When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.
Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.
Living an authentic life, or at least really trying to, is probably one of the most challenging things that I have done. To me, authenticity is living a life that makes you feel good about the person you are becoming.
It’s when you feel like it is both okay and beautiful to be the exact person that you genuinely are and always wanted to be, and when you get closer to a place of acceptance and love towards yourself.
To me, this isn’t a specific end result or level that you one day reach, but an ongoing process of continually reinventing yourself and making adjustments to your life to match your authentic self. In the process of figuring out who I want to be and working on becoming that, I’ve noticed some wonderful changes.
When you start fearlessly reinventing yourself, you will finally feel happier. When you start living authentically, happiness will start coming more naturally to you, and you’ll feel surprisingly good about the person you are. At first, living authentically can feel scary. You may feel guilt that you’re not living the life others think you should, or be afraid that no one will like or understand the new you.
Changing the way other people see you is probably one of the hardest parts of really becoming yourself, but it’s more than worth it. You might find yourself wanting to try new things that you didn’t have the confidence to do before, and life will probably start becoming a hell of a lot more fun.
For a good portion of my teenage years, I felt strongly dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do without being plagued by the fear that others wouldn’t like my choices, and even the smallest of frowns or negative comment would dissuade me from doing what I really wanted to do.
I felt like everyone’s expectations of who I was supposed to be were things that I had to listen to, no matter how much they conflicted with who I really was.
One day, I came to the realization that most of the things that made me feel overwhelmed were related to me trying to be what others wanted me to be. I also realized that living my life based on what other people wanted was fruitless and would never allow me to be satisfied or at peace with myself.
Immediately, I began making a list of things I needed to do to start feeling more like myself, the version of myself that I was yet to fully embrace. I worked on incorporating goals and changes into my life that felt good to me and matched up with the kind of person I was excited to start being while ruthlessly editing out the things that didn’t make me happy. When I look at my life since then, it feels predominately good, and a whole lot lighter and brighter than before. The best part is, it keeps getting better all the time, and I know that the more I work on becoming more myself, the better my life will feel.
When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.
Loving something encourages you to take better care of it, so the more you love yourself, the more you will value whatever self-care activities are important to you. You will look forward to the things you do that make you feel good. I strongly believe that living an authentic life is the best choice you can make for yourself, and the more expressive form of self-care there is. Whether self-care for you means making sure to drink a cup of hot tea every morning, eat better, spend time with your family, pets, or friends, wear an outfit that makes you feel amazing, go out to socialize more, spend time alone, work more, work less, or get enough sleep, you will become more intuitive about what self-care rituals work best when you start figuring out who you are.
Things will connect and come together in beautiful ways that you may never have expected, and you may find sudden clarity regarding situations or things that you previously felt divided about.
The biggest part of becoming your authentic self is being, owning, and loving the person that you are, regardless of how conventional or unconventional a person that may be.
Your confidence will soar when you start making choices that you really connect with. and this confidence will propel you to take the next steps in reinventing yourself. You’ll find that you aren’t so afraid of what others think of you, and when you start living with honesty, you will inspire others to do the same.
That is perhaps the best and more awe-inspiring part about truly being yourself of all — the fact that you will possess the electric power to empower others to take steps to become who they are. When you start to work on living an authentic life, you will realize how much beauty there is in the unique, amazing, one-of-a-kind person that you were born to be.
I was looking through my old diaries from when I was a very sad, very lonely teenager. It was 2013 & I was 18 years old. Back when I was always changing my name. Trying to find some type of identity for myself. I filled out multiple questionnaires that I wrote myself. About what I believed in. What I liked & didn’t like. I wrote little stories about the things I wished I was doing instead.
There was a lot of me talking about how sad I was. How much I wanted to move out. I felt like moving out was the only way I would be able to throw off the (self-imposed) chains that made me feel so heavy I couldn’t move. I wished so desperately that I had real friends. I was in a prison of my own making. Digging myself out of it wouldn’t be for another couple of years.
