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Am I Authentic? Are You?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wow, you guys. It's been pretty difficult for me to figure out how to follow that last blog I posted. Partly because it was one of the most honest blogs I've ever written and I felt a bit exposed and wasn't really sure how to recover from that. Truthfully, I expected a flood of judgment and lectures. While I did receive a little bit of that (comes with the territory in a public forum), I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness in your hearts. I really can't begin to reply to everyone that has so deeply touched me with their loving words. Please know that I read every single comment and think deeply about them.

The impetus for this blog is the other kind of response I've been receiving. Allow me to step away from the divorce talk for a moment and use a different metaphor.

My friend, Andie Redwine, is a screenwriter and she made a film recently called "Paradise Recovered" (stream it free on Netflix!!!! It's SO good!) The film deals with religious abuse - it's the story of a girl very much entrenched in a religious cult, who through a series of events, finds herself alone with nowhere to go. Her boss (a philosophy student at the university and agnostic) takes her in and cares for her. (Like the story of the Good Samaritan) Throughout the film, we see Esther experiencing new things and embracing herself and her right to enjoy all the things that used to be "forbidden". Of course, she flounders...don't we all when we get sudden freedom? I won't ruin the end for you. Haha.

The reason I bring this up is this: after the film was released and it started making the film festival circuit rounds and began to win awards, there came so many letters and e-mails and comments from real life spiritual abuse survivors in recovery. This pleases Andie greatly, as most of the proceeds from this movie will go to Wellspring Recovery Center, a place that specializes in helping spiritually abused people become free. So, a "fictional" movie is changing REAL lives.

I feel my experience since I posted that blog has been similar. I am shocked and saddened by the sheer volume of responses I've received from so many of you that are currently at some stage of life that is similar to mine. The overwhelming idea that just keeps hitting me is: look at all of us hiding, pretending, wishing things were different. Everything looks beautiful on the outside. But inside things are so much more complex. There are so many sad people. If you guys knew how many there were...it is heartbreaking.

I don't have the answers to my own issues and I'll tell you I'm completely broken myself right now. But there is a very helpful exercise that my therapist is having me do...and I don't see how it couldn't benefit EVERYONE (whether your life is just the way you want it or you're in a more difficult place). So, thought I'd toss it out there...just in case it helps someone else.

The past couple weeks, we've been discussing the fact that it seems the reason I've been so unhappy for so long is because I've been living a life that isn't authentic to me. Other ways to say it: living a lie, pretending to be happy, propagating a facade (if you're a vocab nerd). You get it, right?

Yesterday, she pushed it further and asked me the hardest question I've had to answer in a long time...

When you imagine living a life that is wholly authentic to you and who you truly are as a person, what kinds of practical things do you see yourself doing in that life? In other words, think about what is TRUE to you.

I couldn't think of one thing. NOTHING! What the heck? How is it possible that I don't even know myself? It was really eye opening. After quite a bit of silence, I thought of one: hold each of my kids each day.

As we talked more, I began to think of more and, since yesterday afternoon, I have not stopped adding to the list.

Here's a sampling, to get your mind rolling:

If I were to live a life that is completely authentic to who I am inside, I would be doing these things:

Take care of myself in ways I haven't before: nails, waxing, haircuts, etc.

Get rid of my TV

Teach my kids the joy of reading

Read more about my business

Sit in silence and feel God's love and shut out all other voices

Spend time listening to music and connecting with it

Use my workouts as a way to build and express my inner strength, rather than as a way to run away from my problems and myself

Tell my kids each day that they are loved completely...no matter what happens

Take my kids outside and spend time exercising WITH them

Be present when I'm helping my kids with their homework - it's not just a pain in the butt task, it's valuable precious bonding time

I suppose that's enough for now. Once you get started, it gets easier. In identifying these things and actually doing them, I will apparently create a "safe place" inside myself that is my center of strength. Because it's fully ME. The idea that I can carry around a "safe place" instead of it having to be somewhere to travel to (whether physically or mentally) is kind of revolutionary for me.

I mean, when you think about it...it's everything we are being taught here on SparkPeople - find strength within yourself. Own your beauty and your strength. Dig deep and make it happen. Make your life what you want it to be with hard work and dedication. Some of that hard work has nothing to do with muscles or cardio capacity. Some of it is purely emotional. This is the side of my life that I've let go for so long...I've somehow lost myself (if I ever knew myself in the first place).

You don't have to be going through hell in your life for this to apply. All of us could use a reminder of who we are at the core...and what we need to do to remain true to that every single day.

