Authenticity: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions.
In my last blog post I spoke of a friendship I said good-bye to. I hope my heart level reason was not missed by my readers. I walked away because that friendship was not in line with my core value of integrity and being friends with this person was creating a lack of authenticity within myself.
An example of, letting go of what no longer serves me.
I have been reading about and researching authenticity for some time now. For myself personally, I see us, as a society lacking in honesty and true acceptance. We are disconnected from our values, from our hearts, from our behavior, from our inner voices, and from our highest selves. We are not living responsibly nor are we truly willing to change.
Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change.
I teach, meet one on one with clients, I run women’s groups, I manage staff and what I hear overwhelmingly is FEAR. If someone is living in fear you will hear and/or see the following:
questions of the future
low self esteem
self worth issues
being stuck (inaction)
Fear in and of itself is a good thing. Fear can keep us on alert and help us avoid danger. Fear is a fantastic survival tool, however fear is much less necessary today then it was when we faced true survival threats like being chased my animals that wanted to eat us.
Because we are living in times of overload and stress our adaptive brains have continued to help us survive through fight or flight. However, today fight or flight is more about managing our jobs, family life, finances, emotions, obligations, social media, politics and many other day to day issues. Our bodies are in near constant survival mode, which equals stress which perpetuates FEAR. DANGER = FEAR
How does this relate to authenticity? Pay attention, the next sentence is HUGE…
We CANNOT be true to our own personality, spirit or character if we are in a constant negative stress cycle = FEAR. We just can’t – it’s not possible.
LOVE is the only way to self acceptance and true authenticity.
You can love others, love your dog, maybe even love strangers, but you cannot claim you are living a truly authentic life if you do not love and accept YOUrself.
This is where things get tricky. In order to truly and deeply love and accept yourself you must do the work. You must get in there and uncover your fears, look them straight in the eye and be willing to listen to and heal your wounded-ness. Fear lies in the darkest recesses of our being. If we choose not to get in there and do the emotional growth work that is necessary, that our LOVE hearts want us to process than we will remain in a fear state. Our traumas will continue being triggered and we will be unable to reach any honest level of authenticity.
STOP what you’re doing. Walk to the closest mirror, stand there, get close to the mirror and look deep into your own eyes…Say to yourself, I love and accept you for all of your flaws, mistakes, dark parts and fears. I trust the process of life, I accept you fully, and I LOVE YOU.
How do you feel?
Do you feel like you just lied to yourself? Did you feel your heart skip a beat? Did you feel stupid saying these words to yourself? Did you laugh or giggle?
The first step to accepting yourself is being able to look at yourself as a flawed, fallible human being and be ok with it.
I trust the process of life.
Authenticity is the advanced level of personal growth. You need to put the time and work in, lay the foundation for yourself, build trust within yourself, and prove your commitment to yourself. For many of us we didn’t have trusting relationships in our young lives, we felt alone in our survival, in our struggles. By practicing acceptance, grace and love for ourselves we create a new reality and new possibilities for ourselves.
Choose LOVE. Kick FEAR out of your mindset/life. Create acceptance and authenticity awaits…
Something had been bothering me for a few weeks about a friendship I am in. I didn’t want to hear what I knew in my heart I needed to listen to. But, I am committed to listening to my heart, so I took time to hear what I was feeling. As human beings the most difficult thing we can do is enter into relationships with other humans. We are notorious for getting our hearts hurt.
I don’t feel hurt at all, I actually feel pretty empowered and at peace with my decision.
I take my friendships very seriously, I love my friends deeply and I am extremely loyal – until I get hurt or until I begin to feel the friendship may be coming to an end.
A couple of weeks ago I started feeling like something was off with my friend. I began to feel an uncomfortable gnawing in my gut, and a feeling of dread in my heart. I started avoiding contact and being legitimately annoyed when I heard from them.
I knew something was really wrong. I had NEVER felt this way before about my friend. When I heard from them my day was brighter or I would look forward to sharing good news with them. But, last week that shifted and I began to listen deeper to what my heart wanted for us (myself and my inner family).
My feelings matter, my gut feelings matter and I don’t ignore either, EVER.
So, today I said, good-bye to my friend and I know tonight when I’m alone I will cry and I will most likely write a good-bye letter to them.
I will keep affirming my heart that it’s okay that we are okay and that my friend will be ok too. We had a loving adult conversation about our feelings and I was honest, kind and responsible.
