We are conditioned to behave.
Our primitive brain, the one that runs like a click track for the rest of our minds, works diligently to preserve three things: safety, dignity, and connection. So the messages we receive when we do something out of our typical routine is “Back up! Retreat! They won’t like that. They won’t accept you. You’ll look foolish. That will never work.”
When we recoil for the sake of belonging, we end up fragmented, confused, and empty. Good behavior, like most external expectations, is totally relative, and we spend so much of our emotional energy trying to reach a bar that will always move. It’s exhausting.
We tend to prefer external approval over internal acceptance. Like a beggar in our own lives, we’ve loosened our grip on authenticity and stretched our hands out to the world around us, pleading for validation.
The only way out of this cycle is to learn how to practice authenticity, which, according to Brene Brown, is “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
The first step towards authenticity is to identify who you are. And if this statement freaks you out, I completely understand. We’ve been allowing other people to define us since childhood. We’ve performed our way through school, chameleoned our way through relationships, and somehow managed to morph our way into adulthood without ever really growing up.
Self-discovery is the precursor to this kind of excavating work. You’ve got to ask yourself really important questions:
What are my values?
What do I want?
What do I need?
What do I like?
Where am I stuck?
Give yourself permission to have preferences. Work on making decisions without factoring in someone else’s opinion. Set healthy boundaries in your relationships. Stop apologizing for saying no.
Authenticity requires extreme bravery. You have to embrace the notion that you’ve got so much beauty and wisdom buried inside of you. Not needing to be fixed or chiseled or polished. Just waiting to be activated.
You bring to the table a unique set of gifts and ideas, and no one can offer what you can to the feast of the human experience.
Your words don’t have to be well-crafted, your smile whitened, and your posture just so. All you have to do is show up and shine.