Monday, January 13, 2014

Living the Authentic Life?

I once heard that it is best to show yourself to be something, rather than to call yourself it. Apparently it is much more "effective" in relating something to another.  It seems to be a lot more powerful of a way for a message to come across to another.

I never forgot it, and have since been mindful of that in my expression. A much different picture is relayed in action than in word. 

It seems to be the difference between black and white and color or between a one dimensional and three dimensional image. 

Life comes to life outside of the language that describes it. People talk about being authentic and true. People will teach you about being those things.

The thing is, for most people the words are like a language not fully comprehended. The gist may be understood, but there is something lacking in translation.

I remember the first time someone challenged me to stay away from saying things in the negative. At first, I had a really hard time wrapping my head around it. It was like trying to make a triangle out of a circle in my mind. It was quite the challenge.

This conversation came to mind because I saw a number of marketing pitches talking about how to learn how to be authentic, and live an authentic life. I think it is really more a matter of unlearning the crap that prevents you from being authentic. There is nothing more natural than being who you are. It is the easiest thing that becomes the hardest because of all of the obstacles that need to be hurdled. 

I want to say we don't put them there purposely, but we do. We do it for self-protection and preservation. We do it to please others. We do it because we were taught it was the right thing to do. Of course, it is never labelled in a way that says we should not be who we are, but it is the outcome of acting as we do, and we all do it. That is, until we stop doing it.

For a long time I wanted to stop worrying so much about what other people thought. It took so much unnecessary energy to care. I told myself that I was doing pretty Ok, all things considered. But I was miles from where I now am, and no book or course taught me how to get here, despite having been exposed to many of those types of things over time. To know something logically is often not enough to precipitate a change.

What brought me here was sheer necessity. As I think about it, though, my necessity is another's necessary avoidance. Not everyone would react the way I did, or feel the same need to that I did. I just made myself a promise when I began this blog that I was going to share everything about my experience with cancer - no matter how it made me look. I made that promise, and then I lived into it -over time. I did not blog much at first. Being drugged and in the hospital for 17 days likely did not help. But even then, it took a while for me to share more openly. It took me a while to show myself in videos. But it happened, but not because I tried, though. 

It happened because over time I got more comfortable with the idea that I could just be me. I had been so worried about what others thought that it kept me silent, and held me back - most of my life. When I started to share I found that I occasionally ruffle feathers, which is no fun, but it helps me to become more clear about what I feel and think in the process. It also is not as bad as I thought it would be. I think most people don't care about things in our lives as much as we think they do. So much of what I say is never addressed, and most people do not act any better or worse as a result of my expression. 

As I wonder about those who have acted differently, I wonder what has come first. In many cases, for me it was how a person reacted to me after diagnosis that came first before I said what I think and feel. It precipitated it in more than one case. I guess, in some way, I can thank them for that. Had my experience been seamless and with support, I would never had to do anything any differently than I ever had.

I wish I could say that all of this transitioning has made a big difference in how others interact with me, and that it is just so incredibly awesome. Problems solved. While there are awesome things that have happened, I really can't say that.  If I had set out to be this way as a means to that end I would have likely been disappointed. What has happened, though, is even better. I get to have peace within myself because I know I have expressed what I feel. It took a lot of me to remain silent, hold back, question myself. The benefit is an intensely personal one. It is mainly about me.

A woman who worked with the dying said that for many their number one regret was that they did not live a life true to themselves. If I had set out to knock this off my list, I don't know that I could have. I would have tried - as I often wondered who I should be - when what I "should" have been doing was allowing myself to just be me. It never seemed to occur to me that if I just expressed who I was it would be enough. It just always seemed that who I was being wasn't who others thought I should be.

And while it sort of seemed to be me, it wasn't, even though it was unconsciously indistinguished that that was who I was. And this me, as faulty as she was, could rarely ever do things right in other people's eyes (at least those closest to me). So who I was didn't work, and who they seemed to feel I should be didn't feel right, so there had to be a third option, and I could never figure out what it was.

It certainly could not be who I was, as even the bit of me that seemed to show didn't seem to fit or be acceptable. What I have come to realize now is that all I had to do was just fully allow and embrace who I was, regardless of what anyone thought, instead of trying to adjust or hold back. I would never please everyone.

If it is that tough to go against who you are, then maybe it is who you are meant to be. But because "everyone" seemed to think that I was somehow in the wrong, it made me question myself, and feel lacking because I could not seem to live up to what others thought I should be. It made me feel badly about myself, too. I couldn't do as others say and love myself, because apparently who I was was not acceptable, and therefore loveable.

A part of me thinks in some way I am speaking in a selfish, self-centered way. Ironically, perhaps, that is how others have seen me, and of course, we all know that is a bad thing, right? And bad things need to be fixed. People who are deemed selfish need to be fixed, take seminars, go to therapy, seminars, etc. Right? The world does not revolve around me, after all.

So. Am I selfish? I suppose I can be at times. I suspect we all can be - and even should be. In being selfish and self-centered we get to know ourselves and what is important. No where in that, though, am I saying other people don't, or shouldn't, matter. But there are times we when are seeming lack of consideration for another is an important consideration of self.

Oh, what a tangled web. My head is spinning as I try to explain the contortions of my experience. I have never tried to distinguish it this way before. I wonder if it will make sense to me when I come back to re-read it some day. I have re-read it a few times now, and I think it makes sense. I guess time will tell. I suspect others will relate, as so many want to learn to live more authentic lives, and spend thousands to do it.



  1. that's true. The "authentic life" really depends on the person. If you're trying to be authentic on other people's terms, you might as well be a celebrity following everything the media says about you. You can only be authentic to yourself. good post

  2. I think writing a blog is cathartic and I think that you are expressing that process. I hope you continue to write with such inner passion