Last night I had a dream and I believe my dreams carry messages for me. Upon waking the only part of my dream I could remember was an old friend (we are no longer friends and I miss her), whom I loved dearly, and with whom I shared an instant connection, came to me. In my dream I think I was in a bathtub fully clothed, just hanging out. My friend walked right up to me, I called her name, she climbed in the tub and we wrapped ourselves up in each others embrace and it felt amazing. I felt loved.
I felt incredibly loved, comforted and nurtured. I cried when I woke up because it felt so good and real and I miss her, very much.
I come from a strong generational background of lack. Lack of money, happiness, integrity, honesty, love, tolerance and on and on…
My family struggled from the very beginning with poverty. Even as young as a toddler, I knew not to ask for things, I knew money was always an issue for my grandparents, whom I lived with. My parents were just kids, divorced soon after I was born and neither had education nor work prospects. Neither of my parents graduated high school.
We teetered on the brink of homelessness for several years. My grandparents didn’t have much, we always lived in rental homes – usually a friend’s home which wasn’t very reliable. We moved frequently and survived on very little – I think at some point I received state services for food and medical care.
My grandpa was an uneducated handy man. My grandma was a morbidly obese woman who stayed home due to the many illnesses related to her weight. I loved them with all of my being because they were my safety, my stability and my home.
Our family was incredibly dysfunctional – but my grandparents loved every one of us deeply and I knew in my heart that they wanted better lives for their children and their grandchildren. But, I felt their stress, their fears and their sadness of the daily struggle of living with near constant lack.
As children do with the teachings of their family of origin, I dutifully took on the lack I was taught and made it part of my life. It cemented into my belief system and my self talk. On a subconscious level my belief in lack of money was also tied to my beliefs about what work looks like.
My belief was, there will never be enough money, I will always struggle.
Always a responsible employee, I never felt happy in my jobs. I either didn’t like the people or the pay or the job duties. Every job I had up until 1996 when I left the workforce due to a difficult pregnancy with my twin daughters, felt like just a “job”.
Contrary to my subconscious belief system I knew on a deeper level that I wanted more, I wanted a career. I wanted to be in a field where I could serve people, make a difference, feel satisfied and make a good living. I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew I wanted those things.
When my daughters were young I put myself through college, and after changing my mind about careers paths several times received my Associates in Arts and Sciences degree (the first college grad in my entire family, ever). I had been accepted to a local University and was on course to be a Holistic Dietician. After graduating in 2009 it became clear I could not afford my chosen Universities tuition, from there I decided not to put my young family into major student loan debt of $75,000 – I had to let that dream go. While this decision literally broke my heart, I felt strongly there was a win-win somewhere and I wanted to explore and find it!
In 2010 my family went through a very difficult time – my marriage was on the rocks, my husband lost his second job, we went bankrupt and I needed to go back to work. I thought about what kinds of jobs I would like to have, and where I might enjoy working. At that time I was enrolled in my health coach certification program and was neck deep in nutrition, holistic health approaches and life coaching. I decided I would apply at my local food co-op, and I was hired part time working in the deli. Which was perfect for me as I love cooking and knew a bunch about natural products and cooking with produce. I worked 13-15 hours a week at $9.75 an hour, I got familiar real quick with working with others in close quarters and customer service. I will admit it was a bumpy transition for me, because I was used to being home, working, running a household and parenting 100% of the time – I was my own boss.
My home life was stressful so I volunteered for extra shifts and additional hours as much as I could. I asked for additional responsibility as often as possible. I felt I could do things better than they were being done, but respected my supervisor. My leadership and ambition came back full force and after about a year part-time in the deli I moved up to managing the wellness department of the coop – a full-time position with a nice little bump in pay. Progress.
I loved my job at the coop, I made great friends, loved the connections I made with customers, felt supported, challenged and it was a great experience for my professional self-esteem. I was able to begin coaching and working with clients on the floor in a greater capacity becasue I was a certified health coach. My job satisfaction was good, I enjoyed my co-workers but the pay was out of line with what I felt I deserved. My department was doing well financially and I was an active contributor to the co-op as a business, but a raise was denied. I could not survive on $13.50 an hour especially with the threat of marital separation looming.
I left the co-op to work from home for a natural products company as an inside sales rep. I almost immediately regretted leaving my management job despite the fact that my wages increased slightly. I was promised things by this employer that never really came to be, which left a sour taste in my mouth. I cried at my desk on a regular basis, yet in hindsight, I am grateful for that job because it afforded me the ability to be home for my daughters, to care for my dear friends baby, and to be home for my ailing father in law.
