“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~Brené Brown
Growing up I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute I would be on top of the world and the next I felt overwhelmed by anxiety. I didn’t know how to share my difficult emotions in a healthy way with my friends and family, so I started suppressing them instead.
I realized early on that it felt safe to hide my feelings, because no one could judge me if I kept them to myself. I believed that emotions were a sign of weakness, and there was a reward for keeping it together—I never rocked the boat, and everything around me remained peaceful.
But I learned that you can’t trade authenticity for safety and expect to stay true to who you are at the core.
Although it seemed like I was protecting myself, suppressing everything erected walls around my heart and reinforced the belief that it was not safe to share my genuine feelings with anyone else.
As a result, I started having issues with food, and it soon turned into an eating disorder and resulted in anxiety and depression.
Rather than being truly authentic with others, I became strategic; everything I said or did was a thought-out plan to gain acceptance. Being truly authentic with others was just too risky.
I’ve since learned that we cannot truly experience the benefits of a relationship if we are not authentic. To fully feel the love and connection we all yearn for, we have to show people who we really are.
As I let go of what others thought I should be, feel, and say, I started becoming more authentic with those I trusted most. And as I shared feelings that felt risky to expose, the people who truly cared about me received them with love rather than judgment, and those relationships got stronger.
Other times, I shared my true feelings and learned I couldn’t trust certain people with them. I had to let go of some relationships because they were holding me back from being my true self. Although not easy, this was necessary in order for me to evolve and grow.
Authenticity connects us. It is a great gift we give to another person when we let them see behind any masks or the walls of emotional armor.
Even more so, authenticity is a priceless gift we give to ourselves.
How do we become authentic in our relationships?
Begin practicing authenticity with someone who will not judge you, advise you, or try to interrupt your process.
This person can be a dear friend, family member, mentor, coach, or counselor, who will receive the gift of your authenticity with compassion.
For me, it started with owning my own story and starting to share it with others. One of the first things I did was write a letter to one of my dearest friends telling her about my struggles, and she embraced all of it with love.
Rituals teach us to be disciplined and deliberate. Develop rituals that you will use daily to practice authenticity and let go of shame and guilt.
The first two hours of each day are for me. I exercise, journal, and on a good day, get some meditation in too.
It allows me to set my intentions for the day, and to say thank you. It allows me to be exactly who I am with myself so that I can be the most authentic person with others. I love my time in the morning and ever since I started consistently doing this, my life has changed.
Trust your intuition.
That feeling in your gut that tells you what is right and wrong. Not always easy to do when you’re fighting against the naysayers and those who can’t handle the most authentic you. Trust and follow it anyway.
This has been a practice for me. I have not always been good at listening to my intuition for fear of standing up, rocking the boat, and being judged. I have learned that my gut is never wrong, and I now listen and trust.
If you are holding onto something that isn’t allowing you to move forward, forgive yourself and let it go. Not forgiving yourself will keep you swimming in a swamp filled with your gremlins, and unable to experience healthy and happy relationships.
I have made many mistakes in life. I followed the wrong crowd, I didn’t always do the right thing, and I held on to that guilt and shame for many years. It didn’t serve me.
It wasn’t until I was able to forgive myself that I was finally free to move past the mistakes I had made. I was finally able to move forward and become my true authentic self and tell my story.
Respect and value who you are.
When you do, you set the standard for how others treat you. You have permission to be you—unapologetically and authentically you. To have strengths and weaknesses and know that those are what make you unique and amazing.
The truth is that others will treat you with the same respect you show yourself. I didn’t believe I was worthy of having healthy relationships with people who valued who I was, because I didn’t know how to value and love myself. I often sabotaged friendships and relationships with good people.
When I started my healing journey and practiced self-love, meditation, and positive affirmations, I then started to believe that I was worthy of healthy relationships.
Know that you are valued and needed by others.
People need you, and the right people will value who you are and what you stand for when you are authentically you. The world needs to hear your story.
My healing process started when I shared my story and spoke my truth.
I learned that it was okay to be vulnerable and authentic. There are people who related to what I had gone through and were inspired and grateful that I could share. It allowed them to be okay with sharing their story and start their own healing journey.
Just like most skills in life, with practice your ability to recognize and tolerate emotions and be authentically you will improve. Increased self-awareness is the key to having successful, long-lasting, authentic relationships.