on purpose.”

While simultaneously pondering Linzi’s tagline and our tendency to glom on to the “word of the day,” I came up with a concept that carries significant weight for me: Talk about you with purpose.

It’s not enough just to “be you on purpose.” You also must avoid taking the easy way out and find purpose in the way you represent yourself to others.

Do yourself justice. Don’t use the “same old, same old” to illustrate who you are and what you’re about. Choose your words carefully. Do you really want to be in the same category as the rest of the world? Here are my “authentic” friends, my friends “living their truth,” my “high vibe” friends, my “transparent” friends, and don’t forget my friends over there who “lean in.”

No? Then take the time and make the effort to have purpose and intent backing what you say and how you say it. Be original for God’s sake.

Leaning in to something has never made anyone stronger on their own. It makes the original reliant, dependent, and far less stable. So why do we overuse a phrase that conveys the need for support in order to illustrate strength? I urge and challenge us to stop leaning, and start remembering how to stand up straight again. But also to start expanding our vocabularies by using words with purpose, on purpose.

We can embrace things fully, incorporate things that are important, immerse ourselves in things that we’re passionate about, or face a new challenge head on, but please, for the love of all things holy, stop leaning in to things like a crutch.

When we stand straight, strong, and on our own two feet, we can find joy in all of the pieces that make us who we are without fearing the inevitable fall from leaning too far in.
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Author: Lauren Ault 
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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