If you were to ask me what the highlight of my life has been thus far, I would not even need a nanosecond to think about it. It is the easiest question I could ever answer. It was the day I discovered the real me.
The most profound moment for me simply was the day I discovered the true power of authenticity. Since that day, the quest for authenticity has completely altered my life.
Like a Columbus of the heart, mind and soul I have hurled myself off the shores of my own fears and limiting beliefs, to venture far out into the uncharted territories of my inner truth in search of what it means to be genuine and at peace with who I really am. I have abandonded the masquerade of living up to the expectations of others and have been exploring the new horizons of what it means to be truly and completely me, in all my amazing imperfection and most splendid insecurity.
It all began when I finally surrendered my shame to accept my psychic abilities as a blessing and not a curse. New doors swung wide open in my life when I discovered that being an empath is not a weakness and that being a psychic medium is not a sinful insanity. To be sensitive, vulnerable and emotional are taboos in our world, especially for men. Combine that with being a new age weirdo who hears the voices of dead people... and you have the perfect breeding ground for shame, self-hatred and imagined public humiliation.
We were encouraged to embrace the Calvinistic and highly chauvinistic values that were forced upon us. We were programmed not to question authority, and to comply with the prescribed cultural expectations of our community. In this environment I was obviously soon misunderstood, excluded and bullied, to the extent that I began to view my highly sensitive nature and psychic heritage as a shameful secret, as some kind of personal disability.
I soon realized I had to start wearing masks and pretend to be what I am not, for fear of rejection and ridicule. I fervently began to resist my extra sensory experiences. My fascination with all things metaphysical became my ‘dirty little secret’. I no longer told the other children about the metaphysical beings I spoke to, or the paranormal phenomena I saw and heard. I also no longer blurted out the secrets of unsuspecting adults, which often caused many red faces and awkward silences around tea tables and barbeque fires.
I was disregarded by teachers, and rejected and tortured by many of my peers. The name-calling and physical abuse started very early, in my second year at school. I remember finding myself one day surrounded by a group of hyperactive eight-year olds. They were pointing fingers, laughing, and calling me cruel names. Today the scene reminds me of the witch hunters of old. Ironically, I realize now that some of their fathers were most likely firing teargas at rioting youths in one of the black townships at that very moment, while their children were hurling stones at me for daring to be different from the norm.
I remember the dread in their eyes when they used to push me around and hurl insults in my direction. It is disturbing to know that many of them still uphold some of those prejudices views and bigoted values to this very day. I know their current beliefs and attitudes, because these days many of them want to be my friends on Facebook.
People often say that love is the key to conscious living; they say love is the essence of joy and happiness and spiritual enlightenment. I beg to differ. For without authenticity there will never be complete unconditional love. True love and connection with ourselves, others and the planet is impossible without being fully authentic. First we must express and embrace our authentic self, before we will be able to love anyone else unconditionally.
The lack of authenticity is a modern epidemic. We live in a perpetual hall of mirrors where very few of us are what we appear, or claim to be. We have created a counterfeit, pretentious society where we all seek sincere love and true connection from behind the towering walls of our falsehood. We yearn to reach out to one another from our fortresses of deception and our facades of self-protection. All the world is our stage and every day we dance around each other craving to connect with the real people behind the masks of fear and shame we all wear. Is it any wonder there are so many lonely people on this planet? Is it any surprise that relationships have become so complex and near impossible to navigate?
To be authentic is to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to embrace the very essence of all that human life has to offer. How does one become more authentic? To be authentic is to strip away the layers of pretense we have adopted to please others. To be authentic is to abandon the senseless roles we play to meet the imagined expectations of society.
To be authentic is to break free from the oppressive chains of guilt and shame that keep our awkward masks in place, that keep our glasses half empty and not half full. To be authentic is to be stripped bare of all our pretenses and stand proud in the bareness of who we really are. Once we rip off the disguise we assumed for others, the real person is revealed. There is no more putting on a show for the sake of others… and we are finally free!
Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” To stand vulnerable before the world in all your brokenness and imperfection is the most powerful place you can ever be. Being vulnerable is not weakness, it is strength. Being authentic and vulnerable yields a phenomenal power that can move mountains. It is the magic of being alive. Holding yourself in a place of false pretense and self-protection only serves to block out all potential for true well-being and joy.
When we shutdown and sedate all negative feeling, we also shutdown and sedate all the good stuff. When we anesthetize our sadness and despair with alcohol, drugs or food we also shut out all feelings of happiness, joy and ultimate bliss. We cannot feel selectively. We cannot feel only some things, and not others. We feel, or we don’t feel. So, start feeling!
I sometimes tell my clients that “pity parties” are good to indulge in. But if you are going to throw one, do it properly! Throw yourself the best self-pity extravaganza anyone has ever had. Call forth the violins, bring out the long black garments, decorate the room with all those sad memories of humiliation, betrayal and abuse. Go ahead and cover your head in ashes, and flood the floor with your tears. Revel in your misfortune.
Don’t be afraid to love with every fiber in your being. Put your heart on the line each and every time, even when there are no guarantees. Know that you are worthy of love and belonging. Understand that you are imperfect, we all are. We are all defenseless, at risk and flawed in so many ways. Celebrate yourself. Accept that you are enough. Show the real you to the world , for you are special and unique… warts and all. Embrace every opportunity to love and connect with others. Social researcher Brené Brown says, “When we work from a place that says, ‘I am enough’ we stop screaming and start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we are kinder and gentler to our ourselves.”
The truly authentic are blessed. They are the warriors of the soul, the champions of love. Let your authentic self be seen by the rest of the world. You may fear rejection and ridicule, but what you will gain is your freedom and personal power. What you will find is true love and acceptance. We fear the judgment of others, but when we strip away the veils of pretense we discover that there is really only one nasty critic in our lives. There is only one malicious judge who raises eyebrows and wags a disapproving finger at us all the time. That judge is us – you and me. We are our own worst critics. While the rest of the world goes about their business and could care less about our imagined imperfections, we spend hours in our personal hall of mirrors: judging, shaming and blaming ourselves beyond all recognition.
Don’t be afraid to be who you are, but be smart about it. Being authentic is not about exposing yourself like an open book. You need not share your most personal thoughts and deepest personal secrets with the world. You need not wear your heart on your sleeve. Brené Brown sums it up perfectly when she states that one should only share your "shame story" with those who have earned the right to hear your story. Perfect strangers need not know every little intimate fact or detail about your life. Frankly, most people are not all that interested to know it all anyway. But what people are interested in is to engage with other people who are sincere and vulnerable, people who are able to ask for help and affection, people who can admit their own mistakes and imperfections, and people who are always true to themselves and stand up for what they believe in. They are interested in real people who are just like them. So, just be you for change. It will transform your life forever.
© 2013 Anthon St. Maarten