Dare to Live Authentically

Back in 2015, I launched my blog and shared, for the first time, the truth of my life. I received countless messages from people letting me know that by me sharing my story, they felt less alone, and in some cases, they were able to share their own as well. How beautiful when we can see that we go through things not only for ourselves, but also for others.

Living authentically is more than just sharing a dark, shameful story. It’s about removing the mask we use to protect ourselves; the mask that says, “If you don’t really see me, then you can’t judge me or criticize me or point fingers at me.” When we remove the mask, we allow others to see us, with all our faults and imperfections. We allow others to see our humanness. And isn’t that what we ALL want? To see people as they really are? To be seen for who we are? Faults and all? Don’t we relate and connect to that so much more than the person who seems to have it all figured out, and leaves us wondering what the heck we are doing wrong?

We end up feeling less-than and we try to compensate with things. We spend our money trying to keep up with others; buying the designer bags, the shoes, the clothes, the cars and the houses we can’t really afford, all in an effort to “keep up”. All in an effort to be GOOD ENOUGH.

It takes just about everything we’ve got to be vulnerable – to put ourselves out there for all to see. To show up in our lives in a way that people can judge or criticize. But it is the most freeing thing we can do, to step into our power, to do the thing that scares us, and to share who we really are and to show the world that, “Although YOU may not be okay with me, I am okay with me.”

It takes guts to be who we really are, and it might even go against what everyone else thinks is the “right way” of being. And there is no courage without some measure of fear.

But fear is what holds us back from living authentically. We are afraid of showing up as we really are because we never feel….GOOD ENOUGH.

In Brené Brown’s Ted Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, she shared the ONE variable that separated those who have a strong sense of love and belonging from those who struggle for it.

Ready?

The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

That’s it.

And you know what else?

Those same people had the courage to be imperfect. They fully embraced vulnerability.

They believed that what made them vulnerable was what made them beautiful.

They talked about it being necessary.

There is a name for this feeling of not-being-good-enough.

It is atelophobia.

And I believe a lot of us go through life with this phobia.

I can still hear that voice in my head that shouts, “Who are YOU?!”

That voice has even more to say sometimes: “Who are YOU to teach people about food or body image or sugar or addiction? You’re not a dietitian! You’re not a nutritionist! You’re not an addiction therapist! Who are YOU to write a book or have a talk show or to talk to people about authenticity? You’re not an expert!”

For many, many years, I listened to that voice in my head.

I believed it and I played small in my life.

I felt like I wasn’t allowed to share what I’d learned if I hadn’t earned the degrees or hadn’t spent decades in the field.

But when I started sharing my personal story with people, what I found is that they would ask for my help. I was excited to offer suggestions and share what I’d learned. And they would tell me that I had helped them.

And so, I started paying MORE attention to the people who were asking for my help and LESS attention to that voice that told me I had no business helping.

So, while that voice is still inside of me, it now plays a much smaller role. And now when I hear it, I respond with, “Who am I NOT to?”. Thank you Marianne Williamson.

Not feeling good enough is rooted in shame. I know a lot about shame, and I know a lot about living my life as a fraud.

For most of my life, I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. I grew up in a home where outward appearances were valued over the messy truth of childhood and adolescence. I was taught to keep negative emotions down and to smile on command. I believe this focus on the outside contributed greatly to my father’s depression, his alcoholism and to my own behaviours growing up. Pushing down became my normal, and I used sugar, then alcohol, then sugar again as my go-to numbing agents.

When I hit my rock bottom (a DUI that I write extensively about on my blog), I began a journey towards health and fitness that began to ignite a passion in me and I wanted to share what I’d learned with anyone who would listen. I read voraciously on the subject of health and I tried and tested various programs. I became connected with clients who were struggling with weight, and I was able to share my story with them as way to relate to their struggle. I may not have been overweight, but I understood addiction.

I understood shame.

And I knew a lot about food.

It was scary but so freeing to be able to share my story, even if I was just dipping my toe in the water.

But in order for me to feel truly authentic, I knew I had to share my story in a more public way.

Finally, after many years of hiding my story, of being mired in shame and the fear of “What will they think?”, I decided to start my blog and share my truth with the world.

I am a work in progress, but I am so grateful for waking up and being able to embrace my vulnerability; I am grateful for my past.

I see my addiction as the greatest gift and recovery the most amazing teacher of my life.

Because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I wouldn’t be WHO I am today.

And I wouldn’t be able to share my story and help others know that they are not alone.

I am grateful every day for my life. All of it: the good, the bad, the joys, the pain, the successes. ALL of it.

It took years of hating myself before I arrived at this place where I no longer feel shame about my past; I have learned to love it and be proud of what I’ve done with my life.

It could have gone another way.

I realize that it is only when we learn from our experiences and then share what we’ve learned with others that we can walk out of the darkness and into the light.

So, if you have a story that is keeping you mired, I hope you can be vulnerable enough to share it.

Let go of the shame that has been holding you back.

Doing so may just free others to do the same.

And if you’re trying to “keep up” in an effort to be “good enough”, know that you don’t have to live this way anymore. As Oprah reminds us, “you are worthy because you are born”.

Living authentically will change everything.

So remove the mask.

Remove the shame.

And watch your life change for the better.