A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

Impressive Has No Value

“There is no value in being impressive,” I said to her while gazing at the baby in my arms. “I used to care about impressing people, about being the person that people would take a second look at. But, people don’t care about impressive. They care about themselves.”I punctuated the last thought by starting right into her eyes. I have never said something more true in front of her. It was the first time I said it aloud; the first time I actually believed it to be a real truth.

“You’re right.” She smiled back at me.  

I looked back at my baby, who was holding my hands while tentatively attempting to explore the world around her. El had been to every appointment in this office since she was born. I sat on this very couch while I was pregnant, agonizing over how a third baby was going to fit into my already hectic and hard to manage lifestyle. And before that, I sat on this same couch weighing the pros and cons about the decision to even have a third pregnancy. Over the years, these conversations with my therapist have been plentiful, yet none have been more revealing to me than this one.

My gaze became out of focus as I explored this new truth that spilled from my lips. I thought back over the past few years and over the decisions I made that brought me to where I am today. I felt a sense of sadness and anger come over me. The desire to impress had taken over my whole life. It had distracted me from the aspects of my life that were most important to me. I lost track of what I should have cared most about, and instead, I moved to impress other people. I never, however, impressed myself.  

The past few years of my life have been a whirlwind of stress, anxiety, unhappiness, and discontent. And, I can’t take that back. Maybe people were impressed with me at some point: “I really don’t know how you do it all…” they’d say. But that moment only lasts for a second before they go back to caring about their own lives.

Caring about their own life: Something I should have been doing this whole time. I looked at baby El and realized that she and her brothers are the only ones who deserve my efforts to impress. And ironically, they don’t need to be impressed by me to love me and want me, and for me to the he most important person in their world. 

I regret the years I’ve wasted trying to impress other people. I know where the desire came from and that it was something engrained early and deep in my childhood insecurities. This epiphany – the sudden absence of my desire to impress – is a sign that those longstanding, deeply seeded issues are slowly being resolved. I walked away from the appointment with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose about how to move forward in my life. I stepped over the threshold from treatment room to a new world with a completely different approach to living my life. 

That simple sentence. One simple thought. An enormous truth that has remained hidden from my reality for far too long. My acceptance and belief in that one thing has already affected change in my life that I never thought would happen. I already feel happier.