I have to be honest with you. I didn’t choose the name “This Authentic Life” for anyone else’s benefit. Only as a reminder to myself. I’m a little selfish that way. But I can often use the reminder that I do know how to be authentic.
I’m not searching for how to be authentic anymore. Now, I’m just trying to hold onto it. If you know an actual, authentic person, be kind to them. They’ve likely been through a lot, most especially if that person is younger than you.
This information is not for everyone.
Especially for those who are seeking authenticity as a means to make money or become popular. They won’t understand it.
This is for that person who is struggling with that One Thing in their life. The thing that is standing in the way of them being able to move forward in their life, which will ultimately lead toward whatever goal they set out to achieve (i.e. money or acceptance – irony).
Or, more importantly, becoming their authentic self. This is especially for that person who is dealing with the pain of depression, or triggered emotion, or anxiety.
I wrote this for them, and also for me – as a reminder for when I need it.
I hope it helps you.
When we talk about how to be authentic, we have to look at the light and dark sides of life. That means we’ll be talking about death.
I don’t want to surprise you by it later. If that’s too heavy, check out the podcast. It’s usually pretty fun over there.
How To Be Authentic In 5 Weird Steps
- Stop Trying To End Your Life, Weird-O
- Understand The Different Riders On Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion
- Identify With Firehose People or Garden hose People
- Climb The Mud Mountain
- Allow For Epiphanies
Stop Trying To End Your Life, Weird-O
If you read through the steps for how to be authentic, you may wonder: Why are these steps so weird? First of all, I’m weird.
The abstract is weird. And true authenticity is an abstract thought, therefore, also weird. “You” is an abstractly weird concept, too.
So, I happily welcome you to the weird-side, weird-o. The act of defining Abstract moves it into reality. Finding the limitations of something reveals its boundaries.
Like playing a video game, where the map only reveals itself as you play.
Only once you’ve ventured everywhere the mystery is no more. Reality is defined.
Reality requires logical conclusion based on a set of past-tense facts. The facts that create reality have already occurred, there is no changing them – this is so important to keep in mind.
It is especially important to understand if you want to “get” and “reach” someone you love who is experiencing or has experienced depression. Or if you want to be authentic.
Conclusion is the end result, the judgement or decision based on the set of facts that were presented. Past-tense.
The conclusion can only be written when all events are done and over.
No new facts can be presented once we reach the conclusion. Or else the conclusion is incorrect, because it wasn’t based upon all of the facts.
It’s not for you to find. It’s for others to determine afterward.
Stop trying to find definition for or meaning of your life while you’re in the middle of living.
Stop trying to end your life in order to find the logic. It will drive you towards actual death faster than you need to get there.
And there are the logical steps we’re all searching for to reach authenticity.
Not quite what was expected, right?
Let’s lighten it up, and go for a ride at Disneyworld together.
Understand The Different Riders On Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion
You must be allowed to constantly grow. The facts of your life keep revealing themselves only as you go along.
It’s like riding the Haunted Mansion at Disneyworld. (I imagine whoever created this ride was a quiet genius of his/her day, and I hope this ride sticks around forever.)
There are a few different kinds of riders who will go on Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion. Let’s look at 3 of them in detail.
In order for you to be authentic, you need to understand which kind of rider you are. And understanding the other kinds will give you empathy toward them. Authenticity comes from increasing your empathy.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand the emotion another person is experiencing. It is required for authenticity.
During your life, you may be any one of these riders. Or you may be none of them, and one that we need to add to the list.
If that’s the case, let me know in the comments, please. I’d like to include it in here so we all can increase our empathy, and, as a result, our own authenticity.
I think it’s worth mentioning the entire metaphor. But first… a warning.
A Warning For What’s Ahead
Learning how to be authentic comes when we embrace the good and the bad. There is good ahead, but we’re also going to look at the bad.
A Trip To Disneyworld = Your Life
The Haunted Mansion is not life, itself. The Haunted Mansion is just one of the peaks and valleys we travel through in our lives. So, for example, your life would be like visiting the Magic Kingdom for one day or for many days.
We don’t all get the same amount of time, you know.
You’d go on as many different rides as you could, you’d skip some rides, and you’d be sure to hit certain ones.
Your family may have traditions that take you on a specific route every time, and you as the individual may want to deviate from the route they say you must follow.
For some people, traveling through the Magic Kingdom is awesome and there are no lines, and they have all the fun.
For others, every single second is a trial. It’s overcrowded, and they don’t have enough resources to do everything everyone else is enjoying.
