Knowing yourself is hard. And by “knowing yourself,” I mean more than just casually being aware of your likes and dislikes; it’s not a passing acknowledgement of what makes you tick. Really knowing yourself is dirty work. It’s raw and gritty and sometimes uncomfortable. We have to pointedly experience the things that bring us joy, as well as those that cause us pain, and collect the truths found in both.
What does any of that actually mean? Let’s dig a little further and find out.
Since childhood, I’ve been told that I have an old soul. I guess that’s true. Case evidence: I still use a paper DayPlanner, I refuse to give my phone access to my thumbprint, and I have NPR preset on my car radio.
Honestly, though, I consider myself to be an introspective person. I put a lot of effort into seeking internal balance. For me, peace grows when my soul is in harmony with my environment and with the way I expend my energy. When my external reality isn’t jiving with my internal being, I sense it physically. I’m uneasy and on edge. I will admit to being hyper aware of this brand of insincerity, but I think it comes from the years I spent sharing a false version of who I am with the world.
See, by the time I came out to my family (many moons ago), I had to. Living a lie was killing me from the inside out. I wasn’t only mentally exhausted from the effort of constantly containing myself, but I was emotionally drained, too. My relationships with others suffered because the person I was supposed to allow people to connect with wasn’t me. It was some watered down, sedated, and sad rendition of me. It was someone who lived in constant fear of being seen, yet was dying to be seen all at once. So, I faced the facts: the only way out was through. It was time to stand up and speak my truth, consequences be damned. Years later, life has settled. My internal storm has calmed. As for my ability to quietly tolerate an existence that makes me feel caged? Gone. Annihilated. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now that I’m no longer compelled by societal standards for concepts like “normalcy” and “success,” I’ve found an amazing freedom. I try new things. And when those things don’t work, I try other things. I’ve discovered that there’s no rulebook… not to life, to a career, to marriage, to happiness. You simply have to decide to create the life you want and then work endlessly at it. And when I begin to feel that familiar uneasiness inside, I examine it. I look for the source and then I make a change. I keep changing until I hit that groove and find my internal balance patiently waiting for me again.
I do take it to heart when the Faith I present to the world is not the truest version of myself. Because it should be. Inner me may be a realist rather than an optimist, equal parts fighter and lover, and more satisfied when learning and lost than when found and complacent. But inner me also discovered a way over every obstacle and through every trying time. Inner me is a total badass and I should show her off, sharp edges and all.
When I started this journey with the Ms. Millennial project, I read dozens of articles about how to make social media work for you. In doing so, I stumbled across a list of “must use” hashtags for entrepreneurs. On that list was the phrase #LiveAuthentic. Immediately, I was hooked. But when I searched those two words on Instagram, I found something odd: The photos tagged with #LiveAuthentic seemed curiously inauthentic. I mean, what are the statistical chances that nearly every authentic Insta-girl is lounging through her morning, eating berries and whipped cream against the backdrop of a snow white table, while her perfectly manicured hands curl around a cup of coffee? And isn’t it fascinating that nearly every authentic Insta-guy is pausing throughout the day to check his watch, while holding a copy of Forbes magazine nonchalantly above his distressed leather Gucci loafers? Gotta give it to you, those shoes are < fire emojis here >.
Anyways, I started to wonder about the difference between perpetuating these enhanced truths and telling a lie. I’m still thinking on that one, but what I do know is that I’m going to pass on this particular hashtag and try to find my own way to connect.
(keeping with the theme: a real genuine smile, captured by Kayla McGrath)