We all want to be authentic, and yet, we compare ourselves to some nebulous standard — the social media norm, the cultural expectation, the family code. When we fear we can’t think and act as we truly are, we put parts of ourselves on hold. Brene Brown, researcher, author and widely viewed TED talker says authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are. Knowing deeply we are enough whatever our feelings, needs, or skills allow us to show up fully ourselves —being true to our own personality, spirit, character despite external pressures. Brown suggests to foster authenticity, we must cultivate the ability to be imperfect and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Operating under the expectation of being perfect is unattainable and driving us all toward more stress and anxiety. It’s time to start cultivating the ability to actually be imperfect. When we show up as imperfect it breaks the code and invites others to join us in imperfection.
I was raised by a perfectionist. The standard was no stains on your clothes, no tags hanging out of the back of your shirt, dust-free home, smiles and hugs for everyone, yard trimmed, deadlines met, to-do list done. I watched her make herself sick day in and day out.
When I arrive in a room, it’s typical of me to point out my imperfection so everyone else can relax. Last week I mispronounced the name of a woman I was introducing to a crowd. We had a bit of fun with it and moved on. Everyone relaxed because they immediately knew they didn’t have to be perfect.
None of us wake up in the morning hoping for an opportunity to be vulnerable. “I just can’t wait to be fully transparent and vulnerable today. It always makes me feel so exposed. Hip Hip Hurray!” Unfortunately, choosing not to be vulnerable means we are wearing the mask of what’s expected.
Recently I was in a group of about 12 women. Three of them were unbelievably vulnerable about different things — what they didn’t like about their bodies, what mental state they were currently wrestling with, how they had started to move back into old habits that didn’t serve them well. When they stepped into their own vulnerability, it broke down the expectation all women carry with us that we need to look a certain way. Every women in the room felt the veil rip between the cultural norm and the willingness to be ourselves.
Beyond showing up fully ourselves, there is an added bonus of cultivating our own imperfection and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable — tearing down for everyone else the burdensome expectations placed on women for a millennia. Fellow sisters who are working so hard to fit into the requirements can see a different way.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are,” Brene Brown.