Becoming My Authentic Self

“Who are you becoming?” is a question that my life coach mentor asks and as I continue this work, I find myself asking this more frequently. You see, so many of us are walking through this life thinking that we have fully arrived in our humanness. Our personality, our preferences, our history, the essence of who we are has already been defined; the story has already been written. Or has it?

The idea that I could rewrite my story, that I could change my past, was a mind-blowing concept yet one that I can now see is very much attainable. I cannot even begin to tell you how many precious hours of my life have been wasted on replaying regrets or reliving old scenes from the personal movie reel that I carry around in my head. Sure, I can tell myself that some events shaped the person I am today. I also have the choice to change that narrative completely. Rewrite the script, so to speak.

If we think of our brains as the highly efficient computers that they are, it makes sense that we as the programmers have done sloppy work at times in order to meet a deadline or just to plow through life. So we just wrote code that was functional in order to get to the next thing and haven’t really gone back to revisit that original code. No matter that it’s buggy, causes crashes, and frustrates the hell out of the end users. Why do that? Clean up work is flipping boring and takes more effort than it’s worth, right? Let me tell you, I used to work in the IT industry and I can offer up many an example of a shitty development or implementation that was never revisited because that work is not sexy. It’s functioning. It’s good enough. Let’s move on to the fun stuff. To the high profile project, the one that’s going to get me noticed, or to the leading edge tech that brings a rise.

Did you ever realize that we do that very same thing with our brains?

14506793128_90cda0a757Cleaning up buggy code is not a fun way to spend time. But it beats the hell out of the alternative.

For example, through my programming I learned that a traditional business environment doesn’t always embrace my natural affinity to spout off the first thing that comes to mind. I gave this a whirl early in my professional during a departmental strategy meeting. It really was a brainstorming session and the strategy was defining the services that we would provide. I had so much to say, but I was trying very hard to be the polite person in that small conference room with four other people, most above my pay grade (including my CIO) who were just non-stop talking. So I observed and bit my tongue.

Finally, J (the CIO) turned to me and said, “You’re awful quiet. Don’t you have anything to add?”

Without even thinking, I replied, “Well, who should I interrupt?”

For a few seconds, time froze as I took in the reactions of displeasure. I went on to share all of my “brilliant” ideas. Believe it or not, many of them were implemented in short order and laid a foundation for a support structure that sustained well over the next decade of my employment. Perhaps even beyond, for all I know.

J and I actually ended up forging a very strong friendship too. Years later, she would recount that story in social circles of friends or colleagues. Didn’t matter the venue, it was her favorite story to tell about the time that it was it her first week on the job and her unspoken reaction to my off the cuff remark was, ‘oh man, this bitch is trouble‘.

And we laughed and laughed.

Every time she told the story, we all laughed about it. Perhaps because I was in fact a bit of trouble. We made it work and we actually settled into a place over time where it worked quite well, though I also learned during our years together (and programmed myself) to be a bit more cautionary with spouting off the first thought that came to mind! J was my first true mentor and she taught me volumes about proper business etiquette. While it served me well in that environment and I was grateful for her guidance, suppressing that part of my personality felt difficult. Inauthentic.

That’s the way that I viewed it for a long time, especially while replaying the movie reel, (and I watched that film often). I felt that I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to be myself instead of realizing that I’ve had the choice all along.

That choice includes the way that I think about my past; my story. All that I have to do to rewrite it is to choose a different script. And so I have. Now when I look back on that time in terms of how it shaped my life, I can view it with a fresh lens and choose to focus on the overarching elements of mutual love and respect rather than victimization and suppression. Taking the former approach generates vastly different emotion and a far better story for me.

Still, I can take that moment in time where I would have once perhaps wished for a “do over” and embrace that part of me. One of the most freeing realizations that come with being an entrepreneur is that I can choose to be authentically me without regret. All I had to do was decide to go with what felt right and that knowledge alone felt amazing.

That’s what I did a few months back when I attended a local women’s business luncheon that was set up as a speed networking event. I didn’t give much thought to showing up as my authentic self. By then, I had come to the realization that I’m not going to win over every person in the room (and trust me, in the past I have tried just that) because whether or not someone likes me for who I am has everything to do about them and nothing to do with me.

One of the warm up activities was some kind of bingo card where we had to mill around the room and check boxes by meeting women who fit the criteria within the box. Quite frankly, several of those boxes were just stupid. “Who has the most kids?” – what is that, a badge of honor or a cry for help? “Who is from another state?” – ummm, we’re in North Texas, probably 75% of the room (truth).

About the only box that applied to me was “Who is an avid reader?” And so with my freshly rejuvenated brutal honesty, I proudly walked around the room, introduced myself to as many women as possible and noticed sadly, so many of them had blanks in that particular box.

“Oh, hey! I’m an avid reader,” I said enthusiastically.

“Great! What book?” was the typical response.

Get Over Your Damn Self“, I replied with a combination of joy and confidence. I was telling my truth. That was exactly the book I was reading at the time. I was being authentic and it felt fantastic.

Then I moved on to the next “victim”, rendering several women in the room speechless.

And not once did I apologize if the look on their face in response to my comment was one of disapproval. I wasn’t there to seek anyone’s approval. I wasn’t really there to make friends, though I was completely open to it if it felt right.

I didn’t make any new friends that day. There was a time when I would have replayed what I said or how I showed up and wondered if I should have done things differently. But not this time. Not anymore.

I didn’t make any new friends because those weren’t my people. They weren’t my tribe. I can still keep being me without apology. Their inability to connect on my level is not about me. It’s about them. And it’s all good. So good.

As Tamara Levitt says, “You may be living in a script that needs a rewrite.”

No matter your age, your past experiences, your current situation, you are the author of your story. And you can choose a rewrite anytime. In fact, I recommend we keep modifying that line of code in our brains until we find the sweet spot that becomes our new reality.

photo credit: Send me adrift. aches via photopin (license)

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