Just be yourself. I think I have heard this piece of advice more than a thousand times in my life. It comes from a good place and I can understand what they mean in theory but does anyone actually know how to do that? Everyday, there are new headlines, magazine articles and talented leaders in the field of psychology and self improvement touting this notion of living more authentically and intentionally. But what they don’t say is just how hard that really is and to be honest, I am not sure that most people who talk about this even really know what it means. From the time we were born, we learned how to perform - how to make others feel more comfortable, how to be taken more seriously or make people happy. We live in a world where honesty is celebrated only in theory but we are told behind closed doors to “fake it till we make it”. Compromise and stagnancy become the underlying theme to our lives. One of your biggest assets becomes knowing how to not rock the boat and when you do, all eyes are on you and you are alone, not celebrated but judged. We have become the nice, quaint elevator music - not offending anyone but never making waves that can really shift the equilibrium in which we exist. We learn to play a part, performing but not really existing because to exist means to be bold and run straight into your fears and vulnerability, thriving and feeding on passion.
This safeness can be alluring - and has been something I have lived in for a long time. I learned how to tell people just enough about me to make them feel we were connected but never tell them the things I knew would make them shy away from me or challenge them in a way that might make them uncomfortable or dislike me. I celebrated my success and worth based on external systems of evaluation - the number of friends I had, my grades, numbers on a scale or clothing sizes, the number of likes I got on a Facebook post or comments on my art. I would stew for days on an interaction I couldn’t figure out or that went negatively trying to figure out how to fix anything that upset the equilibrium. I assumed all responsibility for the happiness of others and never really explored what made me happy. I sacrificed my feelings and passion on countless occasions too repair what I am never sure I really wanted - false and superficial relationships with people who didn’t challenge me or excite me or make me want to be a better person.
I lied to myself for years telling myself that everything I was doing was what I really wanted to do. But in the past few months, I started to realized how tired I am of performing and all of the lies I told myself are catching up. I am not happy being the nice elevator music. I wasn’t made to blend in. I was made to stand out and be bold. I was made to push people and extend well beyond what is acceptable and normal and ignite a spark in people to celebrate the beauty that is each person in their own skin, with their own thoughts, dreams and feelings about themselves and the world.
I genuinely don’t want to live a life I am not excited about and I don’t want to die without failing at least 10 times because that means I have the courage to jump and try something that had the potential to make a difference in the world. I want to be able to come to terms with and grieve for everything I will lose as I make the shift to align my actions, beliefs and feelings with who I am, truly and authentically and get excited about the potential I have to deepen the most important relationship I could ever have - the one with myself. I have no idea if living authentically means living happily or being content all of the time or even secure. But I do know that not living authentically is not really living and that is not a choice I am willing to make anymore. I am scared to not be the person everyone likes or wants to go to with their problems or to stop being the person everyone celebrates for being able to “do so much”…I have no idea what my identity is if I am not constantly performing but I think that’s the point, isn’t it? Tear off the mask and be okay with not knowing everything I am or stand for and simply follow my heart and find the courage in every action, every challenge, to do and speak and present myself in a way that I can be excited about because if I know nothing else, I can stand their and celebrate I am being the real me.