I hear and read a lot these days about the importance of being authentic. And, although I believe I am an authentic person, I also believe that we all wear masks, that we all attempt to hide parts of ourselves that we are not comfortable revealing to others. For me, discomfort reigns supreme when I feel vulnerable. I perceive vulnerability as a weakness and it feels like the kiss of death when I sense my underbelly is revealed.
The mask I chose for my vulnerability was, for many years, rebellion. If I didn’t think I was smart enough to hold my own in a situation, I would mask my feelings of vulnerability by behaving rebelliously. Because I was so rebellious, I thought for a long time that it was a negative attribute. However, many times instead of alienating people, I noticed a pattern in the way people reacted to me.
They would tell me that I was smart and organized and that they wished they were more comfortable taking risks like me or that they could get things accomplished with as much ease as I did. At first, when people complimented me or gave me an award for something I’d done I thought it was a fluke. But then I noticed a pattern and I started to look at myself differently.
I started testing the water to see if I could accomplish things that were important to me if I consciously rebelled, even if I felt some degree of incompetence, simply because I felt strongly about something.
I learned over time that others appreciated my rebellious nature, especially when they observed me taking the lead and standing up for something they perceived as beneficial or for being an advocate for those who couldn’t do it for themselves.
I now understand that when I thought I was “faking it” as a mask for my feelings of vulnerability, I wasn’t faking at all. I was showing up authentically. In fact, my rebellious nature is one of my most valuable attributes. That doesn’t mean my authentic rebelliousness would work for someone else or that it is always effective.
I’ve had to learn to reign it in and recognize that sometimes I don’t need to be rebellious. Rather, based on a given situation or circumstance, I might need to sit quietly and learn something or conform for the greater good, or allow someone else to shine and then be supportive.
As I have lived through many life lessons, I now realize that showing up authentically doesn’t mean I have to be a braniac to have or to voice an opinion. What it does mean, at least to me, is that I need to show up honestly and speak my truth when appropriate.
We all want to be perceived as better than we think we are, especially since self-criticism is our “go to” companion that never leaves us. Hence, we don our masks. But what I have found in my interactions with people is that when we show up authentically, people see through our self-imposed masks help us to realize that our truth is finding it’s voice. Their feedback and observations often authenticate our purpose for being alive.
I am a rebellious advocate when I believe strongly about a cause or an issue. I am grateful for all the people along the way who have pulled away the mask to reveal my authentic nature.
Note: After many failed attempts at meditation, I decided to take the advice of music mogul, Russell Simmons, who wrote Success Through Stillness. He suggests setting a timer for twenty minutes and sitting still regardless of distracting thoughts. I wrote after each session to create this thirty-day blog series.