I realized I actually did a pretty lot of cool things back then. I forgot how many I had done. I didn’t have a car or know how to drive, so I couldn’t really go anywhere & do anything. But I still somehow found things to do. I read a huge number of books, watched numerous films, spent all my time working on the books, music, videos, etc.
All my projects could be my main priorities. I learned a lot by reading libraries worth of books & the entire Internet (or so it sometimes felt). Back when I was both very free, very chained, very lonely, & very empowered to choose & do whatever I wanted, within the bounds that were set. How much difference is there between freedom & loneliness, sometimes?
Sometime else though stood out the most. I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for my younger self as I read what I’d written. Some of the hopes & fears that I had back then were the same ones I still had now. The fear that maybe I was really a lame person. The eternal question of who I really was. The eternal hope that I really was going to end up where I wanted to, eventually. Some of the fears & hopes that were very important to me back then look pale, & sometimes almost ridiculous, looking at them now. But I still felt immense love & admiration for me, four years ago, here & now in the future. We were still the same person, existing on different planes of time simultaneously.
In one of the notebooks, I found the letter I had written to my 10-year-old self. The letter was only one page, but summed it up pretty well. It was 18-year-old me telling 10-year-old me how much she loved her. How great sorrows & great joys were all on their way.
That no matter what happened, I shouldn’t be afraid. That I shouldn’t lose hope. Because this is 18-year-old me telling 10-year-old me that she survived everything that was yet to happen. It was powerful hope being showered back into the past, a golden light put in the hands of a frightened, lonely 10-year-old. A message from the future that she made it.
More importantly, it was 22-year-old me being able to look back on 18-year-old me (who was looking back at 10) & realize the same messages, the same love, the same hope applied equally to myself at 10 as it did at 18.
There are many things about that era that resonate with me now. The same hopes & fears. & I have been reminded how I felt them, loved them, feared them, wanted them, even back then. That if I could feel a sense of freedom even back then, that I could feel it again. I am both the same person I was in that time span, & an entirely different person, rolled into someone new who is everything & undefined, fluid, at the same time. I reach back through the folds of space & fill my hands & arms with all the things I want to incorporate & reuse. I had more wisdom back then than I thought I did.
18-year-old me expressed her love for 10-year-old me in the letter. If I could go back in my past, to me any point in time, I would tell her the same thing. She too has a lot of fears, sorrows, & joys ahead of her, more than she knows.
But I would still tell her this:
You are going to be okay.
You make it.
That’s what I want her to know, because she didn’t know it well enough back then. I want her to know I love her, & I always will.
from my upcoming book, “Not a Dime a Dozen”
I effortlessly fell into the same coping patterns I always reached for, although they had never served me well. The days started feeling like running through an ocean of mud. It exerts you, but you never get anywhere. The other thing that stood out to me suddenly was the stark white walls of emptiness. It was much too silent, & while the sight of the finish line had given me something to look forward to, it was only a mirage, & it faded when night fell. This sensation grew in the moments when everything was rushed towards the redundancy of another day, & no one spoke, or at least could not be heard over the roaring cacophony of quiet.
I wondered why I always found myself at the same crossroad at night, with the familiar darkened road & the street signs impossible to make out in the darkness. The road forked off into multiple pathways, & the pressure of choosing the right one felt as random as having to pick the door the magician’s assistant is really behind. I had made choices that I thought would make things better, but the porthole door in the sky scooped me up & deposited me in the same place, week after week, & the same feelings always found me again.
It reminded me of the memory album I’d looked through a thousand times, even though each time I asked myself why I romanticized my own pain so greatly. Was there really anything beautiful about acting as the tragic figure I’d written myself to be, but never really wanted to become? I wondered what my childhood self would think of me if she’d met me now, & if she’d be pleased by the accomplishments I’d achieved, or discouraged & fearing the inevitability of often sunless days & starless nights that were ahead . I had worn these feelings like a comfortable coat, returning to them when the expanse of everything else I could do instead of this seemed too much. I resorted to it & then reveled in it, sometimes feeling as if even in the darkness, my so-called vulnerability was nothing more than another part of my facade, put on for the show of it in an attempt to control the ways others saw me.
