“Today I am my most authentic self”
At what age do we become aware of whom we are? I believe the answer to this varies from person to person. Our parents are witnesses to our personality traits from a very early age and experience how those traits change and grow as we age. They experience our true authenticity before we even broach the age-old question of, “Who am I?”
The earliest memories I have are when I was four years old. I had long brown hair and my mom had my hair cut into a short, stylish pixie for the hot Texas Summer. I remember crying when I went to shampoo my hair because all of my long wavy hair was gone. I was so mad at my mom and I let her know that I was not happy with the new short do. As the summer went by I was used to my short hair. When school started in August I was so excited to go to the Pre-K program. The first week we took pictures that we put in Popsicle stick frames and some boys told me that I looked like a boy with my short hair.
I was so devastated and hurt by their opinion. I went home crying and my mom consoled me by telling me that I was pretty with short or long hair and those boys were just mean and didn’t know what they were talking about. Well, with my mom’s words of wisdom and inspiration, I confidently confronted those boys with my rebuttal.
Later that year, as I was watching TV and cuddling on the couch with my favorite Aunt, her controlling boyfriend yelled at her from the other room to make him a sandwich. I said, “I think he can make his own sandwich.” She quickly covered my mouth to prevent him from hearing me.
Long story short, I knew from an early age that I had a voice and could use it to express exactly how I was feeling. Of course, my parents and other family members were not always fond of this trait, but they and I knew it was a part of me.
Of course this was one trait of many that made up my authentic self. Even though I possessed this trait did I struggle with insecurities, fear of rejection, unsure of knowing who I truly was? Yes, as do many of us.
My sphere of influence came from many avenues; family, friends, church, teachers, professors, professional relationships and bosses.
Over the years I was able to grow and mature into my most authentic self. I voiced my opinion, whether it was popular or not, and fought for the greater good of departments, training, professional development, students, programs, budgets, grants, evaluations, paid internships, promotions, salary negotiation, and a myriad of other issues.
I inherited my mom’s strong drive and work ethic and used every experience to make the next better. I have always been the glass is half full kind of person and was (and still am) always optimistic to a fault.
Do I have bad habits and not so favorable traits? Yes, of course, but those are for another blog written in a journal that won’t be published. For family and long-term friends, you already know what those traits may look like. I am sorry, not sorry. Those are also a part of my authentic self.
I believe that we are all born with our personalities and our environment and experiences can make, shape, or break us. We always have room to learn and grow to hone into the authentic self we were born to be.
Do we have a timetable or certain age we attain awareness of our most authentic self? My belief is that we are aware of our fundamental values from those who raised us and as we experience life, we use those values and our innate traits to make decisions that affect our journey. It depends on where we are in our journey to determine how we define our most authentic self at that particular point in time.
I have a friend whose daughter was diagnosed with Type One diabetes. This means her body is unable to process enough insulin to regulate or manage the sugars in all foods she consumes.
This little girl is full of determination, confidence and strength. She was diagnosed at four years old. Many times her parents feel that she is even stronger than they are when dealing with the injections, blood testing, high and low readings and restless leg syndrome.
Her parents gave her fundamental values and beliefs. She has not had time to experience life for its hardships and how she will cope, until now. She is one of the most influential people and pillars of strength I have ever seen. FYI, she wants to be a doctor when she grows up and was given her first real stethoscope when she was four by her aunt. I have no doubt she will fulfill her dream. This child is her most authentic self at four and is now only six years old.
While I didn’t have a childhood illness, I was diagnosed with Type 2 adult onset diabetes at