We may ride the Haunted Mansion ride more than once. It might be the only ride we choose to ride. We may ride it alone, or have our entire family with us the entire time.
It’s different for everyone.
The Rider There For The Fun
The Haunted Mansion is a perfect parody of how we approach life’s challenges.
We start out with no real knowledge of it, except that it’s a large, foreboding mansion with an intricate entrance line. The first time, you get into the car, you are full of expectations, and excitement over the anticipation.
The car rarely faces forward. Usually, it’s facing one side or another, or even sometimes backward.
The spinning is disorienting, and you can’t see where you’re going or what’s coming at you next.
You’re only given glimpses and teases of what’s coming up and you can’t prepare. As soon as you can identify what you’re seeing, the car spins and there is something new.
You let go of what you didn’t catch, and you understand that everything is going to be ok. The lights and the music and the movements are all working for you in a really cool way.
This is just a ride, and you feel really secure in your knowledge that nothing can really hurt you.
It’s all going to end, and if you get scared, you know that it’s not going to last forever. This perspective can be a lot of fun, and makes going through life an adventure.
And it’s really fun for the people going with you. Your attitude can impact others in such a positive way. Nothing will happen that you can’t overcome with this mentality.
And you can help others to find the fun, too!
There is another kind of rider, and for them, this ride is either boring or dumb.
They’re used to riding roller coasters. They’ve experienced larger thrills, and the loops they’ve ridden through had higher stakes than this walk in the park.
Their adrenaline requires more stimulus to affect them. What a waste of time to ride this ride.
The challenge in enjoying The Haunted Mansion for those folks is not in being disoriented by the spinning, or scared by anything.
The challenge for them is way more subtle. They have to make this ride exciting with intention.
They need to identify the tiniest details and find the insider track. Can you catch the ongoing joke by locating the strategically placed Easter eggs?
Did you listen to the words of the song that was playing? Did you laugh at what they said, when they said it, and what was presented in front of you when they did?
The Self-Sabotager can make the ride horrible for everyone, by complaining the whole time or trying to make it more complex.
Most of them don’t even realize they are doing it.
Regardless, they need some kind of more complex level of interaction added. Something intentionally added to make things fun.
The Overstimulated or Triggered Rider
But sometimes the unexpected surprises on the ride are too overwhelming. Maybe the build up was too big.
Or maybe you had an experience earlier in life that caused you to hate ravens. And the momentary glance of a raven over a doorway, presented in a moment where all of your other senses are heightened, triggered a survival instinct inside of you.
But before you can process this, you’ve been spun, and don’t even remember that it was the image of the raven that set you off.
All you know how to do now is fight, flee, or freeze. Who cares about the ride anymore?
Something’s happening, and it’s painful. You have to make it stop.
But the terror is not stopping, because you don’t know what is behind it. If you could just have a minute to retrace what happened, you could tell yourself that it was just a stuffed raven.
It wasn’t real. The danger isn’t real, and then you can calm down.
Maybe even laugh about your over the top reaction just to a raven. Sometimes therapy can help lead you back to the raven.
Sometimes medication can quiet all the other noise, or cause the stress response in your body to stop. Hopefully, it’s a doctor-supervised prescription. Hopefully.
But medication can be like putting noise-cancelling headphones on the ears of a young child. The extra noise and stimulation is dulled, and they can focus.
But unless you take advantage of the quiet moment to reach understanding and acceptance of what happened, stopping the medication is only as effective as taking off the noise-cancelling headphones.
If we can’t cope with the ride, or deal with our triggers, everything else becomes too much. You have to find some kind of calm in the chaos to do this.
If you can’t find it yourself, someone needs to help point it out. Or you have to know it will not last forever. Once the ride is over, you can collect yourself and figure out what the heck just happened.
The Rider That Leaves The Ride (or The Entire Park) Early
If no calm can be found, that’s when then the screaming starts.
The constant stream of stimulants is too much. And every tiny thing that happens next becomes a new, compounding pain. And they either couldn’t process everything coming at them fast enough or let go of what they couldn’t process.
Their brain is stuck on that raven, but the ride has moved forward. It’s the nature of the ride. And they’re told to stop living in the past.
Their riding companion can’t understand why they are freaking out.
But for the person experiencing the trauma, this is Hell.
You point out that they are missing out on the fun by focusing on the thing that happened.
And they react like you stabbed them or they might get quiet. It was an unintentional stab wound, but it’s there now.
They can stay quiet so you don’t stab them again, and pretend to enjoy the ride.
