How To Be Authentic (The Beautifully Dirty Truth)

June 25, 2021

Today, I want to talk about authenticity and pain. More specifically, how some of our most authentic and important life values can oftentimes come directly from painful experiences. Some people call it, “finding meaning,” “the light at the end of the tunnel,” or “using the pain to make you stronger.” None of these are wrong, but I want to talk about what it really means from this therapist’s perspective. I can’t speak for all therapists, of course. These are my personal thoughts, but I’d like to share because I do believe that there are others out there, somewhere, who could benefit from hearing this.

Photo by aranprime on Unsplash

authenticity and freedom

The example that is coming to mind today is authenticity and freedom. I frequently get asked questions about how I am able to be so honest, how I am able to be so vulnerable and raw – especially in the midst of intense struggle and injustice. People who don’t know very much about me sometimes assume that I am naturally confident or self-assured. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Some days, I am actually the opposite of brave and courageous.

In fact, I spent a decent portion of yesterday evening snuggled under my blankets, ruminating over the yoni painting video I just posted (I know some people will be trollin’). I know others might express criticism in a constructive way, which I welcome since these dialogues are important. I simply don’t believe the topic of painting with menstrual blood is something that the majority of American society is ready for in this moment. Regardless, it is more important than what people might think of me as an individual. Yet, this is such a growth opportunity for me because I am still in the process of learning to speak my truth and take care of inner shame wounds. So, I posted it – and I feel amazing! By the way, if you’d like to see that video, please check it out here.

Authenticity and freedom are still values that I chase daily. I use the word “chase” here because it is true. Although, I wish it were more effortless and natural; and oftentimes, I acknowledge that chasing is not the same as allowing. What can I say? It’s a journey. I am happy to say, though, that I am significantly more familiar with authenticity than I was a few years ago.

the power of choosing authenticity

The reason I am bringing this up is because when I do choose to act with courage, it is simply that – a choice. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t always fun in the moment. I think it comes from something far more raw, real and dirty (I mean beautifully dirty, of the Earth. Dirty is not a gross word in my perspective). For me, it comes from pain. It comes from knowing so intensely what it feels like to not have courage, to not have freedom, to not have authenticity. It comes from years and years of internalizing abuse, neglect and manipulation from others. Eventually, I began to recognize that my system was screaming for help, for love. My fight, flight and freeze responses were triggering so often that it became unbearable to ignore.

This is a difficult truth to face, but there comes a moment when the abuse we endure becomes something that we agree to. I believe this whole-heartedly. This is not to victim-blame, or victim-shame. Rather, it is to acknowledge the pain in service of becoming free – even in the midst of chaos. Sometimes, especially in the midst of chaos.

When someone hurts us the first time, that’s on them. Their actions will always be their responsibility. However, we ultimately decide if we are going to allow the abuse to continue, or if we are going to find a possibility to call it out. Many things get in the way of this process, though, and make it very difficult for people to break free. This post is not about denying abuse or privilege or any sort of problems with power and control dynamics. Instead, I want to talk about a necessary internal value and skill that could be helpful even when the world is very heavy. Today, I want to discuss something that often keeps people trapped inside of themselves.

Photo by aranprime on Unsplash

what gets in the way

Painful things will happen in life. People will do things that hurt others. We all will hurt someone, whether ourselves and/or others, whether on purpose and/or unintentionally, at some point throughout life. We experience painful systems of oppression at various levels. None of this is something that we necessarily asked for. None of this is something that we can control or avoid all of the time. This pain is heartbreaking. The painful realities of growing up female, Black, transgender, gay, fat, disabled – this list goes on and on. In my opinion, though, the worst tragedy of all is the moment when a person internalizes the abuse, neglect, shame, whatever. I am talking about the moment in which a person agrees that society, an abusive parent, an abusive partner…when a person agrees that the abuse is correct, warranted, deserved. This is the tragedy. 

That is what happened to me. This is what happens to so many of us. I hear stories like this often in my work. This is where we take the scissors into our own hands, and clip our own wings. This is where authenticity, freedom and courage die. The thing is…this is also a place where they are born.

We have so many images to reflect these types of experiences: a phoenix rising from the ashes, an angel sprouting new wings, a shackled heart finally breaking free from lock and key. It’s not a new concept, but today I truly want to honor it. I want to take a moment for all of you who are here. For all of you who have been here and continue to walk on. Hope is possible. Holding the entirety of you with love and compassion is absolutely possible.

Photo by aranprime on Unsplash

how to be authentic:

  1. Look in the shadows. Peer into the dark, dirty, shameful places that nobody wants to see. Look at the places that you, yourself, especially wish to hide and deny. These dark places need compassion and unconditional love. Talk with a therapist to help shine a flashlight onto these tender parts of you.
  2. Dig deep and ask yourself what is truly important to you. How would you live your life – at your best? How do you want to be remembered? These questions can help to determine your personal values.
  3. Practice your values as much as you possibly can. Even when it isn’t easy, especially when it isn’t easy. This is how we grow. This is how we authentically flourish in resilience.

How have you overcome your hardest self-love challenges? Where are you still struggling?

What is one thing that you can do, in this moment, to show yourself some care and/or unconditional love?

 

with warmth and compassion from my heart to yours, 

Amber

 

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