It is common knowledge in spiritual circles that authenticity and self-awareness are key elements of a happy life.
Without an understanding of who you really are, you cannot dedicate yourself to your true desires or rightfully say how you would behave in any given circumstance.
So, true to their purpose, I spent the vast majority of my 20s in the pursuit of self-discovery. During this time, I fashioned myself into both a hippie and a capitalist, a free spirit and a conformist, a housewife and a home-wrecker, a party animal and a loner.
I tried on all the identities that seemed to bring others happiness until I settled on the current one, which, I think, most accurately represents who I am.
Oddly enough (although it’s all just character armor), this “authentic self” resembles the one I envisioned for myself as a child—an independent, intellectual woman who has dedicated herself to a passionate life that doesn’t come at the expense of anyone else.
So, there you have it. You have made it—journey over. Congratulations, you know who you are and what you want.
It should all be smooth sailing from here, right?
What I discovered as I progressed along this ever-winding journey is that the road to authenticity is not as unequivocally rewarding as it is made out to be.
What the spiritual gurus don’t mention when they champion an authentic existence is the inevitable fallout that happens as you reconcile your new life with your old one. No one tells you that you must burn many of the bridges that connected to your inauthentic self before you can begin a new life as “you.”
What they don’t tell you is how, one by one, your friends will slowly abandon you because you’ve “changed.”
They don’t tell you how your family will criticize you for no longer conforming to their indoctrinated ideals.
They don’t tell you how you will have to reintroduce yourself to people who loved an old version of you, only to be rejected for who you’ve become—who you always were but were too afraid to be (in fear of that exact rejection in the first place).
So, as I stepped into the person I truly am, I had to face the harsh reality that not everyone will come with me. I realized that all the bonds I forged with all these characters I played were not as strong as I thought they were.
The truth is, you lose a lot on the road to authenticity. But what you gain will be worth it all. Because the people and things we lose on the road to authenticity were never equipped for the journey in the first place.
We choose to put on character armor every day because we fear that we won’t be loved for who we really are if we allow ourselves to be seen. And it’s true.
Not everyone will fall in love with your authentic self, but no one can love you if you hide behind a facade.
You will lose friends of convenience and be rewarded with lifelong friendships—ones with unshakable foundations.
You will lose the validation of some of your peers and gain an intrinsic sense of self-worth.
You will lose conditional love and judgments but will be rewarded with genuine love and understanding.
Because the truth is: once you step into your authentic self, then the real journey begins.