Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need to do, in order to have what your want. - Margaret Young
"Be who you really are" sounds simple enough. But most of us aren't. For many of us we don't even know who we really are. And often we are afraid that who we are isn't enough so we behave as if we are someone else.
Authenticity is not something we have or don't have. It is something we must make a conscious choice to practice, a choice of how we want to live. And it is something that we usually practice some days more than others. It is something we work toward.
It involves letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and loving who we are, every day. It is developing the courage to be imperfect, to set and maintain boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It is knowing that all are made of strength and struggle and exercising the compassion that comes with that knowledge. It is developing the connection and sense of belonging that happens only when we believe that we are, indeed, enough just as we are. Authenticity is not for sissies.
e.e.cummings wrote "To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day to make you everybody but yourself -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight -- and never stop fighting."
The consequences of living as someone other than the real you are anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief. We can look around us and see the lives of people devastated by these consequences.
When you let go of being everything for everyone else, you will have more time, attention, love, and connection for the people in your life who are important to you.
In order to let go of trying to be perfect you need to nurture compassion for yourself! Yes, you have to love yourself enough to embrace your imperfect self and support your courage to be the real you. You have to allow yourself to really know who you are, what you want to do with your life, how you can best be the best you - not the perfect you.
Stop calling yourself names - "ugly", "stupid", "bad", etc. Remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person and deserving of love and respect. Be warm and understanding toward yourself. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to believe that showing up is enough when things are tough. Remind yourself that you are a strong person who has overcome many obstacles to get to where you are today. And know that that strength will carry you through whatever comes next.
Know that you are resourceful and are developing good problem-solving skills, that you can seek help, that you can do something that will help you manage your feelings and to cope, that you have social support available to you, that you are connected with others - family, friends, community. Know that you are connected to others by a power greater than us all, and that your connection to that power and to others is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality, in whatever way fits who you really are, brings you a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to your life.
You can have hope because you know where you want to go, how to get there; you're persistent, and can tolerate disappointment and try again; you believe in yourself. You know you can do whatever you need to do, even if it is difficult, time consuming, an not enjoyable. This is your personal power.
(Note: much of this post is based on the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene' Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.)
So when is it the hardest for you to be authentically you? Who are you most likely to try to impress with trying to be perfect? When are you the least kind with yourself? When do you feel the most powerless?