Work=suffering (emotional, financial)
In 2015 my daughters graduated from high school, my father in law passed away and I decided it was time for ME. It was time for me to really focus on what my purpose is here, on this earth. I spent time focusing on this with my EMDR therapy and with my mentor, Jean. I toyed with going back to college for another degree, I began coaching full-time, I kept asking questions, exploring and setting my intentions of earnings, career fields and hours. I still felt a bit lost, but I trusted the process of life and I was open to information from the Universe.
I quit my inside sales job last spring to launch my coaching biz, but shortly thereafter my husband was let go from his job of twenty five years. His delicate ego was feeling stomped on, which I understood, but we couldn’t be without two incomes. I quickly applied with a local non-profit for a job in human services. I would get to teach, receive targeted trainings and work with disadvantaged workers to better their own lives. I struggled with accepting the position due to low pay for the level of responsibility and reporting, but I wanted to give it a shot. This was my first true experience professionally in human services – which I felt was a field I could excell in.
After a month I found myself struggling with case management, I felt like a glorified babysitter and I wasn’t happy. Pay was low, certain aspects of the job were nearly intolerable, but I LOVED teaching, and I enjoyed my co-workers and building relationships in the community. I gained sixteen pounds in four months, my emotional stress was through the roof. By this time my husband was employed full-time again and I started plotting my escape. I left mid-December but stayed involved with the company as a life skills trainer and assistant to my boss, the interim program manager.
Work=suffering (big time emotional and financial)
Upon giving my notice my boss mentioned she would like for me to apply for program manager once it was posted. She had the confidence in me to run the entire program, and manage the staff from which I had just resigned. I was flattered, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and needed time to reflect, minus the stress of the job, on what I wanted from my future work.
Work=Pleasure and Satisfaction
After a month off and enjoying teaching life skills, I generated a new mindset and a new belief about what work means to me. Work=suffering was my families defenition, which has NEVER been MY defenition, that was just my default setting, because I wasn’t truly aware. Without awareness I can not change my beliefs.
I applied end of February for program manager and was hired the next day. My income doubled, I have the full support of my staff of six, my managers, the company as a whole, but most importantly MYSELF. This is the place for me, I no longer have questions about where I belong professionally. I’m here.
I put my intentions out there, every day. I said, Universe, I want a full time job in human services, making a salary of a minimum…., close to home, offering some travel and in a management position and I want it by Jan 2017.
Thank you, Universe. You got it 100% correct.
This has been a long post, but I want to leave you with this. My message is…
I created this life for myself. I did this. No one handed it to me, no one layed out my path and made it easy. I struggled, I made mistakes, I searched for awareness, I asked questions, I dug deep, I fucked it up, I have regrets, but I made it.
Ask and you shall receive. This is the rule of the Universe, you aren’t willing to go deep and do the work you need to do to ascend your current position? Then enjoy being stuck.
As I tell my life skills students, success is NOT a neat, clean, linear process. Success is a messy, ugly, jumbled up mess of a process. Two steps forward, one step backwards.
YOU are the only one in charge of your life. YOU are the one who creates change, opportunities and experiences. Not happy with your life? STOP complaining, justifying, being afraid, doubting yourself, accepting it and DO something about it.
Dig deep, do the work, be afraid, face it and change it.
I came from nothing. Literally, NOTHING. My very first financial goal was to make more than my parents made annually. Done. My second goal was to out earn my husband. Done. I educated myself, created opportunities, stayed in the game, faced my fears, defied my doubters, never gave up and trusted myself and the Universe to build a life I deserve and LOVE.
I first learned about the concept of healthy, unconditional LOVE in 2004 when I attended my first Responsible Living workshop. I confess that while this worksop introduced the concept of LOVE to me, I did not go home a glowing ball of light…it mostly opened a can of worms that overwhelmed me for months.
I have been on my personal growth journey since 1999 which for me is just normal everyday living. Activities include digging for my truth, listening to my inner wisdom, creating space for healing, going down the rabbit hole of traumatic experiences, getting to know my inner family and learning how to comfort, parent, and love myself.
Throughout this process my biggest lessons have been learning to TRUST myself and others, learning how to comfort and console my inner family and harnessing the fact/reality that I have ultimate power and control over MY life. Now, when I say, MY LIFE that includes, my feelings, actions, thoughts, intentions, desires, wants and my physical/metaphysical energy.
