The most significant moment in my life thus far was the day I finally found the real me. In that profound moment I finally came to understand the value of being true to myself. And once I had discovered the true power of authenticity, the quest for living an authentic life completely began to alter my world.
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.
I remember when the debilitating shame began. Growing up in Apartheid South Africa our school environment was shaped by a government policy known at the time as Christelike Nasionale Opvoeding (Christian National Education). This restrictive policy was geared towards social engineering and allowed very little religious or ideological freedom. Even the Catholic faith was considered suspicious.
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.
Those bullies had no idea why they felt the need to terrorize me; they just sensed intuitively that I was somehow unusual, a threat. Within me there was a silent, latent force that made them very uncomfortable. They were taught since birth to despise that which was different from them in race, creed, language, culture and faith. They feared what they did not understand. Being different, or standing out from the crowd in any way, was seen as anti-Christian, non-Afrikaans and unpatriotic.
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 prejudiced views and bigoted values to this very day. I know some of 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.
There is only one true key to lasting personal fulfillment and true intimacy with others – to be authentic. For when we are authentic we release our fears and step into being bona fide, and utterly vulnerable. We cannot experience true love and connection without also risking heartbreak and disillusionment. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, because when we shield ourselves from loss, rejection and disappointment, when we hide from sadness and despair, we also shut out opportunities for love, happiness, joy, acceptance and fulfillment.
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.
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