Becoming Yourself - Life's Greatest Adventure
"One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals."
Last month I shared that my word for 2019 is Authenticity. The most common advice given to people when applying for a new job, going on a first date or joining a new organization is almost always ‘Just be yourself.’ Easy, right? Maybe not as easy as you would think.
There are two steps to true authenticity: knowing who you are and being brave enough to live it. Knowing ourselves can be a life long process. From the time we are small, we are often told who we are. Everyone has an opinion about our thoughts and motives. Parents, siblings, friends, teachers and others will make assumptions about what is possible and also best for us based on their assessment of who we are. Often we look to people outside ourselves for approval and so accept what they say and then model our life around it. When the life we are trying to live doesn’t line up with who we are at the core of our being, it creates a tension within us. We may feel that we are not good enough or that we are pretending. I call it living from the outside in. It takes a lot of effort because it doesn’t flow naturally from who we are at our core. The truth may be that we need to let go of the roles we play - the external expectations and start that inward adventure to discover who we really are; who we were created to be.
You can call it spirit, being, core values or your essential self but there is an essence in us that makes us unique. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say ‘the spiritual life is not a theory, you have to live it’. The real benefits of authenticity are experienced when we step outside our comfort zone and make choices and decisions in line with who we really are and not based on the expectations of society or those around us.
This is a process; like learning to walk or ride a bike for the first time. We don’t do it perfectly or completely all at once. I was always told “Your not an out-doorsy kind of person” so I didn’t go hiking or camping or rock climbing. I had never had those experiences. As part of this process, I tried some things I had never done before. I felt awkward and nervous venturing out with others who had grown up doing these things. I camped and canoed and hiked. I discovered what I like and what I didn’t. I tested it out. How did I really feel about it? Did it excite and energize me?
We can have a theory about what we love and what we would be good at but sometimes the idea is different than the reality. Only through action, trial and error do we discover what we love. Giving ourselves permission to experiment and try many things is part of the adventure.
Then there are the emotional comfort zones. I believe in being honest and straightforward in a respectful manner. The messages I received growing up were “Don’t rock the boat” and “Don’t expect too much from others”. I tried to live that way. It didn’t work for me. Yet when I first started to approach people with honesty instead of trying to give them what I believed they wanted, those messages were ringing in my head. There was fear; fear of being judged or rejected. When it’s our true selves that we put out there, the stakes are high and the fear is real. How do we overcome the fear? Action. One small step at a time. It requires taking a risk. Brené Brown says “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” A risk worth taking?
So why bother? Why not just figure out what is expected of us and do that? Isn’t it much easier? Maybe. Some do. It depends what you want out of life. Do you have a desire to figure out who you were created to be? What makes you unique from every other person who has or will exist? What gifts, talents, passions do you possess deep down? What really are your values and what do you have to contribute to the world? There’s work involved in the journey and it takes time and support. Slowly over time you will start living from the inside out; energized by your own core values and a growing trust in your own intuition.
Is it easy? Not in the beginning. Is it worth it? I think so. Become curious about yourself. It’s the greatest relationship you will ever have.