I’ve always been a really private person. I’m quite social, don’t get me wrong, I love being the life of the party. But if I didn’t get at least a little time to myself every day – a little “me” time – I’d get irritated (read: bitchy). It’s always just been that way, and I figured it was just a part of my personality.
Last year, I took a spiritual journey to Peru. I worked with a Shaman, took part in some healing ceremonies, and spent 20 days out of a month in a tiny village in the rainforest. I slept in what can basically be described as an old barn, that someone had divided with a few wooden boards. Bathrooms and showers were shared with only a thin curtain to guard against prying eyes (but not ears). Meals were taken together. Days were spent lounging about in the same space. This was communal living and privacy wasn’t really part of the plan.
After a couple of weeks, something dawned on me: Even though I hadn’t had even a moment to myself for days, even weeks, I hadn’t once become irritated. I hadn’t snapped at anyone, hadn’t even had to try not to. No one had gotten on my nerves. I was Zen as can be. And I realized why: Normally, I’d spent my days in a variety of situations and with a variety of people that I felt I could not really be myself with. I wore a bunch of different masks, each one carefully constructed to fit the occasion. I had a “boss” mask, an “employee” mask, a “family” mask, a “friend” mask, etc. Even if a mask closely resembled me, it only ever showed a small part of who I was. This was how I protected myself.
Let’s look at this from an energetic point of view (because that’s what I do): Who you really are, has a vibration, and generally quite a high one. The masks we wear can be seen as lower frequencies, which we carry around with us. Protective mechanisms are a response to fear. Let the mechanism go and you can release the fear – you release the lower frequency and let the higher vibration of who you really are come through. So, as you become authentic, you are raising your vibration.
I needed some time every day, just a bit of “me” time where I could let all the masks drop, where I could just be myself. It cost a lot of energy to wear those masks and when I didn’t get a break from the strain of it, my exhaustion and irritation would show.
In Peru, in that little jungle village, for the first time in my life, I really felt that I could just be me. I could be truly authentic. The environment fostered it. I was surrounded by fellow spiritual seekers and we were all actively working on prying off our own masks. We supported each other. There was no judgment. So you could assume that this was an isolated incident, brought about by the people and the place.
But something wonderful happened. When I got home, back to my real life, the masks stayed off for the most part (I struggled a bit at first in stressful situations). I began showing people the real me – the me I’d so carefully guarded all those years, the me I’d been so terrified would be rejected or ridiculed. I’d had a taste of how wonderful and liberating it can be to really, truly be yourself, to stop fear from running your life. And it had felt way too great to let it go. So I showed people who I really was and prepared for the backlash – which didn’t come. Some people were surprised, to be sure, but not everyone. A lot of people reacted more along the lines of “Yeah, we always suspected that’s who you were.” It seemed that I hadn’t hidden the real me all that successfully, after all. Some of me had always shone through. And many people reacted really positively, as if my being authentic finally gave them permission to drop their own masks, too.
They say that we’re supposed to go and find ourselves, implying that we don’t really know who we are and that we need to search outside of ourselves for the answer. I don’t think that’s it at all. We know who we are, deep down inside. It’s the person we so wish we could let ourselves be, but are too afraid to show to the world. We’re all still in grade school, on the play ground, desperately hoping the other kids will like us and hoping no one knows just what a dork we really are. Except now, as adults, we should know that we’re not the only ones who feel that way. We’re all desperately afraid of each other, but want nothing more than to connect.
We don’t have to find ourselves. All we have to do is drop the masks. And breathe. The relief that comes with finally showing people who you really are is phenomenal. It’s what we all want – to be authentic, to stop being afraid and just let our true selves show through.
So what are we afraid of? Rejection, for one. Ridicule, for another. Again, we’re back on the playground and we expect at any moment that everyone will gather around us in circle pointing and laughing. That doesn’t really happen to adults, though, does it (unless you go on reality TV…)? There’s really nothing to be afraid of.
The people who are a match to you vibrationally, will accept you. The people who are no longer a match to your new vibration, those who would ridicule you, will just gravitate right out of your life. They won’t have access to you anymore. I realized this experientially when old friends whom I hadn’t spoken to in a long time started to contact me out of the blue. At first I struggled with the idea of showing them the real me, sans protective masks. But then I realized that if they couldn’t handle my new vibration, they wouldn’t have contacted me. They never would’ve had the impulse to call or email. They wouldn’t have even thought of me. Because the law of attraction wouldn’t have given them access to a vibration that they weren’t close to. So, I sucked it up, and just showed them who I honestly was. And the reaction was without fail a wonderful surprise.
When you’re truly being authentic, you give those around you permission to be authentic, as well. You communicate differently. You stop wasting your time on superficial conversations, designed to mask what everyone’s really thinking. You really talk to people, really connect to people. All of your relationships become deeper and more honest. And you stop being so exhausted. It costs a great deal of energy to wear those masks. Being yourself feels easy and light in comparison. And sure, there’s still some fear, especially in the beginning. But remember that most people will have sensed your real self anyway, on some level. They won’t be all that surprised.