I felt the cool waves of an infinite ocean washing up over my feet. The sun rested upon the horizon, neon-pink & hazily vibrating like a mirage. In these moments, there was no yesterday, no tomorrow, no more haunting Mondays. She told me I was getting the same way that I was the last time this had happened; what was that supposed to mean, & how was I supposed to feel about something I couldn’t help myself from feeling? At least I was trying to dig myself out from under the rubble of the fire, & didn’t that count for something?
When I saw my reflection in the mirror of her face, I reeled back. The crystal ball on the mahogany desk informed me of the shrouded sunlessness that the road I had chosen contained, & provided a glimpse of the person I would one day become if I did not turn around. The papers on the walls clearly spelled LEAVE NOW, & the flapping curtain by the open window communicated in Morse Code TURN BACK. I suddenly knew that it didn’t matter where I went or which road I chose, as long as it was different than the one I was on. I fled from the office & slammed the door behind me, vowing I would never go back.
Instead of admitting that I am afraid of courage required to step into my own self & create the kind of life I want to live, I use my own sorrow as an excuse. Wearing it & melting into its folds is easier than becoming someone new. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to disappear & reappear somewhere else, my slate cleaned & my future open. To do that would be the easy way out; it is not necessary for my freedom, & I do not need to wait for the bells to sound with the validation that I am allowed to liberate myself.
It was only on the forbidden drive to the city that I felt the shifting of soil. I felt acutely the changes blossoming & fading into existence, & the rubble on top of me finally being cleared away by my own doing. Beams of sunlight fell around me on the ground, & in the breeze with the music & the effortless swaying of trees, it was the first time in a long time that I finally felt normal. A preview of what is to come. Freedom was that essential code by which I knew I needed to live by, if I were to ever fully realize what things like happiness & hope meant. What I had been doing was the exact opposite, & I was growing tired of my old patterns & sorrows & habits. What had once been a darkness I relished & lovingly extracted every ounce of pain from now became a song I’d never liked but heard play too many times on the radio. My old standby patterns weren’t beautiful & tragic – they were just boring, & didn’t allow half enough time for me to merely exist & simply be. Too much of it was shrouded in routine & in monotonous pandering to the politics touted by over-idolized figures I wanted nothing to do with.
If I were to have more days like this, where I felt the pure, unadulterated & fluttering joy of existing in the world of my exact choosing, I would have to summon the bravery to brush myself off & keep trying until I made it. This time, I would stand at the darkened crossroads in the night & I would not be afraid. I would pick the road leading in the direction of the same breeze I’d felt on the beach & in the city, one which wordlessly murmurs of home. When I find all the good feelings I thought I’d forgotten, waiting for me somewhere along the path, I will be able to trust once more in my ability to prevail, to create this for myself, & to thrive.
The moon last night looked like a Cheshire cat in the sky, smiling with golden good natured mischief & mystery. I listened to Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” & Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” loud in the car. My two favorite songs at the moment. I looked out at the streetlamps & the velvety cloak of darkness.
Just like last year, the transition of one year to the next occurs in the center of a sea of changes. Both this year & last year at this time, the sense of a major shift is pervasive. The kind of feeling where everything is changing; all the old ideas & beliefs & paradigms & personas & dynamics & status quos. Worlds open up – stars are born & die in front of you & then born again – everything circles around in the middle of a wind storm.
The seas are rough but able to be navigated. The rain falls hard but they water the flowers. The old things you used to be are slowly fading & shriveling & retreating back into the brush they came from.
Fears were created & fears were put to rest, & ultimately I still ended up with less of them, & more of them simultaneously. Uncertainty. The great fear still remains in the backdrop (happiness) but fears emerged to the front lines (breakdown). But the fears are all quieted in the warmth of humid nights, when it’s all wrapped up in a blanket.
Confidence was built. It was built in each hour I spent in front of those who would judge me & decide the turns my path would take, but I was still the one choosing to be there. Choosing to be judged, so that I may progress. It also showed its face when I actually started asking for what I wanted. I asked him & he said yes. I told them & they were supportive & encouraging. I announced it to them & they wanted to help me & didn’t care that I was turning away at the same time. I decided & they were there. I showed up, & spoke up, for the first time in years.
