Authenticity by Venessa Bowers

A colleague of mine said the other day that he “appreciated my authenticity.” Now, being the eternal skeptic of comments like this, especially ones made by men who both outrank me and out earn me, I blinked at him and smiled. While I heard myself saying “thank you” to him, my mind was spinning to uncover the REAL meaning of his comment. Surely this was some variation on the theme “you’re so colorful” which is a theme I detest. I am NOT colorful. Colorful is what one calls someone one thinks has experiences or a live beneath or worth less than one’s own.  Words matter – and that’s the neurotic in me – I look for the hidden clue in the words to what someone really means.


Now, I accept that I don’t trust the comments made by men about me hardly ever. In fact, I don’t trust the comments made by women about me, either. So, let’s just say that in general, I don’t trust people or their judgments relative to me. Because of this lack of trust, I love the neurotic side of me because it keeps me safe. I DO trust that. Imagine hearing “ding, ding, ding” in your head when people say things about your character. What a lifeline it is to be able to take a snapshot of what is said, how, where, when, and why and figure out if it was crap or not placed in context of the person speaking and the truth of who I am. Yay neurosis!


There is also the social scientist in me who NEEDS to know what words mean. WHY they mean what they’re supposed to mean. And WHO said so anyway? So, I headed to my favorite book, the dictionary, and looked up the word used to describe me. According to existential philosophers, “Authenticity is the notion that the conscious self comes to terms with being in the material world and learns to deal with external forces, pressures, and influences which are different from and other than itself.” WHAT!?!?!?! (Now, that’s the street in me – man, real talk PLEASE). Then, of course I have to think about that stupid definition and boil down to real talk: do you. That’s all that statement says – you do you, and be ok with it.


Then it hit me – what my colleague said was a real compliment. He SAW me – the whole of me, the street, the neurotic, the social scientist, the scared kid, the fixer, the ALL of it. And he appreciated it – he not only saw it, he acknowledged it as if it were an amazing gift to witness.


It is sort of a hard thing to accept when someone really sees you. I’ve spent so much of my life being invisible and trying all kinds of methods to get people to notice me – If I’m the smartest in the class, they’ll see me. If I’m the funniest, they’ll see me. If I’m the kindest, they’ll see me…if…


I am sitting at the cusp of turning 41 (like tomorrow, gasp!). I realize now that I allowed myself to be me, all of me – ethnic, bitter sometimes, funny sometimes, caring sometimes, judgmental sometimes, just a year ago. I finally put down the shackles I carried and decided – this is it, this is all there is of me, and I like me.  I’ve only been practicing authenticity for a year and I spent 40 years trying to be someone I could never be; someone I didn’t really want to be.


I’m happier now than I have ever been.  Happier than I ever thought I could be. I enjoy my own company. I have no need to impress you – to give you the power to make me feel ok, or not, about myself, my journey, my life. I realized that I am proud of me. And here’s a kick in the pants – doing me is SO MUCH EASIER than doing you, your business, your crap, your whatever…focusing on me has freed me to be able to be there for you. Imagine that. Being there for someone, no strings attached.


I challenge you – this holiday season, can you DO YOU? Can you put down the things that bind you to crap that you can’t really stand for one more minute? Can you practice authenticity? Because believe me, it takes not only practice, but hard ass work. Sadly, we don’t just wake up one day “all kinda authentic, yo.” We have to put our backs into it. Try it – see if, when you look at ONLY you what happens.  Are you good enough for YOU? If you are, keep it moving. If you don’t like what you see, get moving…find you and then do you.


Bright  Blessings.


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