What does it mean to be authentic?
I’ve known for a long time in theory that it’s what is needed for me to move forward. But how do you actually be authentic?
I only recently really grasped with my whole body what this concept means. I always assumed authenticity came when you were doing something that made you feel worthy, but that is only really a small part of it. Being authentic means being whoever you are in the exact moment you are in. It doesn’t mean feeling great all the time, it means acknowledging what ever you are feeling and acting to honour whatever it is that you need. It means being honest with yourself, even when the truth means making things uncomfortable. Being authentic means that you feel worthy of being you, regardless of whatever emotion comes up for you; angry, sad, excited, inspired, beautiful and tired are all worthy emotions because if they are coming up for you, then they deserve to be acknowledged.
All the time, we hear catch phrases like, ‘just be yourself’, and ‘you are unique’, and most of the time we nod and get a little bit excited and sometimes we get inspired but other times those phrases make us feel like shit because we don’t feel that way. We feel disconnected and forgotten and we aren’t ‘fulfilling our dreams’ like we thought we would be and we feel like failures. Being authentic actually means LOVING YOURSELF ANYWAY. And trusting there is a process to everything. For ten years in my own head I’ve been failing to live up to my own potential. In high school I was this vibrant, strong young woman, and I could do anything I wanted. I had all these creative talents and I had no idea how to act on them or which one to choose to turn into a career. Many times recently I’ve let myself get really down by convincing myself that I failed because I am still not sure which creative path to choose and it’s been ten fucking years and I still haven’t really ‘made my mark’. I still haven’t made a career for myself and fuck I still haven’t saved a dime. I have two diplomas, one degree and a Masters under my belt and still can’t seem to get my shit together to get a proper job. I went back to Centrelink the other day and beat myself up the entire time, ‘Look at you Mia, here you are with all the other failures. Good job, well done on proving yourself worthless once again.’
If I had have sat there and smiled instead, if I had have laughed at my own shit talk to myself would it have been easier? Who knows? What I do know is that pain is powerful and pain is part of a process. Over the weekend I attended a festival that I have, in the past, only ever come out of it finding myself feeling more lost. In previous years I had gone into this festival with such deep wounds and fears, I had come out feeling like all I’d done was prove how unlovable I really was. I believe they call it the mother wound*. Every time I’ve been to this festival I have worked. The first year I went as a roving performer and hated it, the second year I went and did the pack down of the festival and hated it. Both times I felt underpaid and as if I was devaluing myself once again. It was easier for me to blame everyone outside of myself for how I was feeling than own the fact that I hadn’t asked for what I really wanted. The truth was that I still felt that I wasn’t worthy of doing what I really wanted to do.
This year I got offered a role and without trying, ended up doing the job that I have always wanted to do. I got to create a space, an art installation. In previous years, the entire festival I felt on the outside, as if I was missing out on something. This year, simply by being there, doing what I really wanted to be doing, I was a part of it. This year I listened to myself when the pain began. When the tears fell and my body asked me to find a place to cry, I did. And I felt like the sadness of the entire world filled all of me and I let it. I didn’t question why or blame anyone or anything. I accepted the process. I let myself grieve. And the next day I was a different person. I really understood what being authentic meant for me. It meant being true to myself and allowing myself to honour whatever came up for me. Even all the yucky feelings like jealousy, anger, disgust and sadness. The clarity that came for me when I allowed myself to be authentic was more beautiful than I could have possibly imagined.
In the dying process there is room for new life and new beginnings. All these things are so easy to say, but being them takes courage. Even when we lost everything in the house fire I still hadn’t let go. It was so much easier to not feel it and I’d find myself avoiding it over and over again. I went back to work and then I shattered into a million pieces and still attempted to keep up this face for everyone. Authentic self asked if I could, ‘just please stay home and say no thank you to all my callers.’ Authentic self said over and over, ‘Wrap yourself in a cocoon my sweet. Hide. You are changing and you need this time on your own. You need to learn to listen and be still in that.’
But the old me held on, she so desperately held on and the process slowed because I failed to let it happen the way it needed to. I attempted to fill the silence with talk of what was and clung to an image of who I had been. I do not regret this either. Because I have to trust every step that is taken is needed for us to be exactly where we are. That’s part of being authentic, trusting yourself so deeply that you accept that whatever you are experiencing RIGHT NOW, is getting you to exactly where you need to be. You want something? Good. You’re not there yet? Good. If you trust that you will get there, then you will, it’s the law of the Universe. It may not look exactly the way you think it’s going to look but part of the grieving process is accepting that.
I always wanted a WHOLE new wardrobe, I wanted people to pick out clothes for me that they thought would look great on me and have it all given to me for free. Then my house burned down and guess what? I got a brand new wardrobe. I had more clothes than I’d ever had in my life. I had to send six bags back to the opp shop. What did I learn? You always get what you want. And that nothing that you want can come without sacrifices. Being authentic means making sacrifices. It means letting the things go that no longer serve you no matter how painful. And sometimes the sacrifices are not conscious ones made. I didn’t consciously set a match to mine and my partners entire lives. But to move on, I had to consciously decide to accept what had happened that was the best thing that could have happened or I’d just stay forever in this state of powerlessness.
For me, being authentic has meant that I have to quit always being the people pleaser. Now it sounds easy, just tell people politely and kindly, thanks but no thanks right? With their opinions, their judgements it’s a bit easier to identify. When people have come to me, with the utmost love and have offered something that I don’t want, I have found it hard to say no. But me being authentic means I have to start doing this. It means that I have to stop taking on other people’s judgement or fear of it. It means I have to work in a job where I know I am supported to be who I really am and if that means I have to create my own job then that is what I have to do. I’m messy and I’m often late and I swear and I can’t work five days a week in the same job and I don’t always have bare smooth legs and I have to learn how to be okay with all of that. Because the other side of it is that I am intelligent and I am loyal and I am intuitive and I am loving and I am physically strong enough to match most men. My point is, I am worthy, despite my fears, I am worthy. I also have to learn to be okay with the times that I don’t feel it and am not authentic in my actions. Loving myself through the times I find myself playing out old patterns, and being a dick is just as powerful because through pain comes deep love.
This. This is me being authentic. Being here on this page with you and writing from a place of vulnerability. This is me being authentic to myself. It won’t always look like this as I’ve said over and over. Me being authentic will be whatever I am in each moment. And I won’t always feel it or get it right but right now in this moment I do feel it. And if I have written this for nothing other than a reminder that I can feel this way, true to myself, then I have done my job here.