I remember being called fake in grade school… to my fourth grade peers, I smiled too much. I was too nice. Apparently, there wasn’t anything to be so happy about. There was no reason to be pleasant or to be smiling. Shit wasn’t sweet… but it was to me. I mean, I had nothing to really be upset about. I was loved. I was full of love, and that love naturally extended outside of myself. Interestingly, as a young child walking beside my mother, I would look up at her and wonder the same thing. “Why does she always smile? What is she so happy about? My mother is weird…” and just like that, BOOM! Genetics.
Moving throughout life, this jovial disposition, the sing-songy cadence of my voice, my happy-go-lucky attitude has been both hindrance and a superpower, one I have fought hard not to let the world take from me. This state of being is something I work hard to keep, and it’s a practice of being authentically me.
I have learned that for people to feel comfortable, they must attempt to control for various variables. One of those variables is the ability to categorize people and experiences based on their past encounters. Another is to be able to predict behavior and intentions based on the outcome of their past encounters. During our formative years, we begin analyzing components of human existence and create important case files that keep us safely in survival mode. We search for patterns. This helps us develop quick access to our internal filing cabinets. We evaluate peoples’ looks, their behavior, physical features, personality quirks, their feelings about themselves, their words, their actions, how people respond to them, where they are from, how much money they make, their occupations, their family dynamics, etc., and from there, we group them into the file we had already created for people whom we experienced and how we experienced said people in our previous interactions. These are called stereotypes.
Not only do we do this to other people, we also evaluate ourselves, and we recognize when people are doing this to us. Inadvertently, we begin cultivating our sense of self based on the filing system we think we belong in. We categorize ourselves. I’m woman; therefore, I should wear pink, and I should speak with a soft voice. If I am a tall woman, when I am around short women, I should scrunch my body down low when we take pictures to avoid looking less feminine.
When we are children, we don’t have these preconceptions about who we are based on stereotypes. We just are, until we are told who we are. Then, we go through this cycle of evolution. We begin to mold ourselves to fit others’ expectations until we get older and realize, this isn’t really working for me. I know I’m supposed to be “this way” based on society’s ideas of what people like me are, but this is contradictory to how I actually feel and what I actually want. And then… the journey begins, the journey of unlearning and relearning; unprogramming others’ preset stations for our lives and reprogramming to find our own radio frequencies. Between stations, there is a lot of static… then, just like scanning on a radio dial, the closer we get to our truest selves, the voice on the speaker begins to come through clearer and clearer until we hear it with HD quality clarity… and then we realize, that’s me! That’s who I am. Wow! I sound good. I am good. I am great.
The journey to yourself is not easy. It seems like it is, and it seems like it could be because every Instagram influencer has decided that they are, now, trained psychologists, and they can give you the tools to get there, but only if you subscribe to their $497 course that they send on a video link which spends the first 40 minutes upselling you and telling you how successful they are! Hello! I already purchased it… now get to the actionables.
Then, there are these strenuous life demands and distractions. We have no time to really sit down and do the work it takes to be authentic. We can’t have deep conversations with friends and lovers, asking how they perceive our strengths and challenges because it seems too vulnerable. We can’t spend the two hours it may take to truly analyze ourselves before work because it’s a mad-dash to log in on time and to be ready to engage and perform efficiently. We can’t even ask ourselves what other opportunities are out there for work because we just don’t have the energy after a 12 hour day (1 hour getting ready, 8 hours working, 1 hour “lunch,” 2 hours commuting). We have to pay the bills, so even though we are unhappy, overly stressed, spending our weekends drinking and kicking it with friends, we are too afraid to be with ourselves, to ask the real, defining questions, and to hold ourselves accountable for making the sacrifices of changing our habits, changing our social environments, changing our spending habits, and spending the time to create the authentic us. So, we don’t. And we waddle, and we complain. And we stay stuck, living inauthentic, fake lives.
