Living Authentically Series: Self Acceptance

Recognizing who we are, what we value, and what makes us tick is so important for healthy development in our lives. Identifying our strengths and weaknesses and accepting them as a part of who we are is also important. Perfection does not exist and for so many, that is their goal. We are surrounded by commercials, ads, and articles about how to improve our skin, reduce and eliminate wrinkles, have a flatter stomach, a rounder tush, whiter teeth, a more organized closet, an emaculate home, on and on. I believe there are very few aspects of our lives where we cannot find an array of material to work on improvements. And while I believe that it is healthy to continue to have personal growth, I caution others that what is most important is that you accept yourself exactly the way you are. Acceptance does not mean you will not work to improve particular areas. Acceptance means being totally okay with how things are at this moment. There is not one perfect person running around, with the perfect partner, and perfect kids living in the perfectly organized, peaceful home. We all have areas where we can improve. It is part of being human but so much is hidden behind the masks we wear. Being ashamed or anxious that others may discover something with us or our lives is a sign that we haven’t quite reached self acceptance.

There was a period of time in my life where I felt like such a fraud. Struggling with postpartum depression that lead to having to be prescribed medication to function was something that was hidden for quite some time. I felt less than. I felt ineffective. I felt like there was something so seriously wrong with me that if others found out they would most certainly judge me. How could I be feeling the way I did when I was married to a wonderful man, had two beautiful and healthy children, fantastic relationships with friends and family, and a flexible career that allowed me to work part-time to make raising our children my priority? From the outside looking in, my life looked pretty put together but there was such deep sadness and loneliness that I just could not pull myself out of. I was shutting down and barely sharing or talking and I really began to feel like I would never feel anything different than how I was. Initially when I began to share with others what I was really going through, it was so uncomfortable to be so vulnerable and “exposed” but as I began to allow those who love me to truly know what was going on, it began to feel freeing and I could start to feel movement in a positive direction. We don’t have to walk through hard times alone. Surrounding ourselves with those who love us and get us is necessary to navigate life because we all will have our issues to address.

What does your true self look like? What does it consist of? I think developing a sense of who we are and what defines us is critical in fully developing ourselves. Going through life without having any idea of truly who we are I believe we find ourselves just floating through without any clear intention or goals. We struggle to find our purpose which can lead to us wondering what all this is for.

What is important to you? What do you value? Determining what our true passions are and what we value most in our lives will drive where our time is spent and what our priorities are. Without that we we are fumbling without direction and can be easily influenced by other’s opinions and advice without identifying what is valuable to us. I think this too is something that changes throughout our life to a certain degree. What we value or see as important at 20 years old may not remain exactly the same as when we are 60 years old. We are in a continuous journey of learning about ourselves and accepting these changes.

Living Authentically Series

Hello again friends.  I know it has been quite a bit of time since I have posted here. Life has a way of really taking off and I can feel like I am just running from one thing to another taking deep breaths along the way.  The thing is a lot of what is happening in life is really good stuff. At times, too much good stuff (can that even be a thing?) however what it leaves me with is very little time to write.  I’ve missed it very much. I’ve had others ask me, “what about that writing thing you are doing?”. So, because of a very sweet friend, I actually joined a group that helps writers with many aspects of writing but one part is creating time to sit and write and so here I am.  I thought a great return post would be about being authentic. Certainly I am sharing why I have been absent from this blog but also living authentically is something that comes up almost every day in my professional and personal life, so I thought I would begin with this post and create a series about living authentically to address so much of what comes to me through other’s struggles and from my own experiences.

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Authentic.  How does that word even resonate with you?  To me it brings strong feelings of vulnerability.   Openness. Realness. Honesty. All really great feelings but for me and I know for others vulnerability is not the most comfortable emotion and quite frankly many, myself included at times, run from it.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, authentic means:

  • not false or imitation.  REAL. ACTUAL.
  • True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

I think when we show up as real and genuine, it requires a certain degree of courage with allowing our true selves to be seen.  We put ourselves at risk of judgement, being criticized, and honestly having conflict with those who may not agree. So I believe many of us struggle with being authentic and it is just not the teens I work with, it is the adults in their lives as well.  To some degree I believe the teens learn this from how it is modeled by the adults in their lives.

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So when I’m asked “how do I live more authentically?”  Here is what I know, there are several characteristics or traits that those who truly live authentically strive to possess and I have always said to clients, teens, friends, and family, we are a work in progress and this is one of those areas that is a continual process. Being able to put serious consideration and improvement into developing these traits is so necessary for ourselves and for those in our lives.  According to Psychology Today, the following traits are significantly apparent in those living genuinely:

  • Are accepting of themselves and of others and understand that we are all unique.
  • Are thoughtful, kind, and give love to others.
  • Have a respectful sense of humor.
  • Can express their emotions freely, clearly, and in a healthy way.
  • Are open to learning from their mistakes and accept their weaknesses.
  • Have an awareness of their values and desires and live life connected to those and understands what motivates them.
  • Take responsibility for their lives.
  • View reality in a realistic way.

I think when we consider the teens in our lives, this list of characteristics may be a bit tough for them to fully possess.  Part of what makes the struggle real is that several of these things are areas where typically teens are working to develop.  Many of the adults in teen’s lives (myself included) continually work in this area and find it to be a struggle at times as well. During times of changes with our career or with friends and family members, we find ourselves reevaluating what causes us to struggle with living authentically and it is necessary to find solutions to this so we can all live from a more healthy place. To be so honest, we all have stuff.  Behind every closed front door, there are struggles.  Some are Earth shattering struggles that the people behind the door are trying their best to come to terms with.  But so many are doing this in hiding. And while they are struggling with what is real behind the closed front door, they are presenting their lives as perfect.  This gives those around them a sense that they can’t share things, especially the struggles, because of being ashamed that they don’t have the perfect life too.

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I’m not suggesting that we hang all of our “dirty” laundry out for the whole world to see and to know but finding a way to show up, support each other, and be real with each other rather than judging and having conversations behind each other’s backs is so important.  If we don’t we will continue to feel disconnected, lost, and fighting through struggles in silence. In addition, according to Kerri’s, Goldman, and others, those living authentically tend to feel better, are more resilient, and are less likely to turn to self-destructive habits for comfort.  They also tend to be intentional in their choices and are more likely to follow through on their goals. Furthermore, they tend to have strong, deep connections with others. I don’t know about you but I yearn for this. To be seen as I am and be acknowledged, accepted, loved, and supported as I walk through life.