I had a great conversation today with a terrific group of people. We were at a local coffee shop surrounded by the aroma of coffee and sound of the muted conversations of other patrons. We were talking about what it meant to be our ‘authentic’ selves. What an interesting concept, to explore, our authentic selves. What does being authentic even mean?
Forget using the dictionary to determine what it meant. We decided to go with our own, personal definitions. Our conversation started to flow as each of us shared our response to the following questions: Do you remember what it was like when you were small and there was something about you that was simple and unencumbered, where you experienced curiosity, wonder, delight and openness? Do you remember a time when you were more fascinated by the world around you than about being afraid or uncomfortable?
Most of our group had trouble answering those questions. As a matter of fact, it was easier for of us to recall memories where sadly, we had been squelched by the situation or a person, rather than remembering something that felt good and made us smile.
We found ourselves at a temporary stalemate as we vacillated between our tendencies to focus on memories of struggle versus focusing on ones that were more positive. To help us break it we decided to modify the question slightly to this: “What do you remember about yourself– the truth of you that was – before you became aware of the need for you to be different?”
There was a pause, and then the stories began to flow. Each person shared their memories, and the pleasure of connecting with their authentic selves registered clearly; the delight in their facial expressions and the lilt of their voices were amplified by the cadence of their speech. Laughter and sparking eyes hinted at their joy, and their body language shifted as those sharing either relaxed, sat forward or became animated during the sharing process. The energy became lighter and more vibrant and the stories were marvelously uplifting and entertaining.
The best part was the respect and love we offered one another during this time. We jointly had created a safe place within which to share our stories. This enabled us to risk being vulnerable as we opened up to our authentic selves in such a public place. It was an awesome experience.
I don’t know if we ever arrived at a common definition or a consensus about what it means to be our authentic selves, at least not so much in words, but we sure got to feel and witness its meaning as each of us shared. It felt joyful, free, fun and open.
I share this experience because there has been a lot going on for communities all over the world. In the U.S. people have been experiencing not only the effects of a pandemic but the after effects of an intense primary election cycle. These have greatly elevated the stress level for the people in our country. They feel tired, and a little more fragile. Their ability to handle unexpected changes with ease has dwindled because so much of it has felt overwhelming and not in their control. They feel depleted and often fluctuate between happiness and despair, and hopefulness and uncertainty among others.
If you have been struggling to find balance and you desire to be squarely in the driver’s seat of your life, then maybe questions like these might help. It is with great respect and appreciation that I extend the following questions for you to ponder.
- Do you remember what it was like when you were small and there was an essence about you that felt simple and unencumbered, and it displayed itself as curiosity, wonder, delight and openness?
- Do you remember a time when you were more fascinated by the world around you than about being afraid or uncomfortable?
- What do you remember about yourself– the truth of you that was – before you became aware of the need for you to be different?
As you explore those questions, it is my hope that you take delight in recognizing and celebrating who you are and all that you have yet to become. You are a gift and I believe that you are utterly magnificent! Happy Holidays!