Authentic vs. Appropriate

September 2014

Each day, each moment of my life I have to choose…will I be authentic in who I am, or will I be appropriate?

What exactly do I mean by appropriate?  To be appropriate means to show people what I want them to see, presenting only the most pleasing side of me–in other words, my masked self. I tried for years to be perfect…the perfect mother, daughter, mother, sister, friend, homemaker, cook, volunteer, business owner. Boy, that was a lot of controlling I had to do (ask my boys, I used to make them alternate the colored plates when they unloaded the dishwasher, and the cups had to line up in a row!) Still, I always felt I came up short. And right there it is…I judged myself much more harshly than anyone else ever did or could. I have carried my self-judgment and self-loathing with me my whole life. In my eyes I was not worthy of anything amazing and wonderful. So if I wanted you to like me, I had to show you all the “good” in me and hide all the “bad”. I may have been overweight, but I would always be dressed nicely and wear makeup. My marriage was empty, but my house was well decorated and clean. I worked hard and could run circles around most people, but I had panic attacks, depression, and drank too much. I was smiling and funny on the outside, but on the inside I was crying. As much as I judged myself, to then feel judged by another was just too much to bear because it confirmed what I already knew!

Let’s face it, it can be scary to be authentic. But it is also the only way I can have real contact with others or myself. I can only love another as much as I love myself, and love requires vulnerability. Loving myself means I have to be able to look at and accept all of me: my shadow as well as my light, the good and the bad, the conscious and the unconscious. Because I am all of these combined.

So now I am choosing to be “inappropriate”–authentic. I long for genuine contact with others, and I’m willing to be vulnerable to do it. I want to help others heal the way I have healed. It has been a long journey, but it has been a journey worth taking and it is not over yet.

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