This week I learned about authenticity. Scratch that — This life I am continually learning about authenticity. It feels a bit like swimming in a deep lake: My life has had moments where I swim deep into vulnerability, imperfectly loving every joyful (or other emotion) moment.
And then I race back to the surface, trying to remember where I am, my responsibilities, obligations, what time it is.
Mindfully practicing authenticity is the goal: Clearly seeing what is real and true and hewing to that while embracing love, kindness, compassion and grace. That’s the idea, isn’t it?
Authenticity became a buzzword a few years ago and has since faced a backlash — no doubt — authenticity requires a hell of a lot of courage. You need to be willing to continue to try to look at yourself and your life in the mirror, clearly, and not flinch. As you do this, you need to become continuously more and more accepting of other people and yourself, while learning from your mistakes and expressing your emotions freely and clearly.
Sometimes, in my most “authentic” moments, I wonder aloud what it might be like if I were “authentically” a person whose main emotions were cheerfulness and calm, whose main motivation was sheer joy of working while also maintaining a home that looks perfectly Instagrammable at all times.
I honestly think it comes down to “believing we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are”
This week, while on the one hand having just gotten used to the quarantine routine, kids having adjusted to the new schedule, adult kids feeling comfortable back at home, we’re “opening back up” apparently.
Now, I feel ragged and edgy. The goal, then, to express that clearly, and feel that I am worthy of love and acceptance, feels insurmountable.
Later this morning, I will record a conversation with one of my oldest friends about authenticity. She’s made authenticity one of her life’s practices as a clinical psychologist in NYC. Preparing for this conversation has taken me to a new level of awareness of authenticity.
It’s all practice.
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”— Brené Brown”
‘Very often, a creative block manifests itself as an addiction to fantasy. Rather than working or living in the now, we spin our wheels and indulge in daydreams of could have, would have, should have.
One of the great misconceptions about the artistic life is that it entails great swathes of aimlessness. The truth is that a creative life involves great swathes of attention.’
— Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, Week 2
One of my favorite books for developing authenticity is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I love it so much that I have had to buy it twice because I so well-loved my first copy. I have given it to my sister and cousins. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
One practice from that book is called Morning Pages. The idea is to clear your head each morning by free writing three pages of WHATEVER every single morning. Draw, write lists, scribble, whatever comes to mind — put it down, on paper, as soon as you wake up. Try it. See what happens.
Perhaps you’ll unblock yourself enough to free yourself a bit more to be more of the delicious, wild, beautiful authentic you that the world needs more of.
On good days, when my main emotion is calm love, authenticity is a breeze. On other days, I need help.
Again, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, is the Artist Date. It’s a lovely idea, and such a simple way to remind yourself of your inner goodness. Remind yourself that you’re worthy of love and acceptance just as you are.
One day this week, go on a date with yourself — ideally with your inner child. Do whatever simple thing you want to do: watch a sunset, fingerpaint, go on a meandering walk, dip your toes in fresh water (lake, river, ocean), play with an animal, pick flowers, make a lovely dinner — whatever works best for you.
Sometimes, just realizing what I want to do brings me such joy that that’s more than half the quest.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
For a real authenticity challenge, try a media fast. Quite honestly, I originally heard of this idea ages ago, when it was quite simple to do. The idea is to turn off all media for a few days. If anything really huge happens, you’ll hear about it from someone.
I have not done a media fast in at least 20 years, possibly more. As I propose the idea, I am aware of how much our world has changed. How utterly inconceivable the idea seems. Try one day. Shoot, I might try half a day.
6. POD Poem of the day (Dale Going: The View They Arrange)
7. Podcast (I’m Sorry: How to Apologize and Why it Matters — Brene Brown, Unlocking Us)
8. Video (There’s no such thing as a non-creative person: Julia Cameron)
9. Hero: Julia Cameron, Artist
Why? As I was contemplating when and how I first got the idea that an authentic life was not just a good idea but essential, I realized that Julia Cameron wrote the handbook I have used and internalized over the years. The Artist’s Way puts forth into the world the idea that “Many blocked people are actually very powerful and creative personalities who have been made to feel guilty about their own strengths and gifts”. That’s a heroic idea.
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
The Underbelly Podcast available everywhere you download podcasts. Authenticity episode Thursday.