Or they can make a scene.
Either choice is the wrong choice. So, they might make the choice that won’t get them stabbed again, and put on a smile.
They now have the pain knowing that their pain is causing others to experience new pain and embarrassment. They don’t want anyone else to feel like this, so they just be quiet and bottle it up so no one else’s ride is negatively impacted.
It’s this awful ripple effect, like dropping a stone into a pool of water, except every ring of disturbance causes physical pain to this person.
And it hits in waves, and the waves just never seem to stop coming.
If they cannot get help, they will not keep going forward in this ride. And they may also seek to leave the park early.
Why on earth can no one else see their pain? It’s so obviously there! And it’s so LOUD.
(If this is you, please reach out… click the link below for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please.)
When The Ride Stops Early
If they have to get off early, for whatever reason, the ride stops. And we’re all affected in that moment. The whole family or community.
As riders on the same journey, we feel “Bad” that it was too much for them, and that they couldn’t cope (I have no knowledge of a more accurate word that describes the gaping hole left, so understand that the word “Bad” is a poor man’s place holder for something much deeper, and more visceral). Maybe we even feel angry.
Not only will they miss out on the rest of the fun, but we’re all going to miss out on participating in their experience. And them ours.
Some people can’t ever accept that someone would get off mid-ride, or leave the park early.
And then, for the rest of THEIR ride, it’s all they can thing about. Why couldn’t they see that this was just something that is exciting and fun.
What was wrong with them? Why couldn’t they just wait until the ride calmed down? Why didn’t they ask for help?
What could I have done for them? How did I fail them? This was so unlike them.
And the most important question… Will I see them again when the ride is done?
Yes. 100% yes. Never doubt that one.
Be Kind To All Riders, Always
Gather your life stories, live your life with the volume turned up all the way. Enjoy your moments without guilt or sadness. Practice how to be authentic by practicing empathy.
Allow yourself to experience your life as it actually happens, truthfully, embracing the good and the bad.
Your job is to collect your stories, so that when the ride is over, when our turn at the park is done, we can recount those stories to those who weren’t there with us.
Live them with such detail in the moment, that they are emblazoned upon your soul.
Embrace your time in the park, not as waiting game, but as an adventure to tell them about.
Authentically Identify With Firehose People Or Gardenhose People
As someone with a past of chronic depression, anxiety, and addiction, the constant awareness that I’m only in the middle of my story keeps me moving forward through this life.
It keeps the thought of driving my car into a brick wall just a thought – even in those moments of pain so deep that I literally scream through my tears on the floor. (Hopefully in private, but too often in front of my husband.)
If I could control when it happened, it would NEVER happen. Part of how to be authentic is embracing the bad, along with the good.
Trust me on that one. I can mitigate when it happens, though. And that’s why it’s my spouse’s burden to be my witness.
Which is also painful, and honestly fuels the spiral.
Oddly, I need an audience, even though it is painful. It’s the same way Bruce Banner painfully keeps control over The Hulk. It’s why I told my husband he must be able to tame Dragons to be my partner.
Which One Are You Holding?
It’s like saying that people are either holding a garden hose or a firehose.
Normal people are garden hose people. They get to experience life and new ideas the way water comes out of that hose.
You can trickle it, or you can turn it on full blast. It’s fun to play with a garden hose on full blast. You can do it all the time. And it might whip around like a snake, but it’s not really dangerous.
Truly empathetic people are like those holding a firehose. They can also trickle the water. The amount of water trickling out of a firehose may be similar to the volume of a garden hose at full blast.
But water coming out of a firehose at a full blast can take the paint off a wall.
It’s painful and cutting, and it doesn’t stop. You have to become strong enough to wield the hose (getting help is always an option, by the way), or be destroyed by it.
The problem for firehose people is that they don’t always have control over when the water comes out fast or slow. Like, when your sibling growing up turned on the spigot just as you were looking down into the hose.
The have to learn how to react in the moment.
Climb The Authentic Mud Mountain
When learning how to be authentic, there’s a built in obstacle.
Right at the beginning. I think it’s by design. Because those who figure out this first hurdle, are set for the entire course.
Those who don’t figure this out fast enough will use up all their energy on the first obstacle. And maybe not have enough gas left to reach the finish line.
Ready, Set, Jump
Imagine we have all joined a mud run challenge.
We’re all grouped together at the starting line. Huddled like cattle, squeezed in shoulder to shoulder. Our nervous energy collectively making us fidget as a group. But in excitement, so it’s the uplifting kind of nervous energy.
