Authenticity ~ Can I be fully me?

Conscious community for Kenya

Authenticity ~ Can I be fully me?

If no one was watching, who would I be? How would I live? Do I have the freedom to be as I desire? Do I need permission in fact?

Now that I think about it, I do not recall my upbringing being one of empowerment, so that I would grow to know myself and have the courage to create a life that would be founded on authentic living. Because to be authentic, you have to get to know who you really are, otherwise you will lack the clarity to then fully manifest YOU. And if you operate blindly, you will be living out parts of people’s lives and false perceptions of your own, as the saying goes ~ if you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything ~. I totally lay no blame on anyone, because all of us are programmed by life and other aspects, and if we do not break the chains, we are bound to perpetuate the same values in others, our children for example.

Whether at home, school, church or any other institution, we have been socialised to be proper so that we can neatly fit in. This is just the nature of the upbringing we have had. We have to craft an acceptable image; it does not matter if we are square, round or triangle. Focus is much of the time centred on how we are externally perceived, and not how we perceive our own selves. It is as a full-grown adult that I have learnt to look inward for answers and insights. I wasn’t taught this as a child. The closest I got to introspection was through praying, but even this was really just an external projection. We must have heard, even if just on TV, of when a woman is told “keep acting like that and no man will want to marry you”. No one asks her if she would like to get married in the first place, or whether she is even interested in men. It is assumed that there is a set path, and like all sheep before, you will follow the herd, sad…

Our professions can also greatly mould us into what is deemed proper, but not without our consent. It is important to realise that even if we have been conditioned or left with no choice, we have 100% responsibility to wring ourselves out of the hamster wheel. When I wanted to go back to work after 2 years, I got a lovely lesson on this. Having been a stay-home mom, I had changed my look as I desired. I had shaved my hair and kept a wild afro, the colour of fire, or something close to that. I was asked to an interview at an institution that is religious and thus, in my view, conservative. I quickly convinced myself that there was no way I’d bare out my hair as it was. I had my hair braided, winced through the whole process and had two rough nights in a row. I got the job, and figured I’d have to maintain my crafted image, yeah, that’s the trap ~ you create a false image, then have to live it out ~.

I undid the braids after three weeks and immediately did cornrows. To be honest, I felt like a fraud. But I ignored my “flimsy” feelings/ opinions. Around this time, I met a friend I find to be very authentic and he was astonished at the carnage I had unleashed on my beautiful hair! I explained to him that it was for a job, it all felt so lame, like I was trying to convince myself, because he clearly wasn’t even though he was gentle about it.  I kept the hair for a while and when I undid the cornrows; I decided I would keep my original hair ~ a more authentic reflection of who I am. I was so relieved of the pain of braiding as well! So I went back to my coloured afro, put back my helix stud (on the ear) and even started wearing beaded anklets. All is well at work… This experience made me realise that much of our caging happens in our heads in fact! Our minds are experts at tricks…

In this case, my gem of a friend was my gentle nudge back to authenticity and I am grateful I listened. Sometimes though, there is no one but our own circumstances to remind us that we are not being authentic. We have to listen to our spirit, what it’s telling us. It could start as a small voice that whispers disapprovingly at how we are keeping up an identity that isn’t ours, and the more we ignore it, the louder it becomes until it’s choking to continue to exist as we are. Thing is, if we cultivate a mindfulness that allows us to tune in, we will recognize the voice fast enough and avoid the damage that arises from waiting until the river bursts…

It also made me realise that when we are not living authentic lives, we have to check up with people if we are “right”. Is my hair okay, should I go like this? Will they wonder about my tattoo…? So we are seeking external validation or permission. I literally asked these questions to my family before the interview, it’s something we know we do, so very automatically. We have become accustomed to viewing ourselves through the eyes of everyone but us. Don’t we see how we are completely complicit in our own bondage? There is absolutely no way that you will be authentically you, by choosing to go with people’s preferences. On the other hand, when we are authentic, we go inward and find out if we are being true to ourselves. We actually give ourselves the permission to be as we see fit. How liberating is this? Though not as easy as just snapping our fingers. We have to make it happen!

If for a huge part of your life, you have been conditioned to fit in, and something jolts you out of the slumber, you are in for a rough adventure. Essentially, you wake up feeling lost. You slowly start to realise that your previous ideas of authenticity were just delusions. Kind of like controlled opposition or at best, you have followed others’ ideas of authenticity. You will start to feel your shackles and attempt to break them. You will start to see through the illusions of your limiting beliefs, and will start to want life on your own terms.

The step into authenticity will more often than not, lead to perceived painful losses, in the short term. You will start to shed off layers of your “identity” that people are used to. We are programmed to be scared of or feel threatened by what we find unfamiliar. It could also just make those close to you uncomfortable. One of the reasons could be that they are afraid of “losing” the version of you that they “know”, or your change could be triggering their own inadequacies and working on these is involving. They may not be in a state where they are ready to do the work. Your authenticity may make you more direct, deeper, stronger, audacious, free… and thus naturally, a shedding of some outdated aspects will be inevitable (people, jobs, relationships, lifestyle…). But as labour precedes child birth, so does this loss. A void exists, before it can be filled up. It will finally be beautifully filled with what aligns with your current state, and aid you in your journey.

Like all learning, the path is not linear. Some days you will manage to weave yourself out of the sinking sand, brush off, stand with the poise of a warrior, absorb the euphoria, then walk off with all the world’s elegance, not caring if your dignity is intact or not because it really only matters to YOU! Other days, you will be hit and feel like you just survived a war, and crawl off to lick your wounds and re-strategize somewhere quiet. Either way, it is well worth it! Because small forward steps ultimately lead you to empowerment and freedom.

While striving for authenticity can be perceived as selfish, it is indeed the opposite. It is a brave demonstration of love for the self and others, because if you are authentic, you will allow others to be as well.

Authenticity, a gift we all someday strive for, is indeed a beautiful journey into fulfilment, freedom and LOVE

Add on: Authenticity is powerful! It literally unlocks a person and puts them on a path to fearlessness because there is nothing to hide, or nothing to show, there is just “being”…

~ Stay Conscious ~

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  1. Beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing your journey to authenticity. I am sure you will inspire many people to take that bold step forward. Namaste.

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