“Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” – Brene Brown. Wow. I don’t know about you, but that quote really hits home. A couple of years ago I was sitting in at least 3-4 of those things listed and it was because I had no idea who my true self was, and that was eating away at my sense of worthiness as a person. As Brene Brown discusses in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection“, practicing authenticity is uncomfortable and seemingly a daunting task. It feels scary and often ends with us reverting back to safety and security which means hiding our true gifts (ideas, opinions, contributions, etc) from the world. The shame in this is two-fold. First, the world (and most likely people who really, really need to benefit from your unique gifts) are sheltered from them and secondly, you start to feel those things listed above (anxiety, depression, etc) bubbling up because our unexpressed gifts do not just go away. They are always there under the surface waiting for you to listen.
It’s ironic because it may seem like such a basic concept, but in coaching, and circles of friends and colleagues around me I see it all the time. People who are feeling so down and out about themselves – depressed, overly anxious, disordered eating, addiction – and they can’t for the life of them figure it out. They are floundering, grasping at things (diets, new hairdo’s, etc) to help them feel fulfilled and worthy, yet no matter how hard they try the feelings come back. A lot of this is stemmed in the ever rampant comparison and constant worrying about what other’s think of us. But being courageous and refusing the compare/worry about other and instead recognizing these things not as shortcoming, but as an out-crying from your inner-self can be a game changer. As Brene Brown puts it, “sacrificing who we are for the sake of what other people think just isn’t worth it.”
So I ask you, are you living your most authentic life? Are you expressing and contributing your unique gifts to the world and living the most authentic life you can? If not, what are you waiting for? We only have one life to live and going through it half alive, depressed, anxious and suffocating our true unique selves shouldn’t be an option! Sure, figuring out your authentic self may take some time – especially if you’ve been muffling it for months, years or even decades – but it can always be done and will always be worth it. I encourage you to roll up your sleeves, dig in and hash out who it is you are and who it is you truly want to be. Take the time to make a list of your gifts (if this is tough for you, ask your spouse, friends or family…I guarantee you there are more than you think), write out your ambitions, make a dream board and then start crafting out steps you can take towards those things. Stick with it, give it some time and real energy and I can promise you will start to feel the difference.
I’ll leave you with this last quote from Brene: “But in the end, being true to ourselves is the best gift we can give the people we love. When I let go of trying to be everything to everyone, I had much more time, attention, love and connection for the important people in my life.”