I was going about my life at what felt like 100mph, as most people do when they are working for someone else. It requires your best juggling skills to have a life and career with various balls up in the air at one time.
I was tired of having no energy, my insomnia and anxiety were increasing; the props and plasters of wine, and short retail fixes kept falling off; I was finding life exhausting. It was all consuming; and I never had the courage to say no to anyone or anything.
I kept going and pushing through it, suppressing any thoughts, emotions and not speaking out along the way, and I lost who I was for 13 years!
Living an authentic life can be challenging as it requires self discovery to find yourself again, in amongst this crazy world. Deciding to do anything about it, and implement your learnings requires courage.
So where do you being to living an authentic life? Here’s my top 3 insights.
#1 Identify your behavioural masks
Over the years, I had been wearing a mask, not literally, but a behavioural one. It’s like an invisible cloak you put on when you’re around other people. It forms an imaginary protective layer that covers up the real you. It’s part self protection, and when you have a strong negative belief that takes hold, it influences your reality.
I had been wearing a few of them. When anyone would ask how I was, I replied ‘I’m fine thanks’. I was pretending, and far from fine! I was tired, living alone and financially responsible for everything. It was a pretty miserable existence. Not always, of course. I tried to balance the good and live life in the best way I was able, but the bad definitely trumped most weeks.
I often had my superhero mask on, always happy and eager to help everyone. I played the ‘hero’ before my brain had even engaged with what I was even saying yes to. I was always busy doing things for other people, I never got time to myself — no wonder I was exhausted!
Looking back, I sometimes recognise the mask of the Pessimist too. I often caught myself saying cynical comments, “it’s too good to be true”, or “what’s the catch?” I was always untrusting and took a negative outlook.
Occasionally I would be the joker, always trying to make people laugh, or play pranks on people. It was a struggle to be serious, but I knew there was something going on beneath the surface.
There’s plenty of masks we can disguise ourselves with. We are conditioned by others guiding us; parents, teachers, friends, family, and colleagues. Having a mask means there is usually an underlying belief we think is true from the teaching you have received.
What’s your mask? Find out the what and why you’re wearing it. Think about how you can start to remove it to uncover the real you.
#2 Give yourself permission
Stop asking for permission. Why are you asking for permission — what’s really going on? Are you lacking in confidence with your idea, comparing yourself and feel the need to check with someone that it’s ok, or is there simply a ton of doubt around?
Whatever your reason, asking for approval is not the way to live authentically. Trust your intuition because your heart and soul has the answers. Be mindful of your logical brain kicking in, and seek help where you need to, but not the ‘permission’ kind.
Accept and trust you are exactly where you are meant to be. If things were easy, you wouldn’t learn anything, and there would be no satisfaction when you achieved what you were after.
I know I said yes to lot of events, both personally and professionally, and what I realised looking back, is that most were out of obligation. Be careful of that bad boy — and it’s second cousin the guilt guy, as they’ll both bite you on the bum!
If what you’re committing to is making you sick, tired, and not a nice person to be around, then questions need to be asked.
Learn the art of saying no, take a sense check first, but ask yourself whether you want to attend x, y, z, or are you doing it from a place of obligation. How is it serving you or them?
Do you have any evidence of them reacting the way you assume they will, or saying what you think they’ll say? Don’t second guess their response. They may surprise you.
#3 Embrace what your mama gave you
I love this and it took me a while to ease into this professionally, but unleash your inner weirdness, your quirks, and characteristics!
I’m a master of compartmentalising my life. I would try and have various aspects fit in tidy boxes in my head, but it was driving me nuts. I just wanted to scream and smash out the box and embrace my inner crazy.
Screw what everyone would think.
Except I couldn’t do that in the conforming world of suits, rules and regulations, or so I thought. I actually did begin to bring more of my personality into work and found I had a lot more laughs through the day. It also encouraged some of my colleagues to do the same.
In my personal life, it was much easier to be myself, but I wanted to feel like me all the time, not just after work and at weekends.
It was a process to get to this point, and a key part was uncovering my behavioural masks. I then began practicing mindfulness and mediation, started becoming less anxious and more relaxed.
I knew I had to practice self love and kindness, not beat myself up anymore, and really sink into my quirky crazy self to embrace who I was fully.
I encourage you to do the same.
Being you is the greatest gift you can give yourself.