Defined by Merriam Webster: True to one's own personality, spirit, or character. Is sincere and authentic with not pretentiousness. NOT FALSE
As a yoga instructor, one of my goals is to help my students find their own authenticity on the mat. Meeting themselves right where they are in the moment they step on the mat with me leading the class. My intention is to create a space where they can be humble, honest and curious about where they are in any given moment, whether they are on the mat or off it out in the wilds of their day. To let go of expectations, stories about where they were the last time they stepped on the mat, what their practice "should" look like and just be present with what is. For some that is a real challenge, for some the old stories follow them on the mat, through their life and they become defined by it so much that they have lost touch with their own body. I meet a lot of students who don't live in their bodies anymore, whether it be due to physical pain, emotional pain, or trauma. I have been blessed to be witness to several people who were walking around either off to the side or behind themselves come fully back into their body while they are practicing yoga. It is a gift that usually passes unnoticed by most and I rarely call attention to it as I do not want anyone to feel self conscious or to lose that tenuous connection.
I believe that being authentic is a practice just like yoga, meditation or any other thing in life that we deal with. While it might sound strange or contradictory to consider authenticity as something we need to practice, it is indeed a practice. While some may say, "how can we be anyone other than who we truly are?", I have witnessed enough inauthentic behavior to know how challenging it can be at times to live that life fully and completely. If we truly look at ourselves, we have to admit that there are filters and stories that influence our understanding of who we truly are. Our story can include insecurities, judgments, expectations and all of the external messages that cause us to feel as if we are "NOT ENOUGH". Thus, the practice of authenticity is just like exercising any other muscle in the body, it takes diligent effort, patience, curiosity, compassion, empathy and growth. It doesn't happen on its own, you can't wish it into being and certainly can't go out and buy that shit either.
For some just finding their own voice, stepping outside of the stories they or others have created for them is scary as hell. Some have been defined by those stories for so long they don't have any real frame of reference to who they really are. It takes bravery to move beyond that. It takes firmly being in the present moment, it takes vulnerability which is not very accepted nor celebrated in our present society. I would offer that it is imperative to find someone(s) you trust to have in your back pocket to call upon as touch stones. It becomes all to easy to present a persona, craft a mask to wear when we feel fear, uncertainty and insecurity, having someone you trust to have a conversation with can help you ground yourself when the wicked self talk gets going on the gerbil wheel of the brain pan.
Being curious, sitting quietly, walking in nature, journaling, having conversations with trusted friends are all ways I have found to be able to tap in to that deepest part of myself that resides in the deepest part of my heart. I have a few who will tell me to stop deriding myself and give me concrete things that they think are positive about me. I have honestly been blown away by some of the comments from my yoga students, acquaintances and friends over the years. It is one of the tenants of my beliefs that I have to be myself, after spending too many years trying to keep others happy and no one being happy and me being miserable, I can never go back to that space. So even on my Weeble days (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down or so that is the marketing campaign), I may wobble, I might feel wonky and out of sorts and I may feel the negative talk start shouting in my head, I find the way to come back to my center. Meditation and yoga are key for me, so is walking on the beach. For as long as I can remember the beach has been my solace, my zen, my safe place. My breathing and heart rate slow down, my shoulders drop down from my ears and I listen deeply to the sounds around me.
In the end, it is my passion that I have learned to listen to that draws me forward further into authenticity in all aspects of my life. I have and will continue to make mistakes, say and do the wrong things at times, but I learn from all of that and stay tuned into my intuition and passion and it has never steered me wrong. I don't purport to be anything other than who I am, in real life, teaching yoga, online in social media, it's all me, real and raw, salty language and big laughter. It's still a practice and I continue to refine as time goes on, but it sure does feel damn fine to live it. It's all too easy with life so filled with social media to feel that you don't measure up, that you need to craft something bigger than who you are. Don't let yourself fall into that trap and stay true to your heart and soul, find help if you need it, do the work and be rewarded by living, breathing and being uniquely and unapologetically YOU!!!