Before I made the decision to start this blog, I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not I wanted to commit to it. I love helping others, and I really wanted to use my own experiences to provide hope and encouragement for other people working toward recovery. But as much as I wanted to share my story, I was equally terrified of sharing my story. Talking about my experiences on the internet for anyone to see is about as vulnerable as it gets – and I’ve always sucked at being vulnerable. Definitely way outside of my comfort zone.
As I contemplated whether or not I wanted to commit to the blog, I reflected back on an exercise I’d done with one of my clients a few months earlier that focused on core values. I sat down and started thinking about my own core values. I came up with a list of about 10-15 that were most important to me. Among my top five were “Empowerment” and “Authenticity.”
I spent a lot of time thinking about these two values and whether or not I was truly living in alignment with them. I’ve always tried to help empower others, and I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty authentic person. I mean, I’ve always pretty much been myself around people, right? I’ve definitely never pretended to be someone I’m not. Doesn’t that mean I’m authentic? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that authenticity goes deeper than that.
I’m a people-pleaser by nature. I tend to be a rule-follower, and I’ve always loved making others happy. While this can be a great trait, it also means I sometimes struggle with setting boundaries, saying “no,” and accepting that I’m not always going to be liked by everyone. The desire to be liked and accepted is something that became ingrained in me at a pretty young age, and it’s something that I still struggle with today. As much as I wish I could claim to be this cool, carefree person who doesn’t GAF what others think, that’s never been me. Does this mean that every decision I’ve ever made was done to please others? Of course not. But the desire for approval has definitely influenced how much of myself I’ve really shared with others throughout my life.
I’ve always tried my best to “be myself,” but I realized that I’ve also always had a tendency to only let people see me to a certain extent. I’d show people just enough of my weirdness so that they thought I was interesting — but not too much. I’d share just enough about my wild “party” years so they knew I had some life experience –but not too much. I’d share just enough of my self-doubts so that I seemed relatable and humble — but not too much. The thought of letting people in completely just always felt too vulnerable. I was too worried about what it would mean if I let someone in 100% and they didn’t like what they saw.
But is this really me being authentic? How can I claim to value authenticity if I’m always too afraid to share more than a fraction of myself with others? How can I make real connections and truly empower others if I’m too afraid to be vulnerable and take a risk of my own.
Being authentic means owning your story and not apologizing for who you are, despite the potential for judgement from others. It means knowing that others might not like what you have to say, but saying it anyway because honoring yourself is more important than their approval. And the truth is, it’s going to be risky. Authenticity cannot exist without vulnerability. When we open ourselves up to others, there’s always going to be the possibility of getting hurt. But along with that possibility also comes the possibility for love, true connection, empowerment, and growth. All the good things! 🙂
Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to start a blog or share every single life experience with everyone you meet. But it DOES mean not being ashamed of those experiences, and not allowing the desire for acceptance to dictate what you do or do not share. For me, I WANTED to speak out about my experience with ED. I wanted to use my voice to help empower others and heal myself. If I chose to remain quiet, it would have been out of fear of what others would think. I knew that for me, honoring my authentic self was going to mean speaking up and sharing my story.
So I DID start a blog. Even as I write this, I know that there may be people reading who don’t like what I have to say. There may be people who think I’m weird or sharing too much — and that’s okay. Honoring my authenticity meant I had to accept that possibility and do it anyway. It takes courage to be vulnerable and share yourself with others when you don’t know how they will react. But it’s through that courage and vulnerability that growth happens.
That innate desire for approval and acceptance didn’t just disappear overnight. I still often hear that voice in my head warning me of what others might think about my latest blog or Instagram post. But then I remind myself why I’m doing this. Every time I make the decision to proceed even though my inner critic tells me not to, my authentic self gets a little stronger, and that voice in my head becomes a little quieter.
So how can you honor your own authenticity? Take some time to do a little bit of self-exploration. What are your core values? What would you do if you knew the acceptance or approval of others was not a factor? What would that change for you? When you find yourself holding back how much of yourself you share with others, ask yourself why. Every time you base a decision on your own values instead of the expectations of others, you are honoring your authenticity and becoming stronger in the process. Real growth can only happen outside of our comfort zones. Challenge yourself… and watch the magic happen! 🙂
Would love to hear any thoughts below!