So...when I say this...you understand that it holds so much more meaning than a trivial sign-off:

Take care of yourself today. You're worth it. And you're beautiful.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great Blog! Thank you!
    1939 days ago
    1939 days ago
    Hi Leah
    I don't even know where to go here. I have been in therapy for 4.5 years - since my husband died. I am broken. When I almost heal something else breaks me. My kids, my health, my dead husband's family (oh - they are horribole to me). Life brings us so much. I wrk on the authentic me. Still not sure who she is. But she would do ANYthing for her daughters, enjoys running, and needs to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.
    I wish you peace. And joy.
    1939 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon For the great testimonial. You were so honest and to the point. emoticon emoticon
    1939 days ago
    wow is right Thank you so much.
    lots to think about emoticon
    and it is never to late to discover yourselves/onesef.
    lets go discovering.
    1939 days ago
  • DEDE824
    Great blog! And congrats for finding who the real you is!! The world tries so hard to put us in a mold that just doesn't fit. Keep up the good work--you're on the right track. And may God bless you richly as you bond with your precious children and help them learn the valuable lesson you've just learned. emoticon
    1939 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/29/2012 6:04:23 PM
    Your blog was very moving, 'sparked' my interest to go back and read your other blog. Good luck to you on your journey!
    1939 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon My New Year's Resolution a few years ago was to 'find my self' and I needed this reminder to soldier on with doing so. Thanks.
    1939 days ago
    1939 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    1939 days ago
    The journey of life is one step at a time. Sometimes those steps are faster than others. Hoping that yours is beautiful
    1939 days ago
    You've given me some things to think about, thanks. I hope things get better for you and you get to live your authentic life.

    Karen emoticon
    1939 days ago
    Food for thought. Thank you.
    1939 days ago
    1939 days ago
  • D-ABBY
    emoticon BLESSings to you, D-Abby
    1939 days ago
    the harsh reality is that too many people either fake it or live in denial and think that
    THAT equates to 'working things out' for the 'sake' of the kids. But that's a falicy. Making life meaningful IS finding your peace of mind...living your authentic self.

    Love the Emerson quote.
    1939 days ago
    Very helpful blog. emoticon
    1939 days ago
    1939 days ago
    I found this very interesting and helpful. Thank you .

    I did not respond to your last blog even though I did read it as I am also going through a very tough time (divorce, was final on the 19th) and haven't had much positive to say about the whole situation yet.

    Staying true to yourself is very hard and why I am divorced. My husband and his family sugar coat everything and are never fully honest when approached and/or talking to others. They could not handle me as I said things very straight forward and they think I am the most horrible person in the world. Did that hurt heck yes but I wasn't going to change just because they couldn't handle the truth. When I speak of "they" I mean his parents. They eventually wore him down (we did have an awesome marriage) and he kicked me out and the rest is history.

    But in the long run I know that by staying true to my values and morals I will be the better person in the long run. emoticon
    1939 days ago
    This is really awesome! I've been doing alot of growing and changing over the last few years, and I'm happier than I've ever been. :) Thanks for posing the question!
    1939 days ago
    Thanks for sharing what you're going through. Many of us have asked ourselves the same questions...and have struggled with the answers.

    Don't be alarmed if the answers change along the way. It's part of the process.
    1939 days ago
    I am truly moved and can not say much past that at the moment .. I hope that you stay on the journey you are on emoticon
    1939 days ago
  • JERICHO1991
    Lots to ponder. Thanks.
    1939 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    1939 days ago
    I love the real you.
    1939 days ago
    Thank you so much for sharing. It was just what I needed today. It took me 4 years to start getting to know me and what it is that I like to do again. I was told how to think, how I should look, act etc. It's been a rough road and I'm still learning new things about me every day. Keep pushing and don't give up.
    1939 days ago
    Take care of yourself.
    1939 days ago
    It must have been divinity that led me to your blog on the Sparkpeople email today because usually I just skim and delete. I've been going through a very similar soul searching process. I, too have realized how inauthentic I was being and how devastating it has been to me as a whole. I couldn't figure out why even though I was successful in my job, married why I was still so discontented and why I hated myself so much. The past six months I've been working with a therapist to explore some of these things. She always tells me " Just quit smiling." I was so conditioned to just smile and take crap from people and be agreeable all the time. I never truly took the time to figure out what makes me happy, and what truly hurts me and what and whom I should stay away from.
    It gets easier.... 6 months in and I'm still grasping at the idea that I can truly TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. What a concept!
    I love your honesty and it's true.... the more honest you are with yourself and with others, the more peace and freedom you will feel.
    emoticon emoticon
    1939 days ago
    Wow that was amazing this was the first blog i have ever read! It was a touching and encougring one thanks!
    1939 days ago
    1939 days ago
    God bless!!!
    1939 days ago
    Very good! Will check your other blogs emoticon
    1939 days ago
    Your blog was featured today, otherwise, I would never have found it. But I know it is a God thing because I've been right there for so long, not knowing what comes next. For 28 years I was in ministry in a big religious denomination (which I now refer to as the cult) .