We’re all raring to go! The horn blasts, and we shoot out of the gate. Eager to be first, of course, but also seeing the course with the eyes of a participant.
Somehow it looks so different now then when we were spectators just seconds before.
We race around the bend, hearts beating. Not from exertion but from fun.
And there it is. The First Obstacle.
It’s a hole in the ground, filled with mud. That’s why we came, after all, to get dirty.
The experienced and the brave newbies jump in without hesitation. They work their way through the water, and then start to climb the obligatory mud mountain on the other side of the hole.
And this is where the pack separates.
So quickly! Its a rude awakening for the overachieving novice, like me, who thought they could bust through with enough bravado and a can-do attitude.
But I often have expectations that my skill levels can’t quite match.
The first people out of the mud puddle and onto the mountain have an advantage. The mountain is dry, the path isn’t clear, and so they get to pick their own route.
If you can be the first one to something, you get to set the bar. And that’s a huge advantage. Always be first, if you can.
If you can’t, then be persistent.
Because those first people, while blazing a trail, are making the path behind them slippery.
And while it should seem easy just to follow their lead, and do what they do, climbing a mountain of slippery mud is much harder than climbing a dry mountain no one has made a mess of yet.
So, while we are trying to emulate them exactly by placing our feet exactly where they placed theirs, we’re unknowingly making it harder.
Learning how to be authentic comes from learning how to embrace your own strengths and specialness.
How To Clear The Hurdle
Stop, and take a minute. Look at those who have successfully gone ahead of you.
Don’t step exactly where they step. But find an unbeaten path, and step like they did on this new path.
Take faith in your own abilities. Use your own strengths, the ones that are unique to you.
Coco Chanel said it best:
Use the things you’re best at, with the knowledge from watching those before you, and clear the mountain.
The differences we bring are how we are authentic.
Allow For Authentic Epiphanies
Now that you know how to be empathetic to others, and you understand if you’re holding a firehose or a garden hose. It’s time to let epiphanies occur.
(I’m reading this myself, and just thinking… I sound like a raving lunatic. Let me know in the comments if you think so, too.)
What is an Epiphany?
An epiphany is where your brain has finally linked cause and effect logically. It can now travel the path quickly from point A to point B, and that equals C: the obvious answer, now that we see it.
Epiphanies are important for authenticity. They, ultimately, are how we learn to be authentic.
The way your brain reaches an epiphany might be different than mine. And that’s the point.
Our brains are kind of mysterious to us. They don’t all work in the same way.
And many scientists are trying to explain why. The closer science gets, the more this principle will reveal itself as a truth: we are not our brains. We are made up of body, mind, and soul.
Our mind is in our brain, which is in our body. But it is not our body or the brain muscle itself. Our soul is in our body, but it is not our body. Is our soul our mind?
After reading the book, The Mind and The Brain (By Jeffrey M Schwarts, Sharon Begley, I believe more now than ever that the brain is like a computer, and we are only the users.
So, let’s just say that what I do know, is that your body can affect your mind, and both body and mind can affect your soul.
Humans are so painfully tied to logic. I love logic, don’t misunderstand me. It’s how abstract becomes actual.
Logic is so important to understand how to be authentic. The lack of thinking logically is very limiting for those who skip it.
The pain comes from holding onto logic so tightly that it prevents our mind and body and soul from working together. We don’t have the logical path laid out to us yet, so we can’t make the leap.
Sometimes you just have to have a little faith. And when you do, that’s when the epiphanies will start to flow, like water out of the firehose.
Work on understanding the logical side of the brain, at the same time that you understand the intuitive side of the brain.
It’s not easy.
And it’s why meeting really authentic people, those who just “Get” you, can feel rare.
If we don’t pair the left side and the right side of the brain together, it’s like thinking a bike should only ever have training wheels. You don’t realize all the freedom and fun that comes from riding a two wheeled bike.
You can’t go places that require the tiny width of only riding on two wheels.
Get going. Go practice your empathy to increase your authenticity.
This post was incredibly raw to write. I feel better having it out of my system now.
This isn’t an easy topic, and the information out there surrounding can be pretty generalized. The folks who know how to be authentic are generally the ones who’ve been through fire.
Remember, there is always, always, always someone who understands. And there are some who can take on your painful burden, and are happy to do so.
Because we carry our own, too. And in carrying our own, have become strong enough to help you carry yours.
But even though we have these super powers, ESP isn’t one of them. You have to reach out.