AuthenticityI started my journey towards changing my mind and body a little over 18 months ago.  It has been an interesting journey, full of challenges and successes, and I am still amazed at how much I continue to grow and learn about myself. I have been reading this amazing book, The Gifts of Imperfection (Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are) by Brene Brown and it has been so insightful.  Yesterday, I read the section on Cultivating Authenticity and she talks about what it means to be authentic.  She describes “Authenticity as a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”  This really struck me and I was further taken back when she talked about the struggle between being authentic and fitting in, which society places so much value on.  Finally, Brene Brown stated that when we hide our true selves and our gifts from the world, including “our unexpressed ideas, opinions and contributions, don’t just go away.  I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the one on cigarette packages. Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following:  anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” I had an ah ha moment, a light bulb went off about my story with authenticity.

As I read her chapter, I continued to reflect  on my own struggle in finding myself. I shared a bit on the Facebook page about my struggle.  I have struggled with the fear of being abandoned for many years after my parents got a divorce and my dad left and started a new family.  I had gotten in with thee wrong crowd and started down a road of drug use and self-abuse.  I didn’t feel that I was worthy of being loved, I felt bad about myself which lead me into looking for love in the wrong places.  I started being what others wanted me to be because I was afraid if I was myself they would leave.  I was scared and didn’t think highly of myself.  Low self-esteem and fear lead me into a relationship with a man who wasn’t good for me.  I found myself compromising things I liked to make that relationship work, so much that not only did I not know what I really liked but people around me didn’t either.  I was scared to say what I liked and didn’t like, out of fear of being abandoned.  I wasn’t being authentic with myself or others. I was angry, resentful, depressed and overall unhappy with my life.

My big wake up call came when I had my 5 year anniversary party at work, me and my ex-husband had already split.  At the party the theme was the All-American Girl, with apple pie and ice cream. I was a little taken back because that is when I realized they didn’t know me, heck I didn’t know myself.  I had taken on so much of who my ex was (former marine) I didn’t even know myself.  I was even more depressed and resentful, especially towards my ex but now I understand that it wasn’t his fault at all.  I had allowed myself to be in that relationship and because of how I felt about myself was unable to change and I was unaware of what was happening at the time.  My low self-esteem had me settling and compromising because I didn’t feel worthy and I was fearful of being abandoned.  That relationship and what I learned from getting out of it has helped me in so many ways.

Authenticity TattooAfter my ex and I were completely done, I promised myself to find out who I was and to express myself without fear of being abandoned.  It was a struggle but I started, scared and fearful.  After our divorce, I got a tattoo that I had been wanting for a very long time, Chinese Dragons.  I had the words, wisdom, strength and independence designed into the tattoo to symbolize my struggle and to remind me that it is important to have 1) Wisdom about who you are and what you want 2) Strength so I’m not to be afraid to express myself or to be myself and also strength in owning my story 3) Independence with knowing it’s okay to be standing tall, alone, embracing who I am, and that I don’t need someone else to make me feel good about myself.  Independence also symbolized the struggle between being myself and being what others want me to be and that sometimes you have to fight for your independence.  Wisdom is on the top, Strength is in the middle in the pearl of wisdom, and Independence is between the claws of the dragons who are both fighting for independence. I designed this way to symbolize what is important first you need wisdom about yourself, then you find strength in order to be independent. This tattoo reminds me to be myself and to never ever be ashamed of who I am and that there is strength in embracing myself and going against the perceptions of what society and others think I am supposed to be.

Once I decided that it was okay to be the “real true” me, it was amazing to see what happened.  As I started figuring out who I was, I started getting more friends. I ended up meeting the perfect man for me and initially I struggled with being myself but the more I remember that it was important to be authentic to who I was, the better our relationship got. Now we are married and I am not afraid to honestly express myself to him.  I can say I like or don’t like something without the fear he will leave me.  This is a great feeling and an important quality of a healthy relationship.

Now that I am not ashamed to be myself, more people are able to see who I truly am.  I feel more authentic and confident in myself.   My fear of being abandoned didn’t completely go away and sometimes I still struggle with it.  At times I am still scared but the more I am able to be myself, the easier it gets.   I still struggle with being liked and I sometimes I get hurt when people don’t like me but I have to remember that it is okay not to be liked by everyone, the most important person to be liked by is myself.  I would rather be authentic and real than liked and fitting in.  This is a practice that I work on daily. Being me = being with people who really appreciate me for me; instead of being used or taken for granted or exploited.  All which I have experienced in the past by people in my life because I was trying to fit in and to scared to be myself.

DSC02062Being authentic is scary and can provoke fear but by being authentic and the “real” you,  you can find power in embracing who you are.  So you might be wondering what can you do to be authentic.  Well, first it is important to spend some time reflecting on who you are, what you really like to do, and ask if you ever struggle with expressing who you are.  Second you can ask are your trying to fit in or are you being yourself?  Answering this question won’t always be easy, sometimes it’s really hard to see because of how much we have been influenced by society, media and people in our lives.  Go back to how you are feeling.  Are you anxious, depressed, resentful, angry?  If so maybe you are being what you think you are supposed to be.  Developing this awareness takes practice and time.  When you start being more authentic and honest with who you are you can expect some friends and family members to struggle with it and that is okay.  You don’t have to be what others want you to be if that is not who you are. When you let go of being a people “pleaser” and trying to do everything for everyone, you will feel empowered and gain a sense of personal freedom.  Remember it is okay to be yourself, because you are awesome!! Plus it’s always funner to be you than to try to be someone else.

Don’t be afraid to embrace who you are and share it with the world!! Why should they be denied your beauty and awesomeness? ~ Amanda oxox

If you want to learn more about how you can work on being authentic, email me at amanda@beautifulufitnessuniversity.com for details and an application for our 12 Week Beautiful Knockout Fat Loss Lifestyle Coaching Program, where you will be able to work on this with me through a mind-body approach 🙂