Come As You Are
It’s tempting to identify ourselves by our job title, financial status, personal circumstances, physical fitness or affiliations. Where does that leave us when our marriage implodes, we lose our job or face a serious health diagnosis? This blog is about being authentic, and our authentic self is not defined by any of these categories. Our uniqueness is a combination of our genetic gifts along with our life experiences. We are truly ourself when we stop being a chameleon and show up with our integrity and the gifts that are uniquely ours to share. E. E. Cummings wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Have you ever had the experience of making a decision based on what other people will think instead of what is right for you? Many of us have had to go against family expectations when choosing a career, partner or place to live. My husband did not join his dad’s business because it wasn’t right for him. When I was younger, I allowed pressure from others to influence a decision I made that violated my values. I felt awful afterwards. It was an important lesson and I didn’t allow that to happen again.
Authenticity can show up in small events too. Yesterday I was in a clothing store and witnessed this. Three women were shopping together but only one was buying. The two women not buying were busy telling the other one what to try on, what they liked and what she should purchase. The woman buying did exactly as she was told and walked out of the store being congratulated on making a good decision. The buyer was never asked what she liked, what made her feel good or what reflected who she was. She dressed to satisfy her friends. Much as we would like a shortcut to authenticity, there isn’t one. Coming as we are to any situation requires inner honesty and commitment. It starts with one small decision after another that supports what is most important to us. Brene Brown wrote, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
If we’re going to come as we are, we can start by accepting ourselves and letting go of other people’s business and their approval. Living in our own truth means we create a daily practice of saying no to anything that doesn’t support who we are. We can say no to a draining social engagement or a project that isn’t right for us. We have the courage to set boundaries. Part of being authentic is owning our mistakes, forgiving ourself, and loving ourself by embracing our imperfections. Christine Carter writes, “Loving and accepting ourselves – and all of our flaws, including our anger and fear and sadness and pettiness – is, in the end, the only thing that enables us to be authentic. It is also the greatest gift we can give ourselves. It is the reason that authenticity makes us happier and healthier and more connected to those around us.”
Coming as we are requires stepping out of our comfort zone. We may experience criticism, but when we live an inauthentic life everything that we’re keeping inside festers leading to anxiety, depression, anger, blame and resentment. We can expand our integrity by inviting moments of solitude into our day so we disconnect from distracting outside voices. These voices come from a culture that prioritizes what we do instead of who we are. We can be the voice of support to others who are choosing to be themselves, the voice of love when fear surrounds us, and the voice of encouragement for taking care of body, mind and spirit.
There are important reasons for living true to ourself. We live with more vitality because there is less inner conflict. Because we have less inner conflict, we’ll have more insights into what motivates us, and this in turn will help us be more tolerant and understanding of others. If we’re grounded in our authentic inner self, we’re more able to resist social pressures resulting in better decision making. Let’s come as we are wherever we go. What is needed is our authenticity.