Authentic; of undisputed origin; genuine.
As a society we throw around a lot of buzzwords, we say things that sound really evolved but rarely have any substantiation. The word authentic is one of those buzzwords. For me, authentic used to conjure images of things that were ‘old’ or ‘antique’, of things that had remained the same over the test and trials of time. That is until society started to use authentic in the personal growth and self development arena. Suddenly it became very ‘in vogue’ to use the word in sentences, in casual conversation and in direction. “Be authentic” new age spiritual gurus implored us. So we dutifully said we were yet we were following what they were telling us to do and that got me to wondering.
How authentic are you when you are doing someone else instead of doing you? How influenced are you by what others say?
YOU are one of a kind, yes we many have homo sapient similarities and we may even have some shared experience but no one can do you better than you. So why do we constantly look outside ourselves for approval, why do we alter and adjust our being, our uniqueness and our behavior to situations? Have you ever watched someone try to be just like their big sister, big brother or best friend? Have you ever watched someone adopt a clothing or speaking style that left them appearing awkward and uncomfortable, out of their element? Have you ever known someone who tried to alter their laugh because they are a ‘snorter’ and ended up with a fake, prepared, out of character laugh?
Why do we shy away from being ourselves?
I recently spoke at a public event on the role self doubt has played in my life. Like many, my self doubt was partially influenced by external forces that often had me comparing and not measuring up according to someone else’s definitions.
When the opportunity to speak came up, I debated on what I should talk about it having left my submission purposefully vague. It was not until 20 days prior to the event that I decided I would just be me and tell my story instead of trying to be something or someone I was not, instead of trying to sell something.
I purposefully did NOT tell people about the event and did NOT rehearse or share what I was going to say with my friends or family. The reason for this was simple, I know me. I know me intimately and I know the desire I have to be liked. I also know that despite training in the psychology of influence, I am easily influenced at times. In short, I can be played like a fiddle. I purposefully did not practice in front of my people because I knew that if any one of them thought that something could be said in a better way or perhaps left out entirely that I would be influenced by their ‘stuff’, their ‘discomfort’, their ‘biases’ their ‘judgments’ and I needed my talk to be ME.
Naturally this could have proven to be disastrous but I was determined to speak from my authentic centre. RISKY? Hell yeah! There was a very real chance that I would stand up and not make a connection with a single person. There was also a very real chance that I would stand up and make a difference. As long as my talk was mine I was prepared to stand in the truth of whatever happened. As long as I did ME, I would be ok.
After many years of pretending to be something and someone I am not it is important to me to live a life of inspiration. I want to be inspired and I want to inspire others which was the driving desire in my talk. The only way I know how to inspire others is to do ME. I want to be real, honest, raw, vulnerable and authentic because I believe that is where the meat of life is. When we hide who were are we hide from our greatest life thereby doing a disservice to ourselves and others around us.
Several people mentioned they found my talk inspiring but what else they said surprised me. People commented that I was brave to stand up, to be vulnerable and to be real. While I am ever so grateful that what I spoke of touched people I was taken back. How could being ME be brave?
Who else was I supposed to be? Have we become so used to being like others that to stand in your own-ness is brave? Have we forgotten such how magnificent we are as we are?
A friend was telling me of an experience she recently had when she met the daughter of a former work colleague who had passed away several years earlier. This daughter told my friend of the enormous influence she had on her. My friend was taken back because she said she could not even remember some of the events and experiences that this young woman said changed the course of her life yet here she was breaking bread with someone she had inspired.
My friend commented that the experience gave her pause to think that perhaps she should pay closer attention to what she says and does because you never know who is watching. To that I said hell, NO! Don’t change a thing; just continue to be YOU because you are perfect at it.
I think we forget how perfect we are at being ourselves.
I truly believe we are here to leave a mark with the people that are around us. Now I would prefer you leave a positive mark by positive interactions but that is my influence on you. I would prefer you not inspire people to engage in racism or self destructive behavior but that is my influence on you. I would prefer that we inspire for good and not evil but who am I to determine which is which and what will have the biggest inspiring effect on someone or on a nation. Who am I to say that you are doing you wrong?
While I do not like it, I believe that this world needs racists, needs greed, needs hatred in order to grow, in order to challenge belief systems, in order to love, in order to open up dialogue and create systemic change.
We can only achieve that through honesty and bravery.
If we spend all our time pretending to be something or someone we are not we are destined to stay small, to stay stuck, and to stay fearful. By standing in our own personal truth and power we can effect change.
Please do YOU, in all your glory, your ugliness, your messiness, your strength, and your innate beauty.
Do you so that you may have someone else question their own thoughts, beliefs, behaviors just by watching and engaging WITH you.
We do not effect change by being lemmings, blindly following into the abyss or over the cliff. We effect change by standing firmly in ourselves while allowing others to do the same, it is through acceptance that we break down walls and examine our truths, our hurts, our hopes and our fears. In doing so we are opening ourselves to healing.
We cannot buzzword ourselves into a pretty world. We need the ugly, the beauty and the truth. We need YOU.
DO YOU and you just might inspire change in yourself and others!