“Why, when we know that there’s no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone? Is it that we really admire perfection? No – the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.” ~ Brene Brown
Authenticity seems to be a double edged sword – on the one hand we strive to be authentic, yet on the other it sometimes comes back to bite us. So what’s a girl to do?
Authenticity is defined as being real, not false, or copied. But what about those times being real is inappropriate? Imagine you are in the grocery store and you have just had the most frustrating phone conversation in a decade. The real thing to do would be to run up and down the aisles, screaming and tearing at your hair. After all, that’s what you really feel, right? But that would be one of those times being authentic in that moment would be a bad thing.
However, stuffing your feelings and just moving on through your day is also a bad thing. So where’s the sweet spot?
I believe that authenticity needs to be nurtured. You may have to be come back to it in a more appropriate moment, but it should be a priority. So in this grocery store example, while it might get you in hot water if you acted authentically right then that doesn’t mean you can’t do some screaming on the way home alone in your car. The important thing is not to get so invested in your polite mask that you forget to take it off and show how you really feel. This only makes things in your life worse because those feeling don’t go away they just seep out of small cracks in your veneer and do much more damage. An adage I’ve always loved is, “What gets buried alive, stays alive”.
Besides you are shortchanging the world by not being more fully you. You have a unique set of experiences, gifts, and ideas and the world needs you to play all out so we all can benefit from you walking the planet.
Marianne Williamson best described the calling we all have to be our most authentic self in her poem, Our Deepest Fear and it goes like this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So how do you peel back your masks and more authentic in a productive, affirming way? Let’s begin by asking yourself some questions to help uncover your authenticity.
Who is the most authentic person you know?
Write down the name of someone you consider to be very authentic. You may know them personally or not.
What qualities do they have that ring true to you?
What aspects or qualities do they display that, for you, make their essence ring true?
When are you your most authentic self?
In what situations or with what people are you your truest self?
What qualities do you display when you are being your most authentic self?
When you are in the above situations or with the above people, who are you? What qualities or aspects of you shine?
Where are you not your most authentic self?
When are the times you hide those above qualities? What situations cause you to be most guarded?
What is it about the times you are most guarded that cause you to hide?
What is it about these situations or people that cause you to hide your authenticity? Is it something you fear? Is it something about the environment that holds you back?
Can you bring yourself to be more authentic in more of your life?
Everything is a continuum. You are at your most authentic at your best and most guarded when you feel not safe. So what qualities do you posses at your best times that can be brought into other aspects of your life? This does not have to be a total overhaul but perhaps are there are ways you could be 10% more authentic, or maybe 50% more authentic? Sometimes seeing how you are leaving yourself out of situations is enough for you to commit to the call Marianne Williamson has for all of us to step into the light and shine.
“I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
May’s joy-full lesson is to find the joy of being fully you in as many aspects of your life as possible. You are a gift and we are all diminished when you don’t give us the pleasure of your greatness.