E.E. Cummings once wrote, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.”
Wow! That statement really hits me deeply because I know that to be true in my life experience. There’s a reason so many people don’t go on the search for their authentic self—because it’s so hard, sometimes even painful, definitely difficult. You’re often battling against your own powerful limiting beliefs, against other people’s expectations of and choices for you. It’s easier to deny that nagging thought that we might not really be living our authentic selves.
No wonder it often takes a crisis to shake us off our pedestal, forcing us to go on the search for authenticity. When we choose to push against the system of our own beliefs and others’ expectations, the system pushes back. You’ve felt that, haven’t you? The systems in our lives use shame, guilt, religious dogmas (which in essence is using the “God” card—“you’re going against God’s will for you!”). We’re told we’re being selfish and narcissistic, thinking only of ourselves. “You just need to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. After all, didn’t Jesus say, ‘Take up your cross and follow me?’ Remember, life isn’t just about you.” Those messages are deeply personal and painfully powerful to go up against.
Talk about strong push back. It always happens when you choose to practice authenticity, stepping into the full expression of your true self.
I remember walking the streets, sometimes in the middle of the night, wrestling and struggling with the implications of my choice to live my life rather than the life so many others I looked up to were telling me I was obligated to live. I felt so alone. The weight of the world burdened me down, sometimes even literally, as I felt the loss of so much I had valued in the past. The push back on every level was intense.
But little by little I began to realize that the alternative was even more potentially damaging. Even medical experts these days are recognizing this truth. Here’s the way Dr. Brene Brown states it, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are:
“If you’re like me, practicing authenticity can feel like a daunting choice—there’s risk involved in putting your true self out in the world. But I believe there’s even more risk in hiding yourself and your gifts from the world. Our unexpressed ideas, opinions, and contributions don’t just go away. They are likely to fester and eat away at our worthiness. I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the ones that come on cigarette packages: Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” (p. 53)
Sacrificing who we are for the sake of what other people think we should be just isn’t worth it. There might be some short term pay offs (like superficial and conditional acceptance, affirmation, kudos). But the long term damage, as she points out, are brutal.
So what do you do when you’re experiencing the Big Push Back? Brene Brown says she repeats three simply phrases to herself:
Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.
That’s right. Your true Self is sacred ground. It’s who God sees you to be and believes for you.
That’s why Jesus, when the Devil tempted him to doubt his true Self, refused … three times in a row … in the middle of the hot desert … when he was at his tiredest, hungriest, weakest.
“I don’t need to do anything to prove myself to you, Devil, or to please anyone else’s expectations for me. I know my truth because it came straight from the mouth of God when He told me, “You are my Beloved Son; I believe in you; I’m proud of you! Period!”
So next time you’re feeling the Big Push Back, whether from your own inner doubts or other people or powerful institutions, remember to do three things:
Don’t shrink! Don’t puff up! Stand on your Sacred Ground!
And when you do, remember you’re in good company. Even Jesus did that.
So here’s to choosing authenticity. Here’s to fighting the good fight. Here’s to all the health and well being that come from standing in your truth.
And if you need some support to do this, write me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll suggest some ways I can be helpful. GregoryPNelson.com