    I've been out for about 7 years and suffered PTSD and much anxiety the first few years because I was taught that if I left the denomination, I had no hope of Heaven.

    It was only by making my Saviour and the Bible Promises my Anchor while throwing away 'organized religion' that I survived . . . to this point.

    While it's a good place to be, it's time for the next step. I just haven't know how to. The worldly meditations, etc. don't work for me.

    I'll look for your earlier blog. I know it will hold insights for me. I thank you in advance for making yourself vulnerable and sharing your story. It has already blessed me.

    I am happy to know that you are joyful in your journey in becoming the authentic person that God designed you to be.

    That is THE big WooooHoooo!
    1939 days ago
  • NEPTUNE1939
    1939 days ago
    Thank you for saying things I needed to hear today.
    1939 days ago
  • BTS323
    I haven't read your previous blog yet, but I was drawn by this one's title. Mainly the word "authentic." In my young adulthood, 8 years ago, I was told by mentors and friends that I am "authentic" and "genuine." Even though I felt broken and lost, others saw me as being my true self - which made me feel even more confused. Since then I have changed: fell in love, changed careers, gained weight, found my relationship with God, fell in love with a healthy lifestyle, lost 50 lbs, had my heart broken, and moved. All this while, I wondered if I was still being genuine or doing things because of societal pressures. Whenever I start doubting my authenticity, I ask myself some questions. What makes me smile or laugh? What makes me cry? What annoys me or makes me angry? Over the years, the answers remain the same; I still have my core values and morals that help guide my decisions. I can say I am still authentic Karissa.

    So while you are on your journey and going through these changes, you are still you! You are an inspirational person through and through. Thank you for your honest blogs, reaching out to all of us and asking us the tough questions.
    1939 days ago
  • FLRED12
    Great blog. Bless you.
    1939 days ago
    I divorced after being married for 30 years and I to went to a therapist (at the instance of my ex who thought I was crazy to leave him!) We started taking about what I like to do. I couldn't think of anything! I couldn't think of a plan for the future, favorite food, wants, desires, nothing. I had spent my whole married life squelching the real me until it was buried so deeply I couldn't find her anymore. It has taken me several years, but I feel like I am finally becoming the real me. I have a lot more work to do, and probably always will, but believe me, it is an interesting and fun journey!
    1939 days ago
    Awesome blog!! YOU ARE WORTH IT!
    1939 days ago
  • LYNCHD05
    You have made us all stop and think. Thanks for the wonderful blog.
    1939 days ago
  • MARY1313
    Authentic is a word that my pastor uses often. I loved your blog. and when you receive negativity, just consider the source and move on. Most of the time, it's because an area has been touched that makes them uncomfortable. You are doing a wonderful thing for yourself and your children! Don't waver in your love for yourself and then.

    Mary in Alabama
    1939 days ago
    Wow! Very thought provoking question. Thank you for sharing. Right now that answer is blank and well, I'm feeling a bit scared and very unsettled. You have hit something that has touched my core and probably something I've subconsciously been thinking about but not consciously.

    Thank you
    1939 days ago
  • DEBLYNN323
    I'm looking forward to truly answering that question.....Thanks!
    1939 days ago
    Good and honest writing. Thanks!
    1939 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/29/2012 10:24:09 AM
    God is good! Keep praying and keep pushing!
    1939 days ago
    Amen! Thank you!
    1939 days ago
    Wonderful and very insightful. Having gone thru many, many ups and downs in life, I was told long ago that "You need to be happy in yourself before those around you can share in that happiness" How true and at the time helped me out of a relationship that was destroying my soul.

    You are on the way to a fuller life. Take care

    1939 days ago
    Good luck on your journey.
    1939 days ago

    Very good - thank you very much.
    1939 days ago
    Great insights. I admire you for doing the hard work of getting real.
    1939 days ago
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