What does it take to be oneself, to be real and authentic? It takes a lot of courage, honesty and a desire to be free of others’ opinions. Easier said than done, I know! We have all experienced the power society, and we ourselves, can give to the opinions of parents, employers, religious leaders, teachers, friends, critics, editors etc. where we determine our worth and identity by the judgments of people to whom we have given authority (consciously or subconsciously). Being authentic, real and true to oneself is part of the path to freedom. With nothing to hide and nothing to defend, we enter a realm where creativity, integrity and strong relationships have room to flourish. Imagine a world where each of us is encouraged to be ourselves, to honor our uniqueness, and follow our dreams.
Our communities, families, academic institutions, religious groups, affiliations often have a history of conformity, with expectations to follow certain rules or risk being rejected. We all have a very basic need to belong and feel loved and accepted and fear of losing this can cause us at times to compromise or even deny our uniqueness. While some communities, societies and groups encourage following the norms, thankfully many others are evolving and recognizing the value of diversity and difference as a strength, rather than a weakness. The more of us that honor our uniqueness, speak our truth, and live life authentically, the more others will feel safe to do the same.
To embrace and honor uniqueness, one must discover oneself beyond life roles and identities determined by others. Why am I sharing all this? Because I am discovering that this writing journey I am on, goes far deeper than print on page and publishing aspirations. As my different characters are taking on lives and identities of their own, my own life and identity is being challenged. I find myself disrobed from my habitual ways of being, and in a place of vulnerability, tuning in more deeply to my true feelings, perspectives, passions and identity. I am challenged to stop compromising myself and my dreams in order to conform or seek acceptance. Little did I realize when I pulled anchor and left my safe port in January, that this voyage would be stormy, breathtaking, dangerous and life-changing. And, how grateful I am for my fellow crew encountered en route!
Being unique is recognizing and honoring one’s core identity, values, gifts and skills. Each person has unique fingerprints, iris and voice pattern, and surely we will be a distinct expression of humanity. Instead of trying to fit in, be nice, and agree with everyone, how about taking a risk to be yourself, stand out from others, and maybe have a few great friends that value your individuality, rather than a host of acquaintances who don’t know your depth and embrace your worth.
In order to be real and true to ourselves, we have to let go of fears about what others think, even those closest to us. If I am constantly concerned about how others view me, wondering if I have said the right thing, or behaved appropriately, or believed the right creed, or written what I think others want to read, I live in a shadowy place of denial. As illustrators, writers, editors, creators, artists, I am growing to believe our profoundest creative depths are unleashed as we grapple with this expression of individuality and self-worth – this ongoing self-discovery.
Be yourself and the right people will love the real you. Friends, take your truth, tastes and talents out into the world. Those who value authenticity will be drawn to your beauty. Your unique contribution has great worth as do you!