I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about being authentic.
One of my dearest friends sent me a link to a TED talk by social researcher Brene Brown on vulnerability (I highly recommend watching it here when you get the chance) and probably the thing she said which struck me the most was this:
I am enough.
I know it doesn’t seem like rocket science. But this is a concept I have struggled with for so many years – am I enough? If I don’t get the highest mark, am I enough? If I’m overweight – am I enough? If my kids muck up at school, am I enough? If my house is always a mess, if I fail at my job, if I stuff up at parenting, if I publish a book and no one buys it – am I enough?
It was kind of a light bulb moment. So I decided right then and there – yes, I am enough.
And, because the universe is awesome, I had the opportunity to test my newfound revelation right away.
That same week as my epiphany, Souljourneyboy and I were due to go to our 20-year High School Reunion. Now, I have obviously known about this event for some time, and I had grand plans of losing – about 12 kilos.
It became apparent to me a week out that, sadly, I wasn’t actually going to achieve that goal, since I hadn’t, you know, started dieting. So I decided that I could at least get my hair done, as the highlights I had done a few months ago are half grown out and I don’t think they really suit me all that well. Also it’s been ridiculously humid and my curls have this 1980’s Helena Bonham-Carter thing going on which is, well – kind of frightening.
But of course I had this madly stressful week where there’d been no time in between uni exams and work and piano lessons and art class and lapidary club (yes, Picasso does lapidary of all things, but that’s a story for another time) to find time for the hairdressers.
Finally, on the day before the reunion, I found myself in an exhausted heap, faced with a choice – either I could just sink into my comfortable couch for a few hours and read (which is what I really wanted to do) or I could drag myself down to the shops and book in for the hair appointment (which I knew I wouldn’t enjoy).
Then I reminded myself – I am enough. Realistically, would anyone care what colour my hair is or was? Why did I care? Why would I spend precious hours doing something I didn’t really want to do, all because deep down inside I was worried about not being enough?
So I chose the couch and the book – and crazy hair – had a wonderfully relaxing day, and decided not to care.
Then something really interesting happened. At the reunion – which, by the way was fabulous – I couldn’t believe how many people stopped me to say how much they enjoyed my blog. And even more wonderfully, they all said the reason they enjoyed it was because of my willingness to be authentic.
You can’t be truly, authentically vulnerable unless you are happy to accept yourself the way you are. Unless you know that despite all your shortcomings you are indeed, enough. And yet accepting ourselves is so hard to do, mostly because when we are real about our struggles and our failures, we open ourselves up to criticism and judgement.
It’s so easy to sit back and justify your own life and decisions by the failures and struggles of other people around you – you know, when that inner voice says, God, I would NEVER put my child into care/let my child behave like that/wear that dress/eat that/let my house look like that/make that choice like SHE/HE did.
That’s the scary part of being vulnerable – you put the bits of yourself you usually hide away on show. You are forced to be truly honest with yourself, which, let’s face it, can sometimes be confronting.
But you also open up real conversations, authentic experiences and connection with others. You open yourself up to change and growth by looking at your inadequacies face-on.
And that’s what came home to me at the reunion – all these lovely people thanking me for expressing thoughts and feelings they had struggled to articulate, people who feel a bit better about their lives and experiences because I was honest about mine.
For a writer, that’s just about the best feedback you get can, I think.
I don’t claim to have reached some pinnacle of inner understanding, and I’m sure there will be plenty more times (today, probably) where I have to remind myself that I am enough.
But I hope by me sharing this you will remind yourself of it too.
And, by the way – I am absolutely sure that not a single person noticed my hair at all 🙂
So let’s all try to remember: