We’re talking authenticity this week in the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab. As I linger over this concept I feel uncertainty in my gut. Uncertainty about how to be authentic when I don’t necessarily know who I am. But even more uncertainty because I believe this to be the root of all my struggles, the hardest layer to unearth and shed.
I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. For as long as I can remember I have worried what others would think of me, what picture I was painting for the world. But I also worry about the needs of others and have no problem sacrificing my own comfort in the interest of pleasing others. As a little girl I vividly remember feeling responsible for my father’s emotional well-being. I hid my feelings and insecurities for fear that they would hurt him, make him worry or feel sad. It was a heavy responsibility that folded into my adult life.
In one of our sessions Brené said that she really had to work to stop creating who she was and to start discovering who she is. This makes sense to me, it’s what I’m trying to do through my writing and in other ways. But it’s hard work, it’s soul work. Like parenting there are no right or wrong answers. As I tread carefully along the path, I’m finding it difficult to separate the real from the perceived—my true self versus the self I think I should be. There are moments when I feel it acutely, but they are hard to hold on to. I get caught up in life and it all becomes very muddled.
So the question remains: How to be authentic when one hasn’t uncovered their truth and lives with so much uncertainty? It’s like a maze, just as I discover one promising pathway I turn the corner only to find a dead end, a barricade that sits firmly blocking me from something. There is no direct route, just alternate routes that lead to different obstacles, some easier to find than others. Muddled.
In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené defines authenticity as the “daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” What a simple, yet powerful notion, one I think our generation struggles with more than any before. We’ve been raised in a society filled with expectation and opportunity. We are a generation of achievers. We have greater access to knowledge that others before us. We are taught that if we work hard enough, doing the right thing, for the right amount of time that the world can be our oyster. We learn to set aside our hearts for reason. To push ahead. To do more. To have it all.
I’ve lived this life—the life I thought I wanted and that everyone expected I would. And it has been good to me. I have a beautiful family, a promising and flourishing career, a comfortable lifestyle with a beautiful home and family vacations. I enjoy luxuries that most of the world can’t even dream of. I am a lucky woman. I know this.
And yet I feel so profoundly incomplete. I need something more. I don’t mean things, or greater success. I mean I need me. I need to know myself. I need to feel safe learning and living who I am. I want to be inspired. I want to inspire. I want my mind to swell with grace. I want to be happy and fulfilled and living my purpose.
Image: ‘With Love…‘ via a Creative Commons license.