Authenticity…..Being Real, Not Perfect
My 5-year-old daughter and I were playing our before bedtime “game” that she has so indelibly named ‘Hearts and You.’ It’s a game where we practice voicing our gratitude or what we love about the people in our lives, moments we shared/experienced that day, unicorns, dinosaurs, you name it! This night we decided to focus on ourselves and our core family.
We talked about what we loved about ourselves, then each other, then dad, then brother. When I asked her what she loved about her brother, she stated “I am grateful for his autism.” When asked why, she simply stated with such confidence, “Because it is part of him and I love him.” What a beautiful testament to acceptance but it also made me think about the power of authenticity. Authenticity is so difficult for pretty much the majority of the human race because of our innate desire to be accepted. Autism is uninhibited by this need. My son’s autism allows him to be whole-heartedly authentic without social anxiety or feeling the need to be “accepted.” He is completely happy being Lucas in his “Lucas” world. What a life lesson to learn from my son and something my daughter seems so naturally inclined to understand.
We tend to get lost as we grow and become adults while trying to make our place in this world, because it seems our children just ‘get’ what it means to be authentic and embrace the value of being yourself. We certainly aren’t born with baggage or future anxieties. We come into this world easily being able to express what we feel and how to love unconditionally. Children are naturally filled with life, a sense of wonder and the desire to explore, create and live in the moment. As Barry Neil Kaufman has stated, “Children naturally display a wholeness of person without study or premeditation.”
Somewhere in life, everything shifts. Rather than be encouraged to stay in this child-like frame of mind, our culture sets standards for us to follow. Over time these standards create a world where our thoughts become more important than our authentic feelings. When we make our thoughts a priority over our feelings, our focus begins to shift and we begin care more about people’s opinions and judgements which in turn stimulates our fears. These fears ultimately increase our need to be accepted. Our self-worth all of sudden becomes a product of other people and their opinions of us.
Additionally, different people expect different things from us , so we begin to compartmentalize ourself based on the person we are interacting with in order to gain their acceptance. We begin to form so many different false self-images that our self-worth comes from these instead of our authentic self, and when we are not authentic, we essentially begin to lose who we really are. It’s no wonder we can’t figure out what we think, feel and want and inevitably end up remaining unhappy!
I remember having a personal dialogue and mentioning how I hid pieces of myself for fear of judgement. The response I received was pivitol for me in starting my journey to truly find my authentic self. I was asked, “Do you think you are not being judged when you choose to hide these pieces of yourself?” My reflection on this statement really changed the way I viewed myself and my decision of how I wanted to show up in this world. I realized that I couldn’t continue to trade authenticity for safety and expect to remain who I was at my core.
I realized that I couldn’t continue to trade authenticity for safety and expect to remain who I was at my core.
I also have come to realize that judgements are inevitable and that every single person is going to see life and other people through their own personal lenses. These lenses were created by their upbringing, experiences and egoic illusions. Judgements are about them, not me…period. So knowing I can’t control how a person sees me, I realized I’d rather be myself with people and know the ones who surround me accept me fully, then to pretend and have to maintain the illusion that I am something I’m not. In effect you get to be loved for who you really are and not who you are pretending to be. It is so much easier to be your truth when you stop looking for approval and begin loving yourself.
It is so much easier to be your truth when you stop looking for approval and begin loving yourself.
We cannot truly experience the benefits of friendships and relationships if we are not authentic. In essence, it is authenticity that connects us as human beings.
In essence, it is authenticity that connects us as human beings.
In striving to be my authentic self, I have found the following to be an integral part of the process.
- Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to live up to a label or false image. Give yourself permission to be you without apology.
- Respect and value yourself. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Know that these make you unique and awesome! Your weaknesses do not define you. It is important to realize that your flaws can help bring people closer together. When you realize and embrace this, your flaws seem less like liabilities and more like assets! Remember that you set the bar in how you are treated. Others will treat you with the same respect you show yourself.
- Don’t judge yourself (Perfection does not exist!). You have nothing to prove. Give yourself permission to not be perfect. Don’t carry around any labels or past mistakes as if they define you. Your past actions shape you, but you don’t have to be what you have been. You have a choice to judge yourself by your worst moments or your best. The important realization here is that you get to choose!
- Love yourself. People can only love us if we believe we are lovable. Also, By loving and accepting yourself, you will create a space where you can authentically love others. It is important to remember that we are all needed by others. You will find that people are more likely to share their struggles only after they have been through them and are on the other side. That’s because it’s easier to talk about what you have been through instead of what you are struggling with right now. Your story and struggles need to be heard and it is a wonderful thing to be vulnerable and authentic in sharing them. By doing so, you will open up a space where the people you have relationships with will be inspired to be authentic as well.
- Know that you matter. Realize that you impact lives every day. Put love into action every day. Even if you are not recognized for it, know that you make a positive difference by one small act of kindness.
- Make time for solitude. It is in this alone time that you will be able to create a safe space for self-reflection to enable you to explore your authentic self. In solitude, you are able to clearly see what you are truly like in your own company when you are not putting on a false image for the people around you.
- Don’t people please. When you work so hard to please everyone around you, you end up prioritizing yourself last in order to be sure others are comfortable. By consistently doing this, you are telling those you have relationships with that what they think or say matters more than what you think about yourself. You will never be able to please others to the extent you want. In the end you spend so much time and energy trying to be who you think someone wants you to be that you forget who you are and what you want in life. This ultimately leads to questioning yourself as to why you are not truly happy.
There is a reason we live vicariously through our children. It’s because they are naturally inclined to be themselves and emanate happiness. This is where the wonder, excitement and the ability to be present comes from. They are truly our best teachers in realizing the recipe in finding our authentic selves and ultimately embracing true happiness. I am grateful that I have been given the gift to be open enough to receive these life lessons my children and Son-Rise have so eloquently taught me.
A Program Side Note: Below is a video of Lucas giving me a kiss on the lips…..A moment I could not have even imagined would ever happen when we were initially given his diagnosis 4 years ago. Lucas couldn’t communicate well, was abusive at times and definitely did not show affection in those days. The moments I am witnessing every day with him since starting this Son-Rise journey a year and a half ago sometimes seem like a dream. I have to remind myself that it isn’t!
The universe definitely pushed me to a point at the beginning of this journey where I was either going to grow or crumble, and I am so fortunate and appreciative that I chose the former. This has allowed me to grow as a person to depths I never could have imagined. I also believe as a result that I have been given the gift to witness the miracle of my son’s increasing desire to be part of our world and to watch his ultimate recovery unfold.