When I think about authenticity, I find myself drawn to the story of Ashenputtel (Cinderella) and her infamous glass slipper. I have German parents, so I was read the grisly, bloody Grimm brothers version when I was a child, not the PG Disney one. In the German version, the stepsisters cut off toes and heels in order to fit into the slipper. The prince is fooled for a moment, but then notices the blood oozing out of the slipper and realizes he’s been had. Smart prince.
I think authenticity works much the same way, just without the loss of body parts and excessive blood. Instead, you lose a piece of yourself, your soul if you will, and the only one you are fooling is yourself. I see it happen all the time – people settling in jobs they hate, people in unfulfilling relationships, people trying to imitate others, people who conform and refuse to let their unique personality shine and come forward.
Let me back up two shakes and explain what I mean by being more authentic. I mean you follow your inner voice and compass. Not your mother’s, not your best friend’s, not that one author you read that one time’s opinions – you just follow your own. You don’t do something because you think you should do it or because it’s popular, you do it because it feels right. If the shoe you are so desperately trying to squeeze into doesn’t fit, it will (eventually) fill up with blood.
My biggest obstacles over the years, my glass slippers, so to speak, were my queerness and my writing. It took me years to step into my truth that cis heterosexual men were not for me. I lacked the tools to build an emotional, physical, and spiritual bond needed to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship with them because that’s not how I am hardwired. I started writing poetry and short stories when I was just nine years old, I majored in journalism and fantasized about writing a book one day. But I lacked the courage to really own my writing and admit that, yes, I am indeed a poet and writer.
Here are three ways to fine-tune your inner compass and get closer to becoming the most “you” version there is.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Take for example my recent experimentation with the so-called “Instagram poetry,” short lines of poetry that are meant to be read quickly and evoke emotion. I decided to give this style of poetry a go and became frustrated when the muse did not arrive like I had anticipated. It’s not the kind of poetry I am meant to write. It doesn’t mean it’s bad or good, it just means it’s not for me. Try other writing styles, read other viewpoints, date someone unexpected, give pottery or a new sport a try, you never know. The trick is identifying when it doesn’t feel right and to quit before you get sucked in, like a drug. Don’t stick with something just because it works for someone else. Let it go.
FIND YOUR FLOW
The famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has the theory of flow, which is where your mental state is completely involved and fulfilled with the task at hand. For me, it’s writing, yoga, figure skating, and digital creation, such as Photoshop or web design that put me in the zone where I lose all sense of space and time. Hours fly by and I feel relaxed and happy. We all have things we are naturally talented at – our job is to find out what brings us to this flow state. Think about what you enjoy doing on your days off, what books you migrate to, and what comes naturally easy to you. That’s your flow. Do more of it.
Is there something you already know to be true about yourself, but you’re putting it off because of your fear what others will think or say? Most likely yes. It’s human nature to want to be loved and accepted. Unfortunately, this means a lot of times we tiptoe around the truth and lie to ourselves to appease others. I challenge you to be brave and go against the crowd (or what your family will think). You’re the only one responsible for your own happiness. Don’t sacrifice the one life you have for the happiness of others.
These are three truths I know to be true from my own experiences. It’s a lifelong journey to step into the person we are meant to be and I challenge you today to take another step towards becoming that person. The world needs you, just as you are.