It wasn’t until last year that I realized my entire life is not a creation of mine—well, at least not fully. For the first time in my life, I was able to see that I’d just been floating through life all along. I’d never once sat down to decide how I wanted my life to unfold. You know, a paint the canvas of my future sort of thing.
You see, I was never one of those people who knew where they wanted to be at 15, 27, or even 49. Obviously, as a little girl, I occasionally fantasized about who I wanted to be as an adult, like we all do. But for the most part, I never really got down to the heart of who I was in a deeper, authentic way. I just floated along.
So, what exactly happened last year? A couple of things.
For starters, I quit my job. And no. It wasn’t a last-minute decision; it was a move I’d been strategizing for three years. Secondly, I moved to a new country, miles away from my motherland. I mean literally an ocean apart, to a very quiet place with trees and birds—many of them. Thirdly, I lost a close friend unexpectedly. She’d just celebrated her 40th. A week later, she was no more.
The reality is, when transitioning through such changes, you have no choice but to invent coping mechanisms. It’s the only way to maintain sanity as you navigate through the changes.
As I transitioned through the changes associated with my new life and settling in a foreign country, I had to sift through many thoughts and beliefs, and one particular thing stuck out in all this: Authenticity.
I started to understand what it means to be authentic. I was able to ask myself the simplest but most powerful question: Who am I? And guess what? The answer to that didn’t come through as easily as I’d have thought. And that right there says a lot.
Sure, I know what I’ve been over the years. I’ve worn many hats. I’ve been a student, daughter, wife, mother, divorced woman, journalist, media liaison, flight attendant, and most recently a writer.
But as for who I am, let’s just say it’s taken me almost four decades to even begin figuring this out, and it’s a journey I’m still embarking on.
So, what exactly is authenticity? I am glad you asked. The simplest way to define authenticity is being true yourself. Finding that axis within you that holds everything that resonates with you. Because let’s face it, we all go through life picking up people, habits, and beliefs that don’t resonate with who we are. Before we know it, we’re carrying all sorts of baggage that we don’t like, much less own.
In the past year of trying to evolve into an authentic person, I’ve been transformed, and if you let it, authenticity will change you in five major ways.
1. You’ll start to feel comfortable in your skin.
I spent years looking over the fence at people whose lives seemed perfect. I felt as if they were living my life. At this point, I’m still not sure whether it was admiration or envy but I guess it was a twist between the two.
Thankfully, that’s changed now. Because I’m no longer looking over the fence, it means I’m more focused on developing who I am as a person and defining my purpose in life. Also, I have a greater appreciation for my life and the stage I am in because I am no longer influenced by artificial standards.
The truth is, we all can’t be the same. Each one of us has got to run our race in our individual way. And to run better, there’s a secret. Well, maybe it’s not really a secret, because horses do it all the time. They put on blinders to maintain focus when racing. Just like them, you too need to learn how to put on your blinders in the race of life and quit comparing yourself to others.
This is one aspect of becoming authentic. It empowers you because you’re not frightened when your life is not as par with your peers. Neither are you challenged when it takes you longer than the others to get to where you want to get. After all, you are busy doing you.
2. You’ll be more focused on you.
In so many ways, I feel like a lion that has been set free right from a cage into the Masai Mara. I am not joking. The confidence that comes from becoming comfortable with myself is liberating, to say the least.
By focusing on me, a lot has changed. But on the surface, a few things stand out, such as my writing. I’ve honed my craft in ways I never thought possible. I am still at it and will keep doing it until I can’t. Clearly, I am nowhere near the gurus of the literary world. Not even close. Still, my writing is nowhere close to where it was last year. Also, I am a tad bit healthier this year; I’ve grown stronger and faster in my runs. Then there’s the reading bit—I’ve expanded my mind by reading more this year.
I’m telling you this because it’s precisely what happens when you toss everything out and pay attention to yourself. It places you on the highway to upgrading your life. You start to take notice of the little elements in your life that are working.
And if you are smart — which I know you are — you decide to take it further and double up on that. This way, you unclog the pipe and create a gush of possibilities that move your life forward.
3. You’ll be more grounded.
Losing my best friend last January right at the prime of her life pulled me to this deep and dark place where I had to come to terms with the fragility of life.
It was sobering in both a good and bad way. It made me ask tough questions, and quite frankly, I still don’t have the answers. Who has answers to death? However, this grim experience made me question my truth, beliefs, and what I stand for.
Think about it: If life is so fragile, doesn’t it make more sense to live it in a manner that reflects your truth? So that when you come to the sunset of your days, or if the whistle is blown on you as it did on my best friend, you’ll know that you lived from a grounded place? But there’s a catch: You can only do that when you are authentic.
4. You’ll disconnect from old beliefs.
As I said, right from my childhood I merely floated through life without being aware. And now that I look back, I see a pattern that is not my creation swimming into focus. It’s a pattern mapped out by the belief systems, standards, and ideologies set by others. I now see that they defined what a good life looks like, and of course, I didn’t question that, just like you didn’t.
However, if you’re attentive to the yearnings of your soul, you’ll hear a small still voice prodding you to find your own path. It was that voice that made me take the plunge and quit my job. It was the same voice that made me pull the rug from right under my feet and throw myself to an unfamiliar territory. That voice can only emanate from a place of authenticity.
The same is true for you. When you stand for what you believe in, you disempower the belief systems that have held you captive for so long.
5. You’ll reclaim your power.
I’m learning that most things in life are simple, like learning a new skill, getting fit, and dressing well. All that’s needed is to take a step. And while simple is far from easy, it’s not impossible.
However, knowing what you want starts from knowing what you feel about yourself. Everything starts here. This is your point of power. Gary Zukav articulates it well: “If you don’t know what you feel, you cannot come to know the splintered nature of your personality, and to challenge those aspects and those energies that do not serve your development.”
For instance, you will never be fit unless you know you can be. Also, you can’t believe that unless you know who you are. And that’s what embodies authenticity.
When it’s all said and done, becoming authentic is an ongoing process because, as humans, we’re continuously evolving. That’s why the person you were last year is totally different from who you are right now. Also, the lens through which you view yourself keeps changing as the circumstances in your life shift.
As you continue to evolve, you’ve got to constantly challenge your fears, because each time you jump a hurdle, you unveil an authentic part of you. You have to keep evaluating what you base your beliefs upon. It will require you to continuously sift through what you believe to be true about yourself and your life as a whole.