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A hidden cost to being a leader, being unique, and playing at my next level

By Niiamah Ashong

Lonliness. It’s the hidden cost to being a leader, being unique, playing at my next level, and honestly just plain old being myself. It’s the payment to enter higher realms of impact, growth, and contribution that I have been hesitant to pay. It’s a fact of choosing to belong to yourself first. If you play it all out, the best way to stand out is to be yourself because there’s only one of you out there. There’s only 1 in 7+ BILLION PEOPLE who is you. Of course it’s going to be lonely! I honestly didn’t get that until 5 mins before sharing this here. The path to being yourself, to experience true and wholesome freedom and security, to make your highest impact, and to influence and lead change in your world is inherently lonely. And the story I tell myself is that "being lonely means being unloved." The cold hard truth of it is that at the level of allowing myself to be me in the world, I’m actually finding that: a) I love myself more (and I think I’m legit awesome) b) I love and have the capacity to love others more and c) I am loved by others more. I’m going to unpack c) more because that’s the external result I internally craved and the external ceiling I keep bumping into. I am loved by others "more". 1) "More" through the lens of "Scale": There absolute value of people who love me continues to grow daily. And it directly ties/ feeds back into my capacity for love. The greater my capacity for love, the more love comes my way. 2) "More" through the lens of "Depth": This is one of the thing I’ve been fighting for in my life recently. Where Scaled Love speaks to being "well-known", Deep Love speaks to being "know - well". The people who choose to love me, choose to do so for the true and unapologetic me as I currently am and as I am becoming. There’s no more "code-switching". I’m not burdened by having to diminish myself in order to make others feel safe. I am not drained by having to be multiple things to multiple people - and then keeping each part of my life compartmentalized for sake of being exposed (this one came fastest for me to be). I don’t have to be a "chameleon" and change who I am to match your world. Instead, I welcome you to my world. I welcome you as you are and as you are becoming. I welcome you to be courageous and thrive beyond safety. I welcome you to be in integrity with yourself. Whole, complete, and unapologetic. Everyday I create a world where we can be unique together. Where we can be authentic together. Where we can be lonely together. Where we can simply BE together. My name is Nemo Ashong. Most people see me as personable, friendly, joyous, and so much more. And what they don’t see is that on the inside I’m lonely. What I now know is that feeling alone, being alone, and feeling lonely isn’t a good or a bad thing. It comes down to the stories I tell myself. And I’m choosing to listen to stories that bring us all together - as seperate, unique, and legit awesome people who can be as one, not in spite of but because of what makes us different. Here’s to being more you everyday because you are the difference. Game on! (Special thanks to Hayden Lee, Luisa Molano, and Chris Joseph for helping me embrace something that I thought was holding me back rather than helping me forward)

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