I have this phrase tattooed on me. Well, not tattooed, but I have it engraved on the dog tags that I wear all the time in remembrance of my Opa. He epitomised this phrase. He remained his quirky, stubborn, authentic self with not a care in the world for what anyone else thought. Liz Gilbert articulates this brilliantly in Big Magic, “We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us. Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us. But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realize this liberating truth – nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.”
Being your inauthentic self is draining. You’re constantly evaluating yourself and adjusting your behaviour and speech to conform to those that you are around out of fear of not being liked. Instead of focusing on enjoying your company, you become so consumed with yourself and others’ perceptions of you, which is something you cannot control anyhow. And chances are, the people you are with are also consumed with the same thoughts because we attract what we elicit.
A large part of my heart dies whenever I see someone living inauthentically or living via their representatives. And it’s easy to recognise. These people are always “on”. Always focusing on accommodating others. Always consumed with upholding this idealistic image of themselves. Always filtering what they say, what they do, and how they might be perceived. Just talking about this is exhausting. If you find yourself acting differently around anyone in your life, you’re living a lie. When you fail to act true to yourself, you attract the “wrong” kind of people. You attract people who don’t love you for who you are. They love you for the image that you are. Or for what they think you are. Wouldn’t you rather be loved for being yourself than hated for who you are not?
I struggle when people tell me that they’re “private” individuals. What is it about your life that is so private that you cannot share with others? Is there really anything in your past that can inflict that much damage on your present? Or is it the fear that sharing such information will alter the perceptions of those closest to you? If you cannot be your authentic self because those closest to you will not accept it, then those aren’t your people. And that isn’t love. And yes, I am referring to family too. If your family cannot accept you for all that you are, they don’t really love you. They love this idea of you.
Perhaps you feel content with living your life vicariously through your representatives. Perhaps you don’t even know who the real you is anymore. Perhaps you don’t even think this is a problem that you need to fix. Perhaps you are perfectly okay with living a lie. Being a lie. Perhaps then you are okay with only experiencing mediocre love. Fake love. Superficial love. Because I assure you, being private doesn’t just affect you. It affects anyone you become involved with.
Some people might say that I am extremely fortunate because I can live a life so openly and freely and people just accept me for who I am. That is not fortunate. That is intentional. I’ve created this environment for myself. I only surround myself around those who do just that, accept me for all that I am. In my entirety. Sexuality and all. If they can’t accept me, they don’t love me. And I consciously choose not to associate with them. This may seem harsh and abrasive, but it’s not. It’s about preserving yourself and your energy. When you can’t be your beautiful, raw, authentic self because you feel you need to uphold this image of yourself, that’s wasted energy. It’s draining. Exhausting. Restricting. It’s also essentially lying.
I once was seeing someone who claimed to be a private person. At first, I accepted this. That was who she was. But then it started to affect me negatively. I had to watch what I said to friends, I had to watch the way I behaved in person, I had to essentially live a lie. And I was not comfortable with that. I’m so open that when something is good in my life, I want to share it with people. I don’t want to spend excess energy on filtering what I say or what I do, but I was unable to do that with this person. And she was unable to share me with anyone in her life. Why? I suspect out of fear of how she was going to be perceived. She feared that others might judge her, or that they wouldn’t understand, or that they wouldn’t accept her – she feared rejection of herself. So what did she do? She upheld the image she knew they would accept. She lived a lie. And I was forced to live that lie alongside her. Until I decided this was not what I wanted and that I wanted better. I wanted freedom. I wanted authenticity. And not just selectively behind closed doors. I wanted it openly. Consistently. Always.
If you find yourself having to filter what you say around your friends and family, I suspect it stems from fear. Fear of being judged or fear that what you tell them will make its way back to someone you aren’t wanting to be privy to that information. If you have these fears, these aren’t your people. Good friends don’t gossip. Nor do they judge. Instead, they accept. They understand. And they love. And in regards to the fear of an individual finding out this information, withholding this information from them means that you’re lying. You’re manipulating them. People often think that it’s out of kindness that we withhold information from others; we’re saving them the pain, but who are you to determine what will hurt someone? To determine what they can and can’t handle? Often times we lie not because we don’t want to hurt the other person, but because we fear being judged. We fear that our image will change. We fear that this victim mentality we have so clearly narrated for years and garnered support for will suddenly be dismantled and discredited. So instead, we lie. We live a lie. And we become a lie.
So I challenge all of you. If you consider yourself a private person, ask yourself why. What is it about your life that is so private you do not wish to share it with others? Or is it that you do not trust the people you are sharing it with? If it is the latter, I challenge you to ask yourself if those are the people you want to surround yourself around. People who will judge you. People who you have to be “on” around. Being your authentic self all the time is the most liberating experience you can encounter. Don’t do things to please others, do it to please yourself. Because the only person you were brought into this world to please was yourself. Being yourself is not just your birth-given right, it’s also your responsibility. The world needs more of you – the complete, unique, authentic you that is hidden under layers of images and representatives of you. So I encourage you; choose freedom, not fear.