Authenticity: Part 1
By Lacey Rhodes, APC
What is your authentic self and how do you develop love and acceptance for that authentic self?
That is such a big question, but it is one that is in my office all the time. The idea of “authentic self”, is really the idea that we see and acknowledge who we truly are, without apology or hiding. It’s the idea that there is a version of us, that clearly knows our wants, needs, boundaries, and can have honest dialogue with ourselves (and the outside world) about those wants, needs, and boundaries. When people talk about self-love and accepting yourself… I believe they are talking about this idea. Accepting yourself (or finding and being true to your authentic self) reminds me of stepping out into the light from a dark room.
When we live in the dark, we imagine what our authentic self looks like, how big it is… what colors…. what shapes… everything is reliant on our imagination. But things are distorted in the dark. That distorted image of self becomes a barrier to experiencing true self. In the dark, we often see ourselves as unlovable, broken, uninteresting, small, incapable, not enough, scary, too much, overwhelming, crazy, dangerous…. These are the words I hear repeatedly, and because of this dark vision of ourselves, we believe we belong in the shadows. We believe we will be attacked, ostracized, and rejected. I feel the worst part is that we believe not only will others treat us that way, but it will be justified. It’s this concept that who we really are, is deserving of punishment and unworthy of acceptance. That keeps us from relating to our authentic self and self-love. Stepping out into the light means all these dark truths will be validated. How dangerous it feels to consider being seen. This is, in part, why this can be such a scary and challenging process of self-discovery. It requires that you are vulnerability and that vulnerability feels impossible with the belief that you will be punished for being seen. It takes a leap of faith, and a great deal of trust… and maybe a little pain tolerance. All growth requires some discomfort.
Often this process of discovery happens little by little. It feels like you start with a flashlight in a dark room. You can start shining a light on specific areas of yourself and examining them, but even then, you aren’t fully seeing clearly because your experience with yourself is colored by emotions and assigned meaning. Meaning isn’t intrinsic… meaning is something we assign, and it changes based on perspective. Fire is a great example. Fire has no intrinsic meaning without context. It can be used as a tool that brings light and life. Fire can also represent death and destruction as it burns houses, and countryside. The context from our life experience and beliefs changes meaning. We often struggle with meaning we have assigned to parts of ourselves and cannot see it clearly…the reality is, you are just looking for the truth about yourself, without judgement. That truth is interesting, unique, and valuable. Value is intrinsic, meaning is not.
So how do we start down a road towards knowing our authentic self? One way we start that journey is by looking at our beliefs where we have assigned meaning.