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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
  • v JUNEAU2010
    I have not been authentic for....ever? Last time I tried that, I bit off too much, was overwhelmed and....BUT I applaud you for posting this blog. In some ways, this one took even more courage. It rings with truth and strength!
    1370 days ago
  • v JMARIES51
    You are very courageous and generous to share your feelings with us. And on top of that to share your inspirational therapy. This question of authenticity is so important. Some people go through their whole life never knowing who they are or what they want, or what their own very authentic life would look like.

    You are doing the tough work, Leah, and you will reap the benefits - just like the difficult workouts - just like going to school. Sometimes it takes time for the bud to open and be able to enjoy the sweet smell of the rose. emoticon
    1370 days ago
  • v RUNNERRACHEL
    I am glad you have a therapist who is helping you find the authentic you!

    Therapy can be so...therapeutic.

    I think so much of the Spark journey, like you said, is emotional, changing who we are inside, not just getting our weight down, reaching a healthy BMI, achieving cardiovascular endurance. Sure, those things are great and feel wonderful physically but what really happens is that as we work on the outside, the inner stuff starts shifting too. I feel like as my outer layers were stripped off, the inner layers became more visible, that I didn't have a shield anymore, couldn't hide. I really had to look at how I was feeling, not just numb myself with food or bury my feelings deep inside.
    I still have a lot of uncovering to do. I've reached my weight goal but I'm working on the authentic stuff as well. Not as actively as I would like. I don't spend a lot of time on me. So thanks for the reminder.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us...and hugs and prayers for all you're going through.
    1370 days ago
  • v CHARTHESTAR
    Thank you! you have given us so much to think about!
    Personally I have so much to do in the next several weeks I am going to put it on the back burner and only get it out when I am walking. Then come up with an action plan to start with the new year.

    You are a blessing and inspiration to us all. I have learned that by sharing what is going on with you and your life- you can get advice and help or help others in the process.

    Hugs to you! emoticon
    1370 days ago
  • v CHSHULER89
    You are so awesome!! Thanx for sharing! One day I hope to be able to write and express myself as you do. I have been working on the emotional strength, getting there...
    1370 days ago
  • v HEALTHY4ME
    Thanks..... and I so do know what you are talking about. I at.nearly 56 ( new years eve) have no clue who I am or what I want to do when I grow up. I read an article about women today and they are smarter, know what they are doing in their career, have investments, a good relationship with a special other or themselves, etc. hmmmmmmmmm haven't met that many in my circle, but then is that cos I don't work and wasn't workign in biz. when I did? i dont know the magazines certainly feature these women and I commend them. I am no longer envious or jealous of them, but would at least like to know me better.

    I find another thing which I wont get into cos will get too long, is hubby dream which is way more his than mine ( to travel in our Rv year round or for a few months) , and I nixed, then when I think of it, I think only reason I nixed it is cos of fear, I have a sparkfriend that did it alone and I was envious, 2 real life friends lol did it well they and their spouses . So now I keep thinking with skype and the insurances we have, why not, dream, do and try. even if we try it one year. Then while I am thinking all this, hubby says well since I doubt that we will ever use our motorhome for what I want or eve to go across Canada, maybe we should sell and we could get a little used sports car... but we also want to live in the woods and be self sufficent. I was shocked, so guess time for me to come clean on the fear and why and have a good talk about life, bucket lists and such.
    HUGS and thanks for making me think again. YOU ROCK!
    1370 days ago
  • v CAMAEL100
    Fantastic blog. I have been thinking a lot lately of who/what I would really like to be! I think your exercise is a great place for me to start.
    1370 days ago
  • v CM_GARDNER78
    emoticon Isn't it kind of funny how we can't truly answer those kinds of questions? I would feel put on the spot if someone asked me the same question! I love the list - it got my wheels spinning for sure. Sometimes the best stuff comes out during our darkest times - know what I mean? Keep at it. It all will get better - it already is! :-)
    (((HUGS)))
    ~ Christa
    1371 days ago
  • v HOLMGIRL4
    This was a wonderful blog! Gives me a lot to think about!
    1371 days ago
  • v FEMISLIM
    Thanks for the awakening. You are so blessed!
    1371 days ago
  • v NSMANN
    I can't help but think that someone who has proven themselves to be as thoughtful and intelligent as you have on your blog will have no trouble finding love again.
    1371 days ago
  • v OLIVIANIGHT
    Gosh, I can't think of anything either... I'm going to go sit in a corner and figure out some authenticity.
    Thanks for making me think.
    1371 days ago
  • v IRONBLOSSOM
    Oh gosh, once I get over that initial hump of (like you) "I have NOTHING to say!" It's like I have too much to say. I would need another lifetime of days to do everything I want to do! :-)

    I really appreciate this blog and the last one and that you've been so honest and out there. I know you will get some blowback from people just being snarky and mean, that's what the internet appears to be for, after all, but I hope you also know how much being honest and showing that honesty is good for the rest of us. It is so important to live an honest (meaning true-to-you) life and I hope your blogs can convince more people of that!
    1371 days ago
  • v DESERTJULZ
    Beautiful introspection!
    1371 days ago
  • v REGILIEH
    My dear, sweet little girl, you got it!!!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1371 days ago
  • v SMANISMELL
    I don't think I am being authentic. I have the life I live and then there is the life I wish I lived. Unfortunately a circumstance out of my control has led me to live a life that I don't want to live, but feel as though I have no other choice. Sometimes it is the things that happen to us that cause us to not have an authentic life anymore, but rather we have the best life that we can have. The best I can do is try to change how I live.
    1371 days ago
  • v AMARILYNH
    Wow - just WOW!! I read your previous blog and tried a couple of times to respond to it but couldn't quite come up with what felt like the right thing to say. But this much I know - you have an AWESOME therapist and you are getting down to the person you ARE - how amazing is that?

