I have spent much of my adult life trying to be someone I am not.
I used to believe that I was unusual in this sense. I thought that everyone else had it figured out; that they all knew who they were and what they were doing. I admit, I was relieved when I realized that I am not alone living in this land of uncertainty and confusion. In fact, I am in good company. Why do we hide who we really are and where do we catch the next bus to the land of authenticity and honesty?
We live in a society that has many “shoulds.”
We often fall into certain roles which are riddled with expectations. We are a mother, sister, son, boyfriend, best friend, employee, or wife. We have people who depend on us, people we care about. We spend our days interplaying in these relationship dynamics, trying to accomplish what we need to in a day, all the while trying to nurture those relationships. At times this can be pretty hectic with little energy and resources left to tend to ourselves.
That was me eight years ago. I was busy as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor. I was doing all I could to ensure those relationships were stable, healthy and harmonious, except I was neglecting the most important relationship in my life, the relationship with myself.
I won’t ever forget this particular moment on this particular day in early spring when everything in my life changed. This day started the same as any other, but at some point during the day I looked at myself in a mirror and said, “I don’t know who you are anymore.”
Needless to say, at that point I realized I needed to pack my bags and begin the journey to a place where I knew who I was. I didn’t know where I was going, what village or town I would end up in, but staying where I was wasn’t an option. My soul was crying for my attention.
Since then, I have been relearning who I am, loving who I am and sharing the real me with the world. To me, being authentic occurs when who we truly are at our core, and who we present to the world, are exactly the same. When what we say and do is consistent with how we truly feel and is in line with our core values. It’s a place where we don’t change our behaviors based on what we think others expect from us. It is giving ourselves permission to not be sheep.
Eight years ago I did not realize what lay ahead of me. I found as I started to think and talk about what was going on for me, resources seemed to show up exactly when I needed them. I read as many books as I could; I went to lectures, seminars and took a series of self-development courses that were nothing short of remarkable. The key seemed to be that I remain open to the process and the learning and not to judge myself.
Along the way there were milestone moments when time seemed to stop, as I knew I had a major victory in showing the world the truth of me.
One particular instance I was at a dinner theatre event of “Mamma Mia” with a group of co-workers. The actors were looking for audience members to join the scene on the stage in singing and dancing. I eagerly put up my hand to be picked. They chose me and I sang and danced my heart out on stage and had the time of my life. I should mention that I am a professional accountant. This was not a side of me that I was used to showing to anybody. For days afterward I felt complete peace. Triumph.
Being our true authentic selves does seem to require a certain level of bravery and vulnerability. We risk that someone might not like us. We risk that we might look foolish. Fortunately as with all risk, there are rewards. This is what I learned during my quest.
There are people in our lives who may not like it when we shine the light of our true self. The dynamics of our relationships can change as we are different. Certain people may not make it to our future. The sooner we accept this, the quicker our new tribe can find us.
It may be easier to be our authentic selves in certain areas of our lives than others. Often it was easier to be me when I was around strangers, rather than people who had known me a long time. I chose to focus on those areas first and gradually expanded outward.
We all have a story. We all have difficulties, insecurities, troubles, concerns, worries, areas of our lives we don’t understand. Essentially we are all human. We are all on earth at this time to learn lessons and flow with the twist and turns of life. Nobody has it all figured out, yet we often want others to perceive that we do. It really is alright to feel a little lost sometimes.
I learned how appealing and attractive it is when someone shows the raw truth of who they are. People who have their guards down and who show me who they are have a special place in my heart. I find it ironic that we love seeing authenticity and vulnerability in others, yet we are so scared to express it ourselves. There is something to be learned here.
The more I am the real me, the less outside circumstances affect me. Whatever may happen around me, I will always know who I am and that I can rely on myself. I am my own constant in life. I don’t require the same level of validation from others and from my relationships as I used to.
Shining my light and being the real me creates the space for others to do the same.
The most important lesson I learned over the past eight years is that being authentically me is the greatest gift I can give myself. There is peace within me that I did not have before this journey began. Although there were challenging times throughout this process, I feel grateful that life led me down this road. Every stumbling block, every challenge, and every mishap seemed to guide me to questioning who I was and what I wanted from my life. With those questions came answers and a brilliant level of clarity, confidence and trust. That is the person I am today.
As for what lies ahead…I will continue to make mistakes, stumble over myself and learn about life. The journey is far from over. But there is an excitement in continuing to discover what is next and what I am capable of creating in my life.
I trust in life and I trust myself. I’m not sure I could ask for much more.
Author: Andrea Horvath
Editor: Catherine Monkman