Not-a-guide for authentic living.
It takes courage and an open heart to recognize, "Maybe I don't know who I am and what I want." All the open hearts I know have opened because they've been broken. All the brave people I know are brave because they recognize they are scared. They gaze at the fear of having their hearts broken again as they move in the direction illuminated by their Souls.
It bothers me when people claim they can fix someone else. It annoys me when they take advantage of a genuine desire to feel well so they can sell 10-step guides to personal freedom and growth. I get angry because I know that there is nothing to be fixed and that there are no shortcuts to growing into who we are: the only way is to move through our own darkness. No one knows what that will look like for you or how long it'll take. And honestly, you can bring your shadow to light, but the darkness will never go away. It's possible, though, to learn to relate to it from an authentic and integrated place.
Authenticity is not the easy choice. It takes deep work to understand what in ourselves is genuinely ours and what has been crafted to meet other people's expectations.
How much of yourself have you given up to please others?
We grow up learning to apply all kinds of makeup to our essence, trying to be more adequate for relatives, friends, teachers, partners, bosses, etc. There is always a box we must fill. As women socialized in a patriarchal society, we are taught to serve, please, lower our voices, and create an alternate version of ourselves that will make us good enough for men to love and save. And men, of course, suffer their own fragmentations, and so does everyone else who doesn't subscribe to gender. Invariably, we all learn to mask our truth and cover up traits that are too intimidating for people who are not investigating their own processes to hold. Naturally, we become confused about who we are and what we want.
To leave this limbo, we must look for what is underneath the artificial. Going in and growing inwards is the only way to become free and live fully rather than continue to spin the system's wheel.
Sure, you can choose to stay in the status quo, playing by the rules that oppress and imprison you. This would put most people around you at ease because when you commit to your authenticity and begin to move in the direction you want, many people feel personally attacked. When you challenge the norms, you hold up a mirror to those who don't. You call them up to look inside themselves and begin to ask the difficult questions too - and it's much easier to avoid that, though more painful in the long run.
You may even live with some comfort if you choose to stay in the boxes. But at what cost? Who made the rules you're following? Who are you serving when you tell yourself that you have no business pursuing your visions and desires? Who are you benefiting when you accept only what you've been offered?
Millennials have very much internalized the same formula our parents did, albeit in a veiled way: Get an education in something that will get you a good job, get that job, find a partner, get married, buy a house, get a better car, have children, put them through college, travel once a year, retire with a fluffy cushion, and don't forget to take your pills and be whatever you want to be in the process. These days, there's the added pressure of following your bliss: Be healed. Be woke. Be happy. Be positive. Be famous. Be rich. Be young, always be young. Be sexy. Be influential. Be innovative. Be exhausted, don't complain, and don't forget to take your pills.
We all know people who have bought into these narratives and feel miserable. They keep achieving all their goals, but nothing is enough because the goals have never been theirs to begin with. How many of us can honestly say we are satisfied with the careers, relationships, and lifestyles we chose? How many of us can honestly say we feel alive, vibrant, creative, and connected most days? Sometimes? Ever? The people I know who are genuinely joyful and excited about their lives are the ones who, at some point, stopped and asked hard questions. They realized they needed to break with the systems of control and take responsibility and agency over their lives, even when that meant feeling a lot of pain in the process.
When we go inwards, we begin to see that these things they tell us to work for do not fill the void. We realize that material stuff and empty relationships do not feed our Souls and start to understand that our longing is for more substance, purpose, connection, and truth.
Most of all, we see that our longing is for our authentic Selves.
If you choose to bring forward your authentic Self, you will be at a dangerous spot, going in on a path that offers no guarantees other than the freedom to make your own choices and the responsibility of dealing with their consequences. It's a path that points to more questions and fewer answers and invokes you to let your heart break open, so you can see what is inside - the light, the dark, and more colors than you've imagined. It's a non-linear, dense, and at times exhausting road, with inevitable ups and downs and chaos, filled with cycles of becoming and unbecoming as you peel off the layers of socialization and culture. It offers no manuals and no one to do the work for you, but it connects you with people who can walk by your side, hold you when you collapse, and celebrate when you succeed. And most importantly, there is a map to guide you through every moment of it, right there in your body.
These challenges, though, also come with tremendous beauty. As you walk deeper into the wilderness of your Self, you will learn to understand and work with your body and become attuned to your intuition - they will never lead you astray. Going deep will be lonely and painful many times, ecstatic other times. With enough presence and sensibility, you'll experience a broad range of qualities of being, sensing, and feeling - much different from the numbing we are encouraged to do. I can't promise that you will be healed, transformed, and liberated, much less within a time. But I can promise this: you will be faced with your unmatchable beauty, fall on your knees in awe of your largeness, and the demons you fear will gradually turn into old friends that you see now and then but are not the ones showing up most days. Remembering yourself will be worth it, not only in the end but all along.