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This world is full of those who want to change us.
Full of those who want us to fit into their click, control us, or simply just see if we’ll “change” for them.
Authenticity is defined as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” It’s described as “not false or copied; genuine; real,” or my favorite from the kids’ definition of authentic “being really what it seems to be.”
Who here as always lived authentically? I, for one, can say I struggled with this for most of my life and still have to pause at times to remember:
What is it I want?
What do I believe in?
Am I giving up my personal values, boundaries, and morals to please someone else?
Who the hell am I, and what do people expect of this role or time in my life?
Each of us plays so many roles in life—wife, husband, mother, father, friend, employee, daughter, son, sister, the list goes on and on. Each role seems to come with its own set of unconscious and biased rules that we are all “supposed” to live by. It’s difficult to know what side of the fence to be on at all times.
I’ve also found as we enter into certain stages of life—going to college, getting married, having babies, babies exiting our homes, loss of loved ones—there are expectations of who you “should be” or “how you should handle that.” For the love, make it all stop!
No wonder why, day in and day out, people struggle with living authentically. Why can’t we all just love each other for who they are?
One of my favorite authors once wrote:
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect—and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.” ~ Brené Brown
While Brené has it spot-on, enacting the principles above is easier said than done. I know firsthand being vulnerable, sharing sides of you that others may not always relate to or enjoy, or letting others in on the best and worst times of your life is not easy. That said, I, for one, sleep better (most nights) knowing that I am willing to share all my faults, experiences, learnings, and the beautiful things about myself. You either like me or don’t, and I am fine with whatever the outcome is.
You ask me a question; you receive my honest answer. As I tell my kids, “What you see is what you get.” I won’t pretend to be like the other moms because I am not the other moms. I won’t pretend that I don’t come with faults. I won’t pretend that I’m not excited because I accomplished something amazing. I shouldn’t have to hide in fear of judgement from others.
I am unapologetically me.
Here are four steps we can all take to start living more authentically:
Being unapologetically me is when I love with all my heart; when I keep my laugh super loud. I don’t like to be surprised by people showing up at my door. I keep my circle small. I am introverted and love my alone time just as much as I love being with others. I absorb others’ feelings and often know how they are feeling without them having to say it. Most days, I am a human lie detector; I can tell if you are being authentic, honest, or just flat out feeding me BS. I believe we are all connected, and by hurting someone else, you are in turn hurting yourself.
Sit with yourself a while, connect to why you are truly feeling the way you are feeling. I promise you, while not fun at times, you won’t be disappointed.
Stop the voices in our heads that tell us we are not enough.
This is the hardest step for me. I’ve always been a bit of a black sheep by society’s means, as I don’t fit into what most people consider an ideal friend, girlfriend, wife, mother, employee, or sister. I tried so hard to fit in, to be like the others, to tell myself I was enough, and to stop judging myself (I am my hardest critic.)
The voices in my head telling me to do more, be more, please more often left me feeling even more lonely, sad, and disconnected. Although I desperately longed for love, acceptance, and connection, I wasn’t connecting—simply because I was not being me.
I’d like to say that being your authentic self is easy, but I think most of us know it’s not. However, what I can tell you is that when you give up being you, it comes at a huge price. It can create depression, sadness, turmoil with yourself, anxiety, and immense feelings of being lost in this world—like it’s sucking you away from everything you know to be true. And the worst price of all—in my mind, and I’ve been here before—is once you’ve lost your authentic self, it takes a fighting heart and an immense amount of courage, time, and work to get it back.
The good news is, it can be done as your authentic self is never truly lost. Sometimes, we’ve just taken a long nap and it’s time to wake up. So, in times of self-judgement or when the voices in your head are beating you up, give that voice a name and tell them to go away. I know it seems silly, but when you separate the voice and give it an identity, it truly helps you identify if it’s the voice of “you should be doing this” versus “I want to do this.” Just try it.
Ask for help.
It’s taken me many years of therapy, coaching, and some amazing friends and family to love my authentic self. It was okay that I kept my circle small: these are the people who accept and love me exactly the way I am.
It’s okay to say no; those who truly love and accept us know it’s not a personal dig at them. I’ve had some amazing counselors and coaches teach me the best lesson of my life, and while it may seem easy or simple for some, this one did not come easy for me: It’s okay to create healthy boundaries with those who disrupt values important to my overall mental health and well-being. I am, and my values are important enough to be taken care of.
I encourage everyone to identify what their personal values are. These are the things that make you tick, that give you passion, that make you fight-or-flight. They are the essence of who you are.
Practice living authentically.
All this said, I know disrupting all that programming over the years feels uncomfortable, but if I could do it, anyone can (I was not an easy case).
In the end, I don’t regret a single decision to live my life more authentically. I am not saying it never comes with its challenges, but I promise you once you start being true to yourself, you live with more confidence.
You live a life that is true to your morals, truth, honesty, and integrity. Your thoughts, actions, and words shift, and all that surrounds you begins to shift as well.
Those that are meant to stay in your life do. Those that are meant to join your life leave. That is okay. Ultimately, life around you changes, and it’s priceless.
I promise you will not be disappointed. To all of you out there in this world: go out and live your authentic life. It’s beautiful and waiting for you!