Last night I finally saw The Greatest Showman.
Partway through the movie, a song that’s all about authenticity, titled, “This Is Me,” completely swept me away (really, they all did, but this song in particular lit my soul on fire). Matty leaned over to me during the chorus and said, “This song reminds me of you.”
I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Matt saying that made my heart light up even more because I took it as a testament that everything I’ve been working on these past 6 months — finding the courage to let my imperfect, authentic self be seen — has brought me to exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.
And it’s lighting my way as I continue on this vulnerable path to help others find the courage to let their authentic selves be seen, too.
WHAT IS AUTHENTICITY?
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m focusing on Authenticity as a theme this month. You’ll see it weaved throughout my blog posts and Instagram posts on fashion, fitness, motherhood and finding yourself.
So let’s start off with the basics. What does it mean to be authentic?
Googling the definition brought me this: of undisputed origin; genuine.
I like this definition, because it forces us to think about our origin. Who are we? What are our deepest beliefs and values? Where did they come from? When did we first develop them? These have to be the foundation of our own authenticity.
Another definition that I’ve shared and love is from the one and only, Brené Brown: Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
In her book Daring Greatly, she discusses authenticity as one of 10 guideposts for wholehearted living—a way of engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness, of believing we are enough.
In order to cultivate authenticity, we have to let go of what people think.
For most of my life, I feared what people think. To cope, I tried to be perfect. I became an expert people pleaser, fitter-inner, and basically learned how to be “whoever you want me to be” in order to avoid conflict, judgment, blame and shame (aka, feeling unworthy of connection). I wasn’t a total pushover. I knew I was better off avoiding certain social situations where the risk of peer pressure might be high. But I tried desperately to become my vision of “the perfect girl” because I believed it would make everyone love and accept me.
I think I always knew I didn’t have to value others’ opinions more than my own, but it was like being stuck in a heavy suit of armor and not having the tools, knowledge or strength to get myself out of it.
Once I decided that that mindset—and the weight of always trying to control other people’s reactions to me—wasn’t working for me anymore, I got help from someone who could teach me how to start taking the armor off. And I began focusing my intentions around the things that make me who I am—my values, my talents and my passions.
WHAT AUTHENTICITY IS NOT.
We all know that to be authentic, it requires some vulnerability. So it’s imperative to understand what it means to be vulnerable in order to be truly authentic.
- Vulnerability defined by Google: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.
- Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability: uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
Both of these definitions make vulnerability sound terrifying, and it is, but Brené also clarifies that while vulnerability is emotional exposure, it’s not the same thing as “letting it all hang out.”
Vulnerability without boundaries, is not vulnerability.
We have to be willing to set our own boundaries to allow for vulnerability and foster connection in our lives.
WHAT AUTHENTICITY MEANS TO ME.
To me, authenticity is about sharing myself and my vulnerabilities with the people I trust and love who have earned the right to hear about them. (This is also one of my boundaries—I share with people I trust).
Authenticity is about working through my shame issues, embracing my imperfections, owning my story and the scars that come with it, and sharing only what I CHOOSE to share with others through my blog when I can do so without apologizing for my imperfections; when I’m coming from a place of authentic self-acceptance. (Another boundary.)
I agree with Patrice over at Women at Heart: When we are in the presence of an authentic person, many of us can even feel it in our bones. We gravitate toward people whom we perceive as honest, real and sincere. We love women who radiate warmth and that “down to earth” feeling. We gather around the people who can “tell it like it is” and laugh at themselves in the process.
Authenticity for me is about living a life aligned to my highest values and letting go of who I thought I was supposed to be in order for others to value me. It’s about being unmistakably known for my values and the things I stand for, and being a light to others when they’re trying to find their own glow.
My core values, which I’ll talk a lot about this year, are:
- Family (primarily, motherhood and marriage)
If you don’t really know yourself, it’s difficult to know if and when you’re being authentic. Later this month, I’ll share an exercise with you to help you identify your top 5 values. This is something I did with my therapist and it’s been a huge foundational element for me. Possibly, the most impactful thing I’ve done as I’ve applied Brené Brown’s work in my daily life.
WHAT DOES AUTHENTICITY MEAN TO YOU?
When you read the lyrics to the song above (or belt it out in your car like me), what do you FEEL?
Can you relate to feeling like “No one’ll love you as you are”? Are you tired of feeling afraid, small and hidden?
This next week, I’m challenging you to put some thought into what authenticity means to you. What kind of person do you want to be? What do you value most? Is your life aligned to those values? If it’s not, you likely know it, and the people closest to you probably know it, too.
Think about what gets in the way for you. What stops you from being the person you know you are capable of being?
And remember, your authentic best self doesn’t come without flaws and imperfections. It’s one whole package. Getting to a place where you can accept those flaws and imperfections is what will allow you to become more authentic.
Stay tuned for more posts about authenticity this month. In the meantime, I’d love to know your thoughts on authenticity, and of course, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN! Please comment below so we can chat it up.