"Authenticity is...about the choice to show up and be real...the choice to let our true selves be seen." – Brené Brown
When was the last time you openly acknowledged your fallacies? When was the last time you said sorry when you knew deep down inside it was your mistake? When was the last time you named that strange discomfort you seemed to be feeling inside—was it shame, guilt or was it in fact, doubt?
Being completely naked, metaphorically, in a world that says "dress this way, look this way, talk this way" can make even the most self-assured person feel like a misfit. It can feel very strange and very odd to "be ourselves" when all we have really ever known is how to conform, how to be nice, how to say the right things, how to look a certain part and be the way we are supposed to be.
Being completely naked, metaphorically, in a world that says "dress this way, look this way, talk this way" can make even the most self-assured person feel like a misfit.
Unwittingly, billboards, the people around us, and life seems to be telling us to "toe the line". After all, aren't we all inducted into an unwritten, unsaid code of conduct—often class- and gender-specific—from the time we enter the world?
As we grow older, we hold on even tighter to this mask or armour we have slowly grown into. Hey, it may not fit our face perfectly, it might itch, it might poke out of the blue—but it's very, very familiar, it's what we have known our whole lives. It's like your favourite fuzzy blanket—it's your favourite not because it's that great but because it's all you know.
Later, as we move into adulthood and all its trials and tribulations, we get the idea that we need to become street-smart and act as we are acted with i.e. reciprocate behaviours of others to achieve success, in personal relationships and at work. Because, the alternative (i.e. honesty) is childish and telling the truth not always the smartest option. These once-venerated ideals seem to be the very traits that can make people easily walk over or take advantage of us. So, as worldly wisdom dictates, even when we want to be true and say that one thing that's so, so close to our heart, we just end up keeping our cards even closer to our chest.
And sometimes we bury ourselves so deep down inside that one day we no longer seem to know who we really really are.
But for one moment keep aside your fears—of being used, of being hurt, of being judged.
And just become interested in the question of who you are. What really defines you, and what goes on in your heart and your mind when you see something awe-inspiring, something horrifying? Are you brave enough to acknowledge your moments of inner serendipity, your demons and your truest vulnerabilities?
You'll know when you meet someone who seems to have done some of this inner work. Often, these "specimens" say it as it is, no bullshit, no diplomacy. They are light and easy to be around, they wear their humanity easily and come from a place of deep, deep authenticity. What also sets them apart is their sense of their own freedom and their absolute comfort in their skin, and who they are.
The path to your own inner growth is about becoming comfortable with who you really are—warts, weaknesses, flaws et all.
And why is that? Because they are not pretending, and there is no mask to hold on to or adjust (left or right, up or down, pendent on the company in front) anymore.
Ironically, it is their rawness that draws us to them, the very humanness we have deep inside, but which we consciously choose to hide.
Reading this, you could be in complete denial about your own lack of authenticity, or your ego could be telling you you're pretty perfect already—and this write-up was such a waste of time. Or maybe, it's opened up a vault that was always locked... and you're turning a key as you begin to recognize the mask you choose to wear.
Wherever you are in your journey, the path to your own inner growth is about becoming comfortable with who you really are—warts, weaknesses, flaws et all.
So as you step into the rest of your day or night, ask yourself these simple questions and jot down your answers, because hopefully they will bring you closer to your own truth.
1) What memory defines who you are and how has that changed you or your life so far?
2) What do you detest or absolutely hate about yourself?
3) What's your biggest fear right now?
4) When were so embarrassed that it still makes your heart skip a beat?
5) When are you at your happiest?
6) What's your favourite sound in the world?
7) What's your one truth that you never say out loud, even to yourself? What would saying it do?
I hope you choose to work past the initial discomfort these questions may throw open, and begin a journey—of coming home to yourself.
Vulnerability does not mean being naive, or a doormat. It doesn't mean oversharing with strangers and being child-like. It just means being alright with standing in your truth, and standing up for your truth.
Because, let's admit it—we all have shadows. And when we comfortably show up in equal parts shadow and equal parts light, we acknowledge our imperfections in being human.
And there is beauty in learning to be alright with just that.