On Being Authentic Part 1: What Does It Mean To Be Authentic?
Staying True to Yourself. Being Authentic. Being Yourself.
We see these positive affirmations all the time. But what does it really mean to be authentic?
For me, being authentic means being whole. Being authentic means being aligned with the core essence of your being spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Being authentic doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be a good person, nor does it give us excuse to throw away all the virtues, common courtesy and morals we learn from society (more about this later on – see part 2 On Being Authentic).
For me, it means we accept all parts of ourselves, the Light and the Dark, our strengths and weaknesses, the good and the bad sides.
When I started Museflower Retreat & Spa five years ago and was working in the Spa industry before that, I always thought to myself that I should be a calm person. After all, creating a calm space was my job, so I should be calm too.
Whenever feelings of anger or frustration arose, I would tell myself to breath and let it go. I thought it was bad to be angry.
Because I didn’t like to be angry (it was such a “bad” thing to do), little did I know I was actually repressing anger inside me in order to act out this role of being a calm person.
And then, finally, like everything swept under the carpet, eventually it would come out one way or another. At that time, I had a biofeedback scan test similar to the Hado counseling I do now. The facilitator told me that all my anger and negative emotions were stored inside my internal organs, and so they were only functioning at one-third of their capacity. No wonder I felt tired all the time, and my digestive system was weak.
Negative emotions are not bad to have at all. I associated the words “negative”, “darkness”, “shadow” as bad evil things to avoid at all costs but then I realized I was wrong.
Look at Mother Nature. If it’s sunny 24 hours 7 days a week, everyone and everything on this planet will feel exhausted. The plants and trees will dry out, and the animals will suffer from the constant heat. We all need the shadow, the darkness, and the night to rest. We need that time to sleep and recover, and to retreat back into our inner selves.
It’s the same for negative emotions. It’s only natural to experience negative emotions, or else we wouldn’t have them at the first place. Remember the animation called “Inside Out” where Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust all have an essential role?
I always use the analogy of a coin that has two sides to describe emotions. If you look at one side of the coin that represents the negative emotion, then we must already have the positive side (the other side of the coin) within us as well.
When negative emotions arise, they are just opportunities and reminders to help bring us back to balance.
So embrace your anger, grief, jealousy, frustration, and allow yourself to really feel into them in a safe and responsible way. I don’t mean that we need to start shouting at other people, or to cause pain and suffering to others in order to feel our emotions. But instead of brushing it off quickly in an attempt to “let it go”, allow yourself time and space to stay with the emotion.
Our feelings and emotions don’t define us. As it’s famously said, emotions are energy in motions. They are like ocean waves; they come and go. Observe yourself as you are feeling these emotions, like you are watching a movie of your life while you are also playing the actor/actress in the movie. Reflect, without judgment or criticism, why your emotions got triggered at the first place.
And underneath that surface of ocean, at the depths of the ocean floor, there is that stillness, that calm. That is where the core essence of your being lies. That is where the true-authentic-you shines. You are not defined by your emotions. You are not defined by your identities and roles you play in life. You are bigger than any limitations you put on yourself. You are who YOU ARE.
Being authentic means that it’s okay to feel the entire spectrum of emotions – positive or negative. We can’t appreciate joy if there’s no sadness, just like we can’t appreciate the sun if there’s no night.
It’s perfectly okay be an imperfect human being. That’s what being authentic is about.