Now, I welcome you to stop reading right here. The remainder of this article is only for the people who are ferocious enough to look at themselves in the mirror. This ability tends to develop around your mid thirties. If you are younger, go you! You have a headstart! Reading this article and employing some of these practices will save you years of your life. If you are older, go you! Your generation didn’t even recognize, respect, or understand the importance of knowing yourself. You all thought it was vain and narcissistic to even look at yourselves in the mirror, so keep reading! You can change that mentality and lessen your chances of psychosomatic disease caused by unreleased stress (normally around accepting and embracing your true self). Besides, changing anything at this age is even more revolutionary. It takes more commitment, intention, and psychological aptitude. You got this!
Humans are unique beings. We each have our quirks. For some reason, instead of truly understanding this and taking the time to explore with people, we tend to decide who people are, determine their intentions and their existence in our minds, and miss opportunities to really gain a full appreciation for people in their most natural states, but not you. You’re going to learn to appreciate others’ idiosynchronicities, starting with your own. Let’s start with these actionables! Take out your journal and explore.
Is this how you feel, or is this how you are supposed to feel based on your archetype?
I am afraid of romantic commitment. I mean, I literally have nightmares about it when I feel it getting close. My body gets to tingling. I feel the walls caving in. I imagine how terribly different my life would be, how many expectations I can’t meet, how I will have to share all of me, how I’m just not ready yet and I do not want to be rushed into a lifelong decision. I sometimes feel like I’m going to cry because I get so scared, and, at that point, I usually do something drastic to sabotage it. Then, I say, “see, woe is me. Love does not want me. I am far too much to love…too complicated… not good enough,” and I actually convince myself of this.
It’s not at all a conscious process. Consciously, I would love to get married. I would love to have children. I would love to be in bliss, and then, I look at my actual, personal life. Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk, challenged readers to look at how they spend their time and then assess what they truly want and value. Often times, we have a major disconnect between what we think or say we want, and then, what we actually want. When we slow down and look at our actions, they can give us some clarity about our truer intentions. Jim Rohn says, “if you want something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
Look at your life. There are things you really want. When you go to the mall and you really want a shirt, you move money around in your bank account even if you told yourself you wouldn’t. You rationalize that you’ll work a few extra hours to make up for it. You find a way to get that shirt. Then, you tell everyone you want to travel, yet you complain that you don’t have the extra money, time, or energy… I know, that sounds vastly different, but you summoned all your energy to get that shirt, and if you’re like most compulsive spenders, you probably have had that experience numerous times per week. According to Yahoo Finance, those small expenses add up to nearly of $20,000 per year for most people. Now, could you have afforded that $2,500 vacation if you really wanted to? Go look at your spending over the last year and tell me… I’ll wait.
My complexity around commitment has more to do with how I’ve watched commitment change relationship dynamics. People, from watching relationships of people in my age group, go from being lovers, in love, to being dictators. Relationships morph from friendships where people show up, happily, to participate, to people begrudgingly showing up simply to clock in and say they have tried. Now, this isn’t how I was raised. This isn’t what I even see or experience in my personal relationships, but it is a great fear of mine.
I think that as a woman, I am supposed to want a defined relationship. I am supposed to want an interaction to lead to a big wedding, and that I am supposed to question the strength of my connection with a man if he doesn’t call me everyday, that I am supposed to play games, not say what I want or how I feel, not give compliments, not take the lead in areas I am strong in, and that our interactions are supposed to lead to a relationship because that is supposed to be my preset as a woman, but I don’t feel that way. What is most important to me isn’t the title itself but the depth of the relationship, the fullness, the way it makes me feel, the honesty, integrity, the friendship, and if something more defined comes from that, BEAUTIFUL… we have a winner.
Now, this example was personal, but think about all the other ways you think you are supposed to feel and things you think you are supposed to want that may or may not actually be congruent with what you want and feel internally. Try to get clear and get to a place of acceptance about what you want even if it is not popular.
Figure out the way you want to feel and be in your life and develop a roadmap to get there
Too often, we get set in titles and tangible concepts when defining our life agendas, but sometimes, that can limit us from receiving even greater blessings. I think it’s imperative to be clear about types. The type of lifestyle you want to live. The type of environment you want to be in. The type of vehicle you want to drive. For example, I want to live a lifestyle in which I feel free, and that includes the freedom to change my mind and the freedom to be a different person if the vision of who I am now changes in ten years without feeling like a failure. I want to be in environments that are luxurious, that make me feel full and alive, environments with people who feel loving and authentic to me. I want to drive an SUV that makes me feel like I can see the world from a higher perspective (because I’m used to being beneath everyone due to my short stature).
