How Saying Good Bye Leads to Authenticity

‘The Power of Goodbye’ - Madonna

“Who am I really and how do I trust her to guide me through life?”

As you might imagine, the topic of authenticity gets brought up and mulled over quite a lot in my work and folks express a lot of confusion and frustration around it. Indeed, it can be a difficult thing to understand or define. Recently, in the midst of a very difficult situation, I found myself facing this very dilemma and it confirmed to me just how important and yet challenging being authentic is. During this experience, I was unable to access any inner strength that comes with a real knowing of who I am. In my weakened state and uncertain in my capabilities, I was unable to ground myself and without access to my inner wisdom could not guide myself. Unable to find footing, I floundered in instability and emotional chaos.  I was desperate, reaching out to my internal strength that somehow remained inaccessible. Exposed for the imposter I believed myself to be and feeling trapped by a kind of self imposed brain washing I cannot explain, I could not manage to free myself from its grip.  The experience was a terribly horrible yet wonderful gift as it has since opened my eyes and heart to the truth that it isn’t so much the knowing of who I am but rather an un-knowing. What I mean is that I am learning that it is the removing of that which isn’t me that reveals what is. As a friend recently told me “It’s the peeling away of the artichoke’s leaves that exposes the richness of its heart.”

 

“Your heart is not open so I must go
the spell has been broken…I loved you so
Freedom comes when you learn to let go
Creation comes when you learn to say no”

The Masks of Inauthenticity

It’s difficult to trust an authentic self when it is always evolving and developing.  The unpredictability feels chaotic and makes me shaky and unsure about myself.  But, I am learning that to trust in my truest Self asks of me to risk and trust that in replacement of letting go of the certainty and control I believe I need makes me feel pretty anxious.  It’s no wonder I have many times chosen to hide my authentic self behind the various masks and costumes I wear.  Falsely believing I am avoiding and escaping the vulnerability of trusting, what I have heard called, the ‘Edge of the Unknown.’ It’s easier to run from my authenticity by denying it and putting my energies into perfecting my mask and costume I present myself as.

Throughout my life, I have accumulated quite a collection of outfits, to choose from. Masks, costumes and uniforms show up as the various roles I serve, or in attaining and proving that worth by increasing my expertise, attaining achievements, accolades and accomplishments, and that one universal appropriate outfit that I wear so very well, the costume of people pleasing, are just a few of the comfortable outfits filling my inauthentic wardrobe. However, it is just that kind of validation that only encourages me to search even more externally for my sense of worth.  I’ve realized there’s no room for my authenticity when I am trying to conform and please. In never feeling fully satisfied or satiated, I never really end up feeling good enough.  I am learning that living in-authentically leaves me feeling lacking and weak. Hiding behind any mask (even one I am good at) only fuels distrust in myself, limits the intimacy I desire and degrades my own sense of integrity.   As Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive and express what and who we really are” and as Anais Nin writes, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  It is the edge of the unknown.

YOGA Helping Me Feel My Authentic Self

Living authentically means I am able to say goodbye to what no longer serves me and frees me up to attend to things that inspire me to grow and expand. I am learning that the practice of living authentically invites me to slow down and connect to the true essence of myself from the inside out. I have been using yoga to aid me in learning how to access the inner strength of my authentic self.  For example, the practice of Shavasna (resting pose) invites me to shed what no longer serves me and rest in the awareness of saying goodbye. Holding my breath or trying to achieve or perform a pose perfectly are signals that I am resisting my naturalness and focusing on my cloak of inauthenticity. Holding on to what I think I should do prevents me from intuitively sensing available space that naturally opens up if I allow my body to gently and gradually experience the pose or my authenticity from the inside out.  When I am acting from my inauthentic self, I am unable to access my inner wisdom nor identify what I need that will move me deeper within, preventing me from sensing the space within that opens channels to my authentic strength.

“Walk away…
you were my lesson I had to learn
I was your fortress you had to burn”

The lesson I am learning is that my authentic self is enough.  It is my fortress of attachments that will bring me down if I resist the ‘edge of my unknown.’ If I hide behind my mask of attachments, my inauthenticity will make me desperate to hold onto the masks, costumes and uniforms that I feel I can’t do without. But, if I can rest and trust the available space that lies within me, I can better connect to my deepest self. I am learning that it is not necessarily the complete KNOWING of my authentic self but, merely, just giving it the space, permission and invitation to show up.

