In The Path to Imperfect Authenticity, I wrote about what it means to me and how I help clients work toward finding alignment with their true selves. Today I want to share a bit about my own journey and provide some tools to help you along your own.
As I mentioned previously, authenticity is not a final destination – becoming true to ourselves is a continuous exploration. The turning point that started my own personal journey came during my career as a teacher. Both my parents were school teachers and, because it was what my family did, I said yes to teaching as well.
At first, I truly enjoyed it – working with sixth graders, and seeing them open up and grow was truly fulfilling. While I was sure to address their curricular needs, even back then I wasn’t conventional. I encouraged my students to find their own interests and follow their passions, developing hands-on, project-based learning unique to each child. My students were doing things many typical sixth grade classes weren’t involved in – and they had fun, they were engaged, they were growing.
And then the turning point – the district moved to state testing, the system changed and I could no longer be the kind of teacher I wanted to be. But stepping away from the family path felt like a betrayal. It was what I knew. And then I noticed that, upon arising, my heartbeat became elevated. I was no longer enjoying my days in the classroom.
I became a teacher based on a set of ideals but within several years, I found myself disenchanted with what I thought the public school system was – and what I thought it should be. Ultimately, I recognized that I was trying to fit into a structure that did not, could not, represent my beliefs – and that this quest was not only futile, but inauthentic.
I spoke of the need for deep listening in the previous post. It takes practice, becoming quiet, and discovering where the “shoulds” are no longer true. I wanted to provide a few questions you can pose to help you along your journey:
– Who are you doing this (your job, your relationship, etc.) for?
– What are you merely tolerating in your life?
– Where are the shoulds?
– What do you value most in your life?
– What would you try if you couldn’t fail?
– What is true in your life? How does that make you feel?
This journey is not always easy. Becoming your authentic self can feel lonely. The things we do to belong tend to be the inauthentic behaviors – people pleasing, trying to be liked, lying. And yet – I can guarantee that you will experience a deeper experience of belonging when you are true to yourself. Ultimately, you will find that you belong just because you are a human being.