I am 100% responsible.
In the years since that workshop I have become well acquainted with LOVE. I know what unconditional love for myself and others actually FEELS like. I have experienced the freedom of going out into the world with NO expectations of myself and others. I have grown so much emotionally that I have begun to question my teachers, my mentors, my learned beliefs, and myself to a point where I ask questions like, am I practicing love or just talking about it? Do I profess my love in a healthy, responsible way? Is my LOVE talk matching my actions? Do I truly love myself – like madly, truly, deeply? Is self love enough for me? or do I require the love and adoration of others to feel whole?
LOVE is responsibility and commitment.
LOVE requires action, LOVE requires movement, LOVE requires self awareness, LOVE requires presence and LOVE requires sacrifice. LOVE requires a degree of selflessness. Love requires us to be more than just “there” LOVE requires mindfulness and for us to be authentic and true within ourselves. I tried for years to LOVE others without truly loving myself – I professed and practiced and I still felt empty.
Here is what author, Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection)has to say about LOVE:
-If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability-
Brene is talking about the work that one must put in if they want to truly live a life of authenticity and LOVE. After growing emotionally and working on myself for several years this concept hit me head on. There was a day when I woke up and realized I was only professing to LOVE myself, my friends, family, neighbors, strangers. All I was doing was talking about it – I was NOT practicing LOVE. I think we can all agree that professing our LOVE is MUCH easier than practicing.
Practicing is where we can fall short in life.
For me practicing LOVE from a mindful, authentic please meant saying good-bye to some people in my life. It meant setting boundaries to protect my heart, it meant creating safety in intimate relationships, it meant using my voice, it meant giving myself grace as a parent, it meant feeding my body good food, it meant setting intentions that challenged me, it meant asking for help from my support people, it meant creating a healthy family for myself and my daughters, it meant getting REAL honest with myself and my inner family, it meant holding those who profess their LOVE for me to a higher standard.
This process of LOVE is ongoing and I am committed to continuing to grow my ability and capacity to LOVE myself and others. My commitment to LOVE will continue to be challenged by folks who are stuck in PROFESSING and not PRACTICING. I will still LOVE them, as that is my commitment to myself and the world, but I will do it with clear internal boundaries (so my heart doesn’t get hurt) and I will hold no ill will towards them for not being able to reciprocate. I ask you now, do you practice LOVE or do you profess LOVE?
Depression has been a companion of mine for most of my life.
In 1999 I unwittingly succumb to the grip of post partum depression. From the moment my daughters were born I fought the darkness that threatened to choke the breath out of every area of my life. When I wasn’t feeling numb, I was a simmering pot of rage. I felt complete hopelessness, overwhelming powerlessness, I felt trapped in my own misery and I wanted to die.
On any given day I bounced between depression and intense self criticism. One minute I grappled with visions of hurling my sweet, nursing newborn daughter against the living room wall. The next minute my heart dropped and I would tumble downward sobbing with guilt, flogging myself for being an abusive monster.
I suffered for nearly two years not knowing exactly what had overtaken me. I did not know I was depressed. I battled long held and deeply engrained demons; shame, guilt, and self criticism.
I begged a God I didn’t believe in or trust for answers, and for relief.
I survived that depression, my daughters survived that depression. But, I will never forget those feelings of utter despair and emotional pain. They will always be there, familiar, waiting to come visit, I understand and accept that now.
And while depression does not define me or make me someone less than, it will always be a part of me.
My responsibility now is to continue listening to my heart, validating my inner family, and loving myself in ways that reinforce my worth and value.
Today I’m acknowledging feeling lonely, unappreciated, unmotivated, emotionally tired and a bit stuck. I feel like my efforts to make the world better are fruitless.
In my world of responsible living this is called playing the victim game. I’m not being responsible because I’m not being proactive with myself, I’m wallowing in my misery.
Maybe that’s the real life definition of depression?
When I was neck deep in my PPD my husband said to me, you know what your problem is? You like wallowing in your own shit, Shawna.
Possibly, but today knowing what I know, maybe there are answers in our wallowing? Maybe going down the rabbit hole of my life circumstances is just what I need to see the value and rise above it?
I don’t have the answers at this moment.
What I know for sure is that my current life circumstances are NOT working for me.
My professional life needs revamping, my personal life needs an overhaul, my health needs fixing and my physical life needs surgery (literally).
Looks like I have some good quality content for EMDR tomorrow.