Showing up. That’s another thing. I watched as those around me were reluctant to take chances. To make choices. To put themselves out there somewhere they might fail. In most failures though, the failure itself is the only worst-case-scenario. If someone says no the world doesn’t stop spinning. & if you don’t try, there’s no way you can ever win. Showing up, in all ways, not just putting yourself out there but also showing up for your own decisions, owning them. Making choices & then making them happen.
I found a home & then it was gone. I reveled in my relief when I walked through your doors. Immediately you took me in. I found your embrace full of love & genuine connection & fun & it gave me something to do & I loved it. Knowing you made all the other things fade away. I thought that I would shrivel when you left me. I didn’t think I could do anything without you. You were like a drug. It was all about me depending on something other than myself & putting all my happiness in it & betting my whole existence on whether you liked me back. I need to stop doing that. When will I realize that happiness will never come from dependency on such anchors? It needs to be mine.
I found my people but then they left me. Slowly they walked out on me & the door closed. They never opened it again. I thought they were the ones that were supposed to make me feel the way I always wanted to feel. I thought the loneliness would go away. Sooner or later, one of us must know that I really did try to get close to you. I tried, & reached out further & more honestly than I ever had, & with deeper vulnerability. But despite finally putting myself out there & trying to make a connection, they turned their backs & went separate ways. I loved you but you didn’t love me back. & I will be okay with that. Somewhere out there I will find my friends.
Also, there were beautiful things. That moment sitting in the golden light of afternoon in the restaurant smiling & feeling like I belonged somewhere for once. New love & new forms of happiness. The home, the memories, friendship – they all still meant something, frozen in time, even if they were no longer the same glowing realms they had been before.
It was a year when I really opened up my hands & reached out & created. I feel like 2016 was like a big educational seminar, teaching me how the world worked & how to ask the questions I needed to ask. A year which required me to make decisions about who I was & who I was going to be. I feel like I learned more this year that probably any other year in recent history.
2016: a year of making magic & of deepening belief in magic, & one where despite some of the painful & darkened challenges that I encountered, I still made it. I survived. It feels like it was a year of growing hope, a stepping stone year, vitally important to be completed & triumphed over before being able to move on to the next open doors.
Open, a concept I tie to authenticity. I want to make 2017 a year of authenticity, & honesty, & freedom. & I want all of those concepts to tie into happiness, to tie into a grander & more wonderful & much more happy + free version of myself.
& so, I open my arms up & my heart up & I make the new year feel comfortable & welcome. I open my heart to let in all the new light through mosaic windows, & open my hands to new creations that must be made. The hope has been built up into a big glowing ball of light, & the music is on, & I am dancing, & I turn now to face the Newness, radical potential, happiness, magic, freedom. I stand tall & proud, looking out at the star-filled sky & the Cheshire cat moon & later, cheerful rays of sunbeams painted across my floor, & I say,
From Issue 12 of Assemblage.
The way the art looked on the wall when it was winter & pale afternoon sunlight streamed in. The affected manner in which he always spoke. The Zig-zags painted on his face & constantly evolving persona. The way she looked as she stepped off the bus & music was playing. The way fields looked in the summer, or the porch that night we watched the stars & looked forward towards impending change & impending maturity. The way she strolled through the store with red dyed hair & combat boots like nothing could touch her, not even Fear. The feeling I got when I was finally able to say it was truth. The way light streamed in through windows onto the floor making patterns & the way it felt driving down the highway with the windows open listening to The Rolling Stones. The characteristic fedora, the iconic red braids & the flying bicycle, & watching that movie where he modernized Shakespeare. The way it needed to be put in that exact place in that exact time; replicating movie scenes listening to their theme songs in tandem, or the way the moon looked at night riding around with the windows open listening to particular songs. The way the pictures characterized the exact way that I was feeling, & the way that dancing in the moonlight felt on a summer evening, or how they fell in love & lived in the forest together.