Start today – be authentic with one person. You might choose someone you love, or it might be much easier with a stranger. Be who you really are with the checkout lady at the supermarket. See how it feels. You’ll make her day and yours. I promise you, the first time you do it, you’ll be terrified. Do it anyway. The first time someone accepts you (or just doesn’t reject you), the real YOU, you’ll realize how silly it was to be afraid. And you’ll realize how wonderful it feels to be well and truly free. Then come back and leave me a comment or send me an email letting me know how it went!
Hey Awesome Lady,
Super Duper Article. The satisfaction level after being what you are in any situation is tremendous.
It’s my most favorite article too now.
Ha ha, Sameer. I think your favorite is changing by the minute! 🙂
You’re so right. When you finally let go and just let yourself be authentic, it’s the best feeling in the world. Letting go of all that fear and allowing the real YOU to come through.. Ahhhhhhhh.
I love this work!
Thank you for posting the list of suggested past posts (Feb 5, 2012). I’ve been browsing through all your posts, and this gives method to my wandering. BTW, I just reread your list of upcoming projects and saw the book – are we great minds or fools?? Either way, we’re on the same wavelength.
How wonderful that getting away let you see home (relationships) differently. That happens for me too, and I love it! Moving to Mexico changed everything. I’d tried to be authentic in the US the past few years, the same inside and out, and think I sort of succeeded. Then I moved to Mexico, and feel like I’m me all the time here. No history, a language barrier to fall back on (ha!), all wysiwyg!!
In my book of poems Clear Soul, I use metaphors to clarify who I am and who I’m not. For example, I’m a bear who protects her cubs and likes to hibernate, and I’m not a chrysanthemum (brrr… echoes of homecoming queen…). To be transparent with everyone else, we first need to know ourselves. So, who/what are you? And who/what are you not? Hey, maybe there’s a post there? What are our personal metaphors?
Yes! We’re totally on the same page. Fools, schmools. Yesterday’s fools are today’s heroes. I’m sure someone said that. If not, I just did.
I really find that living in a foreign country has helped me to live in my bubble, which has been instrumental in my development. I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully integrate into society at large again, with the news and the pop culture… I may always be part of a small but leading edge group of happy shiny people.
I like that! A momma bear. I never thought of the happy shiny puppy as being a defining metaphor, but of course it is. Probably a Labrador retriever. I love the water, too. He, he.
That could totally be a post! Race ya!
Hee hee. I’ve already got it written in my head… First to the fence post wins! Actually, either way we both win. MC
Ok, I’m having waaay tooooo much fun reading your articles. I promised myself that this is the last one as I should be getting back to work. If I can continue reading through your archives…trust me, I will have more than enough time to read them while unemployed. :0). This one is great! All I kept visualizing while reading the part about people not accepting of me would fade way was: ACCESS DENIED! This will be my mental mantra when encountering those who I may fear will ridicule or not accept the authentic me. I’m anxious to play this experiment out in the real world. I will keep you posted.
Oh no Kim! Don’t get fired on my account. The articles will still be here in the morning! 😉 That’s a great idea. Let me know how it goes!
Thanks for being authentic and sharing this part of you with us.. you’ve helped me take another step forward in doing same.. keep going. J.x
Thanks Jason! Your feedback is really appreciated.
Thanks for your article on being authentic. It would be helpful to have a few examples of inauthentic and authentic conversation , in an intimate and social relationship. I’m lost as to what an authentic response would sound like. I’m afraid being myself will sound rude.
I know exactly what you mean. This is the part that takes practice, and it’s where visualization comes in. It’s like practicing for real life. If you imagine a situation (or even take one from your past), you can try out different responses and see what they feel like. If your response sounds rude to you, it obviously doesn’t yet feel right. You feel your way to it more than thinking your way to it. I can think of one recent example of how I recently coached a friend through this very thing:
My friend was at a party, and this elderly woman was playing it fast and loose with the backhanded compliments. Real passive aggressive stuff. My friend became upset but didn’t know how to respond. He wanted to stay respectful, but didn’t know how to shut her down without being blatantly rude. We played out several different scenarios until we found one that really felt good: My friend, using a gentle, genuinely concerned, non-judgmental and non-confrontational tone, could’ve asked this woman questions such as “How do you mean that?” Notice that the tone of voice and attitude makes all the difference. You don’t automatically assume that she wanted to hurt people. Actually, she’s probably hurting herself, which is at the cause of her behavior. Showing a person like this compassion while also putting a bit of gentle attention on their behavior will shut it down. She could not have continued to be so passive aggressive because she couldn’t have justified it. And she couldn’t have made a scene, because she was not really confronted. It works on a psychological level and well as an energetic one. Practice approaching people with love, while gently setting your limits (you don’t have to be a doormat). The most important factor is: Don’t take the behavior of others personally. It’s got nothing to do with you. Food for thought. 🙂