Vulnerability and Authenticity
Several months ago Kenya Brading from The Woman’s Network asked me to write a blog on authenticity. Immediately I felt honored, and I also received a heaping gulp of humility. At the time I was facilitating a Book Processing Group on Brene Brown’s work Daring Greatly. In her book, Brene articulates how vulnerability allows us to live wholeheartedly. While facilitating this group and helping others to become more intimate with their vulnerability and authenticity, I lacked my own insight and intimacy. When I went to sit down and write my blog, I felt hesitation and resistance to tell my story. I was scared. “Why is this so challenging?” I thought.
One month rolled by, and then another, and another. “Would I ever be ready to fully embrace authenticity to write this blog?” My heart wept for all of the times I violated myself in the small ways; for not saying “no” when I wanted to, for choosing to forgo myself to please others, for not speaking my truth, for ignoring my intuitions, for putting myself down or allowing myself to be abused. I felt I would never master my own authenticity.
A week ago my authenticity was challenged when I was asked to apply for a Mental Health Counseling position. (As some of you know, I have a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.) For a moment I thought, “Wow. This is my chance to further my professional development and to have a steady career!” Then I felt anxiety in my heart. I felt into this and asked the anxiety, “What do you feel like? What do you look like? What are you telling me? Why are you here?” Through focusing on the anxiety I realized it expressed an internal conflict between my heart’s true desires and my fears. I was being challenged to truly own my desires and allow my authenticity to take the lead in my life.
If my heart could speak, what would it say?
While I love the groundedness, ethics, holism, and foundation that counseling training offers me and my clients, my real passion is spiritual awakening. To me spiritual awakening largely means aligning oneself with their soul. It’s embodying divine grace and light to better integrate all aspects of authentic self. My main gifts for this mission are insight work, Reiki, and empowering clients’ agency through intuition development. My desire is to embody holism as much as possible, with hopes to give others permission to do the same. I no longer want to hide behind a clinical front, but to connect authentically with fellow beings walking this spiritual journey. I decided not to apply for the Mental Health Counselor position and to grow my private practice instead.
There – I said it! You may have no idea how difficult it was for me to speak my heart’s desires and express my gifts. For so long I feared persecution, offending others, being wrong or imperfect, being ignorant of my own blind spots, or burning bridges from a seemingly safer route of a regular counseling career. My heart beats to a different rhythm than a traditional path, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make me better or worse–just unique. For years, I secretly owned a successful private practice doing what I stated above; yet I wasn’t ready to publically announce it. Word of mouth by referrals seemed safer, but being outspoken on a network triggered a whole other level of vulnerability.
What was even more frightening is that I believed stepping into my authenticity would cause me to lose acceptance from either my counseling colleagues or family members. The counseling field enforces rigorous, science based codes of ethics and ways of practicing. By moving into a more spiritual, Reiki based practice, I was moving beyond the traditional counseling bounds and into a whole new field. This leaves me open for ostracization and vulnerable to the unknown.
Facing this decision also triggered my fears of whether I was wrong in moving in this direction. “What if I simply made up my passion for spirituality to avoid the possible challenges within the counseling profession?” I anxiously wondered. “Am I capable of pursuing a private practice?” “What if there was something wrong with me for wanting something different?” Moreover, growing up I learned that being stoic and silently “toughing it up” to do my job (my job being whatever was described to me by superiors) was the kind and noble thing to do. I learned subtle lessons that if I stepped out of bounds I would hurt others and love would be withheld. So I did the expected things. I wanted to be loving and to deserve love.
The never-ending journey of authenticity
Perhaps you have similar experiences of fear freezing you. Do you also sell out because of fear of not being understood, or being rejected? Or maybe you fear you are wrong or unworthy? Under an even deeper layer, if we are rejected for our facades, at least who we truly are isn’t rejected. This seems safer. What happens if we are authentic and then rejected? This is riskier. We all hear messages throughout our lives that tell us to stay in the status quo. That we have to do certain things to deserve love and to be accepted. We aren’t loveable because we are innately deserving. We may even internalize these messages. But, at what cost?
I’ve begun to realize that authenticity is not an end goal but a never ending journey of self-discovery. The most loving act we can give ourselves and each other is to be authentic. I’ve learned that speaking my heart’s desires wasn’t as painful as I anticipated. In fact, I feel a sense of relief and hope. It was exhausting holding myself back and I slowly felt my light fading. Also, I don’t believe I’ve hurt anyone. I hope that each person who steps into their authenticity will create a more loving and accepting world—one of unconditional love. Hopefully my evolving journey with authenticity can inspire you and others to walk this path. We don’t have to be perfect to be loved, safe, or of value. We simply need to be who we are. That’s good enough and creates space for real love and wholeness to reside.
We are supported
This brings us to the next topic—we are supported. It is my belief that ultimately the universe (or God, or whatever you term it) wants us to embrace who we are. It is part of our destiny and the overall uplifting of the collective consciousness. Therefore, when we are ready, the right people, situations, and events show up in our lives. Perhaps you are reading this article because you are ready to step out of your fears, either real or self-imposed, to move into who your really are. Perhaps you have been boxed in and carrying a heavy load for too long. In particular, as women, we have our own set of barriers and strengths. We are all unique and our walk with authenticity is more colorful than any painting, but we don’t have to be alone. Sharing our stories can empower, inspire, and support each other to move closer and closer to our most authentic selves. Fear loses its grip on us as we hold each other’s hands in community. Please share your stories through your walk with authenticity below.
Also, know you have resources. The Woman’s Network is a great place to read about what other women are doing and to connect with others who are also bravely working through fears toward wholeness. I provide individual sessions, as well as various workshops. I would be delighted and honored to work with women dedicated to this journey. For more information, visit my website at www.awakeningtothrive.com.