    I guess the reason I had a hard time responding before is that I went through a divorce 38 years ago (after being married 6-1/2 years - about 5-1/2 years longer than I would have stayed married had it not been for the family/church I was in) and I know how very hard it is. Seeing that you are having some good talks with your hubby now that the decision has been made led me to wonder if perhaps your marriage could be saved? But I don't know you well enough to even go there so I just said nothing. You know yourself way better than I know you.

    That said, I left that bad marriage and met the love of my life - we've been married now for almost 37 years. Like you, I used the time in which I was gearing up my head to make the move to get to know ME - and that self knowledge has led to a truly delightful life. Not a perfect one - not a perfect marriage, but a REALLY good one!!

    I can tell from the previous responses that your blogs are leading a lot of us to dig deeper into self understanding - so thanks for that!

    And lastly, you have an AMAZING way with words!! I look forward to your blogs - I find them fascinating and insightful! Blessings!! emoticon
    1371 days ago
  • v LINDAK25
    Wow. I love the Emerson quote. Out of all the pain, you are being reborn. You will find yourself.
    1371 days ago
  • v GINGERHAWK
    That is an awesome exercise and I'm so glad you shared it. It definitely gives me something to think about and I hope when I'm done I find the authentic me was here all along and, if not, that I am nearer to finding her.
    1371 days ago
  • v ISABELLE31
    Great list of things that will make your life authentic. You've inspired me to make a list of my own. Thank you!
    1371 days ago
  • v COCK-ROBIN
    Thanks for the blog. And you are an authentic person.
    1371 days ago
  • v EBURGITE
    emoticon
    it is hard to be honest, but when we do, we usually find we're not alone, and others do as well. we live in a society that tends to value the mask, but we can live differently. hang in there!
    1371 days ago
  • v PAANDRUS
    Truly wonderful blog! Gives a gentle reminder as we enter this Christmas season! Thank You!
    1371 days ago
  • v BABAOF4
    Good suggestions for you to do. Enjoy the moments with your kids especially because, " The days are long, but the years are short."( Gretchen Rubin ?) Take one ctivity at a time and be fully present in it. God loves you so very much!
    1371 days ago
  • v LINDAKAY228
    I'm not really sure how I would answer that question either. It's something that I need to think about. Some things I'm already doing but I'm sure there is more ways that I am not really being true to myself. Thanks for sharing your story which encourages me to look deeper at myself.
    I stayed in a marriage for over 16 years because the church I was involved in kept telling me it would be a sin to leave, even though I was dying inside. They said that he would have to leave me, that I couldn't leave him. He wasn't about to do that. Finally I got out of that church (it was a very fundamentalist bordering on cult characteristics) and it was a year later when I finally left my husband. In my case he was very emotionally abusive and killing my spirit inside me. That was in 1988. Over the past 6 years or so we have actually become friends again, although I think that was an act of God in my life also. I would never marry him again, and he drinks a lot late in the day so I avoid talking to him then. But he's 13 years older than me and 70 years old and I help him with errands, we go out to breakfast, etc. I'm not really sure why I'm telling you all this but I do know what you are talking about in the stories you've heard. It's so awesome that you still have a friendship. You'll find the answers within yourself, and some of them will take time. This is a journey we are on, and journeys have twists and turns and uphills and downhills and beautiful scenery and nasty weather all at various times. But it is still a beautiful journey and so worth it!
    1371 days ago
  • v REMEMBER2BME
    Great blog and how thoughtful of you to share in hopes that these 'exercises' will help others. No doubt they will. There are even simple things that come to mind for me. I used to lay in bed not wanting to wake anyone (even the dogs). I now simply ask myself if no one was around what would you do? AND I do that. It is nice to do.

    Anyway, thanks again.
    emoticon
    1371 days ago
  • v SENIORSWIMMER
    I like you, and I like your therapist. Aren't therapists wonderful people? The good ones are good at setting up patterns of thought for us we didn't even know we needed to change.

    Blessings on your authentic day.
    1371 days ago
  • v CARA_FIT37
    So thought provoking! I love the list of things you have already come up with. I don't have kids yet but those are some of the same things I want for my future kiddies as well!

    I'll keep you in my prayers! emoticon
    1371 days ago
  • v GODIVADSG
    Keep digging! All the answers are within emoticon Keep opening that present... So happy for you! emoticon
    1371 days ago
  • v BESSHAILE
    I once was asked to imagine my perfect day ... I can't remember the surroundings - probably in a retirement seminar, since the day I imagined was the perfect day I'd like to live after I retired.

    I did it - created in my head - that absolutely perfect day - down to the weather, the time of year, where I was, what I had just done, what I was just about to do, what I was doing.

    And the point of the exercise was to get me to start living as much of that perfect day as I can, right now. This is good. This has helped make now much better. This is a little like your authentic day. This even gave me a clue on how I could start now, learning how to do things I want to do well at some future date.

    But it is also a place I can slip into any time I'm not happy where I am at the moment.

    so I ended up with two lives for the price of one!

    LOL

    anyway - sorry to be so "all about me" .... but it sure looks like your therapist is giving you great advice and you are smart enough to take it.

    hugs to you
    1371 days ago
  • v PATTISTAMPS
    I am moved to tears. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and for using it to inspire us all.
    1371 days ago
  • v NITTINNANA
    Wow! You are one amazing woman!!
    1371 days ago
  • v SARAHJ19
    Thank you so much for sharing this blog. It really hit home for me. I really appreciate it. emoticon emoticon
    1371 days ago
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