15 April 2014

Authenticity (and Saying 'Yes')

A friend sent me an essay that I didn't make time to read until this afternoon. But, as always, the things that got in the way leading up to this afternoon ensured I read it at just the 'right' time. I love how that works... serendipitous and perfect in timing and form.

The piece (by Elle Luna) I read today is all about Should vs Must, and what living these two very different paths looks like. The path of Should is living the life that follows the directions provided outside of us -- following our family's expectations, our friend's advice, society's constructs, our job's rules, etc. It is doing what we are "supposed to" do. Following the rules, coloring within the lines, and living a life that looks good from the outside. Too often, we say yes to Should, and we shrink away from Must. What is Must? It's the path that is born from within ourselves. It's the intuition the burns warm in our bellies, the calling that we feel undeniably pulled to pursue. It is listening from within, instead of listen to opinions/shoulds from the outside. 

Yesterday I wrote about authenticity and what it means to draw boundaries, maintain them, and show up authentically as YOU. I talked about saying 'no' to the demands and requests from the outside that don't feel aligned with what you need and want. Today, inspired by the Should vs Must mentality, I'd like to write about saying 'yes' to the demands and requests that inform/call/guide us from within.

This quote from Joseph Campbell always finds it's way back into my readings, and, not surprisingly, it was in the article I read today...

"Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before." 

Often times, when I imagine my ideal life - the one I know I am called to live, it looks a lot like running away from my current life. It looks like Moonrise Kingdom... wandering off with a suitcase of books, my favorite outfit, and my kitties. It looks like abandoning everything in my life that doesn't fit my purest desires-- to do good, live a clean, green life, to be a passageway for the transformation of others, to love with non-attachment, to be in nature, to BE bliss.

But as I run away with those thoughts and dreams, I am soon jerked awake by my fears and the barriers to get there (mainly born from the Shoulds). On bad days, I might spiral into the "it's impossible" story and vehemently resent all of the parts and people in my life that hold me back from being that unleashed, flower-crown wearing, inspired, inspiring person that I feel I Must be.  

Yet, per Elle's article, there is something so amazing that I have buried deep under the pile of my doubts and fears: the fact that I can actually make small shifts in my CURRENT life to move towards the path of Must. While I'm living a mostly Should life (corporate job, stable salary with benefits, big apartment with lots of stuff, etc.), I can take small steps towards the Must path, right now. I don't have to sell my furniture and by a carrycase for the cats to begin my journey. It doesn't have to look like running away... it can be shifting towards. Elle says, "Integrate, not obliterate...It's about doing one small thing, anything, to honor our personal truth -- today." WOW! Baby steps, not bungee jump. I can do that!

Of course, the left side of the brain chimes in with questions of money and time. And then there is the huge fear of failure. Of NOT landing on my feet. Of being ridiculed and scoffed at by my friends and family members who "told me so." Of having to start over... But, Elle reminds: although nothing in guaranteed for this journey and the ultimate destination, anything is possible.

You hear that? ANYTHING. ANY LITTLE THING. Any BIG thing. ALL of the THINGS that you can dream up, think of, muse about... it's ALL possible, at the very least. But we aren't going to get there if we don't say 'yes' to Must today. And each day after that. In however small or great a way. 

What is your calling? What do you want to create? Is it a new career, new home, a relationship, a healthier lifestyle? Take A step towards it today. Maybe you...
   - research a new company you're interested in
   - send a note to that professor who inspired you
   - join that dating site you've been "so not about"
   - just buy the journal
   - grab a pamphlet for that surfing lesson or yoga class
   - set up an airfare alert for that trip to Hawaii  
   - start that budget spreadsheet

Get clear. Dig deep. Ask yourself where in your life you are living inauthentically -- living the Should instead of the Must. And then say 'yes' to the little things you can do today to veer off the Should path. Often times, that will require you to also say 'no' to the things that are out of line with your callings, commitments, and integrity.

You have to start somewhere, right?

"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain

14 April 2014

Authenticity (and Saying 'No')

Let this sit with you for a moment: Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be, and embracing who we actually are.

The full definition of authenticity (in the picture above) comes from Brené Brown's The Power of Vulnerability, the audio book that I've been sinking my heart and mind into the past couple of weeks. 

There are a few quotes I've bookmarked as being particularly resonant. But this one really felt worth taking the pause to reflect. For me, one of the hardest components of authenticity that I struggle with is setting boundaries. Who do others expect me to be? We do I think I am supposed to say? It can be so difficult to say "no" to the requests that others make of us, right? Can you cover this project? (but your to-do list is already chock full) Can you pick me up from the airport? (but you committed to giving yourself a day of rest) Can you come to this last-minute dinner? (the whole family is going to be there, and you don't want to be that person) 

It is WORK to set boundaries for yourself and to turn down any number of daily requests that people make of you (both those spoken and unspoken). We want to "please" others and to be agreeable. And sometimes we do want to help out and contribute (whether to feel like part of the team, to be helpful, to be liked, etc.), but we just can't. Many times, it seems easier to say "yes" and to win agreement for 5 seconds, than it is to say "no" and avoid resenting them for the whole week leading up to that commitment you made. Brené gives a great example of how this can play out. Think about the below situation in a way that makes sense for you. Sub "cookies" for whatever someone might realistically ask of you:

"Hey Tiff, could you bring some cookies to the workshop tomorrow?"

*I think, 'Oh gosh, I already have so much to do tonight and know I won't have time to do that unless I skip yoga and sacrifice my sleep*

I respond, "Oh, sure! Yeah! I can totally do that."

I win a "thank you!"... and only be flooded with regret a few seconds after. Then, later when I am making the cookies, I'm thinking, "Why did she ask me to do this? I freaking hate this. I'm not even going to eat these! I should to be ASLEEP right now!" - all the while, mixing that resentment and silent loathing into the batter. 

Then I show up at the event (exhausted), and I toss in that passive aggressive, "Here are your cookies!!! Hope you like them! I stayed up LATE to make them." Feeling simultaneously proud of my superwoman capabilities and pissed off that I gave in.

YUCK YUCK YUCK! Wouldn't it have been better to be honest and say, "I can't tonight. I won't have the time. Ask me again next time!" or maybe even, "I don't have time to make cookies, but I do have some fruit I'd be happy to bring." People respect honesty. People will respect your boundaries if you get in the habit of keeping them. But it starts with US, not THEM. They will continue to ask, but you have to continue to answer with honesty and integrity. Sometimes the answer will be "yes" and you will be able to contribute/shift your schedule around/do that favor/make a sacrifice, and other times it will be "no." Period. Just "no." And that's ok. It's more than ok. It's authentic. It has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with YOU and what you are committed to. 

What is it that you could say to yourself when you are walking into a situation, to be mindful of authenticity? What is that phrase you can repeat to yourself before you answer someone's request? For myself, it's: "Being seen is more important than being agreeable." Or perhaps you like Brené's: "Choose discomfort over resentment." (Meaning, choose the discomfort in saying "no" and not "pleasing" over the resentment you will feel if you agree to something that you just can't or don't want to do.) When you are more committed to fitting in and belonging, and you aren't being your authentic self, you are fixing to score a heaping pile of shame, as well as a big load of commitments that you'll be wishing you never made.

Starting today, practice authenticity. Practice being fearlessly, unforgivably you. There is nothing more beautiful than a person that radiates honesty and love, and who is comfortable in their own skin and in command of their commitments. It's respectable and it demands authenticity in return (read: paying it forward!) 

I'll address other parts of the definition above in later posts. For now...