- cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
- exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
- nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.
It used to be, that I could not turn on the radio without hearing Seal sing, “We’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.” In addition to getting a little crazy, which I still think is a good idea, we also need to get a little (or a lot) real.
Being real can feel like we are standing naked in a field with scores of onlookers, shouting, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” (However, in this instance, it is emotional and psychological nudity as well as physical).
Practicing authenticity requires us to be honest with ourselves first. This can be challenging, as most worthy pursuits are, and we all slip up from time to time, because it is a practice.
I learned this lesson (and am still learning it) when a number of years ago, I worked somewhere that never quite felt like the “right fit." I would walk in and immediately start trying to please the people around me. I felt as if I needed to be something other than I was in order to belong. I kept going, thinking it was all in my head, and that I just needed to suck it up. Until one day when I had a panic attack while being there.
It was as if my physical body created some dramatic situation in order to get me to wake up. It worked. Finally, I listened to what my intuition had been telling me all along. I admitted that I never really liked going there in the first place. I had originally ignored all of the obvious signals, but, thanks to the panic attack, I eventually made some important changes. Next time, I hope it doesn't have to come to that.
Finally, when I stopped forcing myself to go to a place that caused me more angst than joy, a huge sense of relief brought me home to my heart. The result was that I began to feel great enthusiasm for all of the impending possibilities that lay before me instead of wishing for things to be different and waiting for them to change. I changed. And as we have heard over and over again, change is an inside job.
Serendipitously, while researching another topic, I came across this line from the book, Coaching for Transformation, “Living from the inside out ensures authenticity.” I thought to myself, And living from the inside out takes courage. As Dr. Brene Brown says, “We can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” And it takes vulnerability to be authentic because sometimes, inadvertently, we may cause others to feel disappointed or confused by our actions. But when we are coming from a place of truth, it is at least an honest exchange, and I believe will turn out for the best even if it is awkward or uncomfortable.
The beauty of practicing authenticity is that it can feel as if life is bursting open right in front of us like a flower in full bloom. It is as if we are butterflies slowly, bravely, and purposefully emerging from our chrysalis, flapping our wings and getting ready to fly. We feel like we are part, not separate from, the mystery of life. We honor our individuality and at the same time awaken to the interconnection of all living things. We are in the flow. We notice an internal vitality and an external vibrancy walking with us and sometimes even carrying us. We worry less and relax more into a place of trust, hope, and faith. We see signs and synchronicities popping up everywhere, helping to steer us in the right direction. Like when we bump into others that we were just thinking about. We feel full, full enough that we can be there fully for others.
I believe the world needs this, and needs us to be transparent, to allow our brilliant and sometimes muddled colors to be seen. Maybe it is even our responsibility. We paint the pictures of our lives with these colors and need not run, hide, or be embarrassed by both their glory, as well as their messiness.
The longer I am alive, the more I realize, that when we are desperate for change, we are also simultaneously yearning for acceptance. It is ironic that change doesn’t usually happen when we are pushing and screaming for it, but rather, when we are surrendering into the space of what is.
Practicing authenticity invites and encourages others to be authentic too. Like those moments when we finally say what has been tugging at our head and heart, and in response, the person whom we are speaking with, gratefully says, “Me too!” We no longer feel alone or different.
When we practice authenticity, we clear out the fog and make way for the sunshine of clarity to break through. We get to be crazy and real together and this may truly be the only way we’re gonna survive.