Being authentic sounds like it should come easily because by definition it means to be genuine and real. But I think most of us can agree that being completely yourself, especially in your youth, is far from easy. I’m grateful to have been raised by parents who constantly encouraged me to be an individual, but the truth is, despite the encouragement of my parents, being an individual was still very challenging for me at times. When I was younger I always had my own thoughts and ideas, but they didn’t typically match up with the thoughts and ideas of the world around me, and due to a society packed with the pressure to conform or “fit in” I all too often kept my thoughts and ideas to myself.
But as I got older I came to understand the value in taking the risk, being brave enough to step more fully into who I was, and the benefits of sharing that authentic self with the world around me. I came to deeply appreciate these values in other people too and I realized the importance of surrounding myself with people who would not only support and encourage me to be myself but who I could also connect with in a real and genuine way. Now as an adult I step more fully into myself each and every day because I have come to find all the goodness and incredible opportunities that can come from living a life that reflects your most authentic self.
And if there is one thing I want to help my kids best navigate in these early years, it’s this… I want to help them understand that this true self is within them, it is unique to them, and that they can and should find ways to access it and share it with the world. I know that the pressure to fit in will always be there, it’s an energy that I can’t control for them, but I can help them develop their own understanding of what authenticity means and how important it really is.
Honestly, it’s still scary for me to completely be myself at times, I still have moments where I struggle with how I may be perceived by others but I am unwilling to let it control my life or control the light inside me that I feel compelled to share with the world. In all that I do these days, my non profit work, my podcast, my writing or blogging, I know that if I were to be inauthentic it would serve no greater purpose at all, it would be a waste of time and energy. Ultimately what matters to me most in my work and as a mom is that I make a positive lasting impact in the world, and to do so I know that means I have to be brave enough to show up in every way possible as my truest self.
I know that I can’t shield my kids from the inevitable stress of trying to figure this all out but I’m hopeful that I can show them, by my example, that there is so much beauty to be found from living your life authentically and being brave enough to be YOU. I am hopeful they will come to better understand that they are free to be themselves and that when you are true to yourself the benefits far outweigh the risks. My younger self had no idea how freeing it could be to put my own truth above the desire to fit in, and I don’t in any way fault my younger self for being too scared to embrace that, but I really do feel that as adults we have a unique responsibility to our children…. and that is to show them, by example, that no matter how scary it can be to have your own thoughts and to speak your own truth, authenticity should always be the value we hold highest for ourselves and others.
Being our own unique selves is one of the most incredible gifts we can give to our children, and teaching our children to be uniquely authentic themselves can be the single greatest gift and contribution we make to the world around us.