Over the past few weeks I have really been diving into the importance of authenticity. So often we are told statements like, “just be yourself”, but many of us do not understand the full magnitude of that statement. A large part of this stems from the lack of awareness of who we really are. I began to wonder why that is; it seems so counter-intuitive to try and figure out life without first figuring out yourself, and yet so many people do exactly that. Why do we spend so much time emulating and imitating and so little time exploring our own capabilities and identity? After many conversations, much meditation, and several books, two reasons presented themselves to me:
Let’s start with fear. Nelson Mandela once said that our “deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” But why is that? It certainly doesn’t sound scary to be powerful. But it isn’t having the ability to do anything that is so frightening, its knowing you have had it your entire life and have not even remotely tapped into your true potential. That knowledge can very easily lead to despair. So how do we conquer this fear that leads to inaction and cuts so many of us off before we ever even dare to dream? Eleanor Roosevelt has the cure:
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Fear has a vicious grip on our authenticity. Fear holds us back from daring to be different, daring to be ourselves. Thankfully, we can become immune to it. All we have to do is get our FEAR VACCINE. A vaccine works by introducing our bodies to the very thing that can cause us harm in a small and controlled amount until our bodies naturally have built up a defense against it and it can no longer harm us. This method is also the formula for conquering fear. In fact, therapists use this method to treat phobias—they gradually introduce the client to the thing that s/he is terrified of until the fear is eradicated. I implore you to try this in your life. Retake control over your mind and build up its immunity.
This brings me to the second reason: embarrassment. The funny thing about our fear (just like any phobia) is that we did not always have it. Fear is LEARNED. This general fear of failure that is an epidemic came about through a horrible concept that we have invented. You guessed it, EMBARRASSMENT. If you ever doubt whether embarrassment is a natural trait or a developed one, I encourage to take a long look at infants. When they are young, children are not concerned with being wrong. They are as they are, and they do not care how they or their thoughts are perceived. But gradually over time they get the authenticity conditioned out of them. Kids go from oo-ing and ah-ing practically jumping out of their chairs to shout out the wrong answer to trying to hide in the back of the class hoping they do not get called on for fear of being incorrect. Why do they fear being wrong? Simple, EMBARRASSMENT. It is very hard to grow, or discover all you are capable of when you live in constant fear of being wrong.
Heads up, my solution may not be what you’re hoping to hear…my advice: JUST STOP DOING IT. Start small. Wear that outfit you never dared to even though you liked it because you were worried about what people would say. Get that haircut. Raise your hand. Share your thoughts. Speak up. BE YOU—totally, completely, consistently, unapologetically. Slowly introduce yourself to what happens when you simply DECIDE not to be embarrassed in moments where you typically would. The funny thing is, nothing changes except your perspective (which is everything). People will still laugh at you, people will still try to make you feel bad for having the courage to do what they wish they could. But guess what, THEY ALWAYS WILL. This should come as no surprise given how harsh people will be towards themselves. So choose how you are going to respond to it. Let them laugh at you in all your greatness and glory instead of laughing at a false, incomplete version of you; I guarantee the former will feel a whole lot better.