“Pain is a warning that something’s wrong
I pray to God that it won’t be long
Walk away…
There’s nothing left to try
There’s no place left to hide”

Learning to allow space for my authentic self to reveal itself is a slow anxiety producing process.  That anxiety has many times stopped me from trying and I can so easily retreat and return to old behavior and beliefs of my masks. Practicing meditation and yoga have been great ways to help me with the process. Listening to my breath as it opens channels in my body is a wonderful way to facilitate connection to my authentic self. Irrigating tight places with my breath helps me find the balance between my inhales and exhales and creates a balance between my body and energy that helps me access my authentic self.  These are ways I have learned to tune out signals that deplete me and tune into frequencies that inspire me to grow and expand thus nurturing my authenticity. My breath shows me where I can soften and it builds my capacity to be in intensity, to feel my power center as I build my sense of value and self-worth. Listening to my breath as it opens channels in my body, helps me understand myself by letting go of things that don’t serve me.

In yoga, as in life, if I expect myself to achieve a too difficult pose and I fail, it is all too easy to me for me to attach myself to the perceived defeat and assume myself to be a failure. But, I am understanding that it is actually within the defeat that I sense my true power and strength because it is within the defeat that my authenticity begins to bloom! Remember, authenticity is about moving away from what we are not and moving towards who and what we are!  It is in the knowledge and acceptance of what we aren’t that opens space for us to develop ourselves more fully. It is the peeling away of what isn’t needed that reveals what is.

“There’s no greater power than the power of good-bye
your heart is not open so I must go
the spell has been broken

I loved you so
you were my lesson I had to learn

I was your fortress
There’s nothing left to try
There’s no place left to hide
There’s no greater power than the power of good-bye

There’s nothing left to lose
There’s no more heart to bruise
There’s no greater power than the power of good-bye
Learn to say good-bye”

I ask you to consider what no longer serves you. How much time and energy are you using as you desperately struggle to hold on? How inauthentic are you feeling as you try to hold onto something that is not you? Honor your truest Self. What lesson do you need to learn about saying goodbye? What can you be opening yourself up for by saying goodbye to the inauthenticity you attach yourself to? What do you need so that you can tune into the things that move you, keep your heart open, and inspired in life? That is your authentic self.

The Edge of The Unknown

This song is a confirmation of knowing and realizing that a situation HAD to happen for me to examine the pain and get to the point of letting it go. No more hiding from it, no more trying to make “it” better by repeated attempts at being someone I’m not. The song is about breaking free from the illusion that something holds all our worth. We don’t need to go any lower nor continue the pain. We can ‘get’ it, and we can say goodbye and move on. I recently experienced just how being inauthentic causes me great suffering.  The mask I was wearing proved ineffective and I was left feeling exposed and desperate for strength and grounding. Attaching myself so strongly to the role and image I had of myself left me unable to sense the space between that which I am not from that which I am.  The assuredness and clarity I sought was muddied and I had no access to my authentic talents and gifts. I was left feeling fragile and dependent. It was truly frightening. Something I do not want to experience again.

Saying goodbye to my inauthentic self is as much a grief as any other.  For I have come to depend on the fancy niceties it provided. However, in the end, when I was stripped of my inauthentic skin and I was left raw I learned it was all for naught. In the giving away of myself I was left with nothing in return.  Break the spell, let the fortress burn, come out of hiding, reach out, stand on the edge of the unknown and embrace the power of goodbye. 

Who I am is ever evolving and developing and I must—I MUST give it space to grow and thrive.  It is in the space between that I sense, touch and feel fully alive and capable. The Edge of The Unknown is the birthplace of my authentic self.

 

 

Refugee

“You don’t have to live like a refugee” were words spoken to me by my first therapist–so very long ago during my first eating disorder treatment and they have stayed with me for over 15 years. What does it mean to be a refugee? Well, a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. In essence, it is someone without a home…




You have to do it for yourself.

“I can’t! I can’t do it!” I cry out as I reactively cover my ‘ugly cry’ face with my hands. I’m in treatment, again and I’m sitting across my primary therapist and dietician at dinner. Trying to eat restaurant night with two eating disorder professionals is hard enough, but when they were also confronting me, or rather, my negative beliefs about myself is beyond anxiety. Seemingly to read my mind…”




Pictures of You

‘You’re never ready,’ she said, “You’re never ready. Whether you had a good relationship or a complicated one, you’re never ready to lose your mother.” Over the last year several of my friends and colleagues have experienced their mothers passing. I suppose it’s that strange time of life that seems to have just suddenly made its way into mine.