Now, with those types, I can welcome the supreme being to expound on my vision. Instead of identifying the type of life I want to live and the feelings I want to experience being in this life, I may say, “I want to be a psychologist. I want to change the world and impact people by practicing psychology,” and I have a narrow perspective of what that entails. When the opportunity to share my perspective on a TV show that can reach hundreds of thousands of people comes up, I may say, “no, I want to be a psychologist. I want to practice psychology,” and I have missed the opportunity to practice psychology and change the lives of millions because I have identified a very rigid, narrow perspective of how I impact people rather than being open to the enormous capability of the universe to bring us a feeling of fullness through many ways.
Or, I may say, “I want to get married.” and I meet a man who also wants to get married, and because we both want to get married, we rush into it, and realize we are not compatible beyond our sexual chemistry and desire to be married; however, if I said, “I want a compatible partner, a partner who is a friend and lover,” then I allow the universe to send me a partner, and we naturally feel compelled to seal the deal with marriage.
Be clear with the universe about your priorities, your must haves, your must not haves, and allow space for flexibility.
Evaluate who are you in comparison to who you want to be
This is a tough one, okay, and most of us struggle with it. We can always see inconsistencies within other people, but rarely are we able to recognize our own. Normally, a great indication of areas in your personal life that you’d like to improve upon show up in your disgust with others. For example, I get very frustrated when people cancel plans with me, especially if it’s the day of. I also get frustrated about people who take days to respond to texts and phonecalls, and people who assume they know how I think and feel without asking me, but well, well, well… would you look at here. When I scroll through my text messages, I am flabbergasted that I may have texts from days ago that I meant to respond to but forgot. I see that sometimes, if I don’t feel like it, I will cancel plans within two days of keeping them… and I certainly write up whole analytical case studies about people without ever asking them how they feel or why they behave a certain way… and then, I realize the error in my ways.
Now, when I sit down with myself, I assume I am all of these fantabulous things because there is an image, in my mind, of who I want to be. Who I want to be is often very merged with who I actually am. I live in the future. I’ve been called delusional and grandiose for this in the past, but I bet you one thing, when I get wrapped in the illusion of who I will be, I surely become her… and that, friends, is my superpower…
So, I want you to sit down and think about who you want to be and who you are right now. Think about the characteristics and qualities of future you. If you want to be a person who always looks put together, but you currently roll out of bed and never think twice as you throw on some old, beat up clothes and dingy sneakers, then tomorrow, I want you to wake up a little earlier so you can feel into your body. Think about this, “If I was the person I wanted to be, how would I dress myself? What colors would I wear? What accessories speak to the me I know is deep down inside?” Now, if you don’t have the clothes that reflect that, go buy them! I know, “I don’t have the money…” well, did you have the money for the $175.00 brunch you went to that turned into a day party and then hookah later? Uh huh… okay, so let’s get clear.
Evaluate your relationships, environment, and habits, and how they make you feel
Let’s face it, we all have some friendships we only keep because we feel compelled to. At some point, we made some spoken or unspoken commitment to ride it out with them and have created a co-dependent dynamic in which we agree to let the other person be their worst selves to avoid having to show up as our best. We have these particular friends that we drink and smoke with, all day, and forget the obligations of our hearts. We say, “I’ll get to it tomorrow,” but tomorrow becomes an extension of today, and in our alone time, we feel the larger guilt of again, betraying ourselves.
We come to resent this friend. Instead of letting the friendship go in love, we begin to vilify them. We find every reason to hate them. Everything about them becomes amplified because we cannot accept the responsibility of choosing differently. It is hard to accept, with ourselves, that we have changed, and we desire more. We feel that by honoring our commitments with ourselves, that we are saying our friends are somehow less than. We feel shame for leaving them behind… but your holding on may be holding up their life’s journey. Your sticking around in toxic relationships/friendships, gives the other person the false sense that her behavior is acceptable… and it may be acceptable to her or to others, but it is no longer acceptable for you.
Then, there are people who treat you as though they could live with or without you. Your presence is nothing grand, nothing unique nor exceptional. They treat you as though you are average and they are not moved. Get rid of them! They do not deserve access to your personal space and their indifference is quite harmful to your personal wellbeing. It can cause you to question your regality. You are regal. The people you choose to have in your life are regal, and if people treat you any less than a beautifully, exciting, rare gem that they are grateful to have found in a world full of rocks, send them packing!
Being authentically you requires trusting that whatever you need is okay, and if people cannot accept that, then they are not a part of the next chapter in your life’s series. It’s okay, too. Really, it is. The universe will send new people and new relationships that are more aligned. Being authentic is having friendships and relationships that support you at every stage of your life. These friendships and relationships are aligned. A great way to determine the health of a relationship is to tune in to how you feel after engaging someone. Do I feel full of love and empowerment? Do I feel sad, guilty, shamed, upset, angry, bitter, jealous, hurt? Tap in to authentic self. Your body will reveal your true feelings.
If you need support in understanding relationship cycles and how to end them lovingly, check out this podcast.
Figure out what makes you happy and don’t be ashamed of it
I like playing in my closet, shopping, and taking pictures. I have had friends who would roll their eyes and suck their teeth when I wanted to take pictures. I have had friends who complain about me wanting to get dressed up just to grab a bite to eat. I have had friends complain about the grandiose ways in which I would like to spend time with them. Well, my friends, this is what I like, and I shouldn’t be shamed about it. We can decide if spending time together is even something we actually, really want to do if who I am and how I spend/share my time is not enough for yoU!
In a similar vein, you have things that you like that people may shame you about or that you feel silly for enjoying. You may enjoy popping pimples, yodeling, bird watching, or going to look at nice cars on the weekends. Hey, life is short, whatever makes you happy, do that! And… DO NOT FUCKIN’ APOLOGIZE FOR IT or set out some stupid ass disclaimer like, “I know this is weird, but I like to…” or “I know you may think this is strange but…” When I go to restaurants, I pull out my UV Light Wand to sanitize my utensils, water, food, etc., and whoever I’m with typically thinks it’s interesting until we are on the tenth item, and they think I obsessively compulsive about cleanliness… and then, some people get so happy and say, “wow! You think of everything. Thank you for keeping me safe!” Listen, your thing is your thing and if it’s not hurting someone else, there is no shame. There is a community of people who appreciate your quirks. Find them… watch this video on only associating with people who feel like sunshine!
Start saying yes… and no
I hate that so much of peoples’ lives is dictated by what we are supposed to do and our fears of trying things differently. How will you know what you like if your preset answer is no? A friend recommends a spontaneous beach trip in the summer, say yes! Go, feel free for the day. A boxing class, an ATV ride, say yes! You may find that you like something you’d never considered before.
And the other part is for those who say yes too much… you may have come to learn exactly what you like and don’t like, yet you fear saying no will cause you to lose friends, but fuck them… lol! Saying yes too much will stretch you in ways you don’t want to be stretched. It’ll tie up your time and take years of your life that you could have been giving to things, activities, tasks, and people you actually want to do! Nope, no type there… and also, just because someone wants, begs for, and patiently waits for your time doesn not mean you owe it to them. They will not die without you! Unless you’re their emergency surgeon… yikes!
Liberate yourself! Offer NO explanation
People will attempt to tell you what you want and how you feel. Do not allow them to. Set your boundaries. Clarify it for them and let them know you are open to answering questions and explaining, but you will not be subjected to their definition or expectations of you if they do not align with your truth. No longer ask for permission or input on your decisions, and to safeguard from this, I would recommend waiting until you are solid in your decisions before you even share them. If someone who isn’t exactly where you want to be in your life starts picking your vision apart, questioning your qualifications, challenging your beliefs in your capabilities, or giving unsolicited advice, say “aht, aht, aht! I am not asking for your input or advice. I am simply sharing.” Set your boundaries and own them!
Now friends, there is so much more to this list, but I’m writing a whole book about self-actualization so I can’t give it all away here. If you like this article, like and share it, and keep checking back for updates about my upcoming book!
If you need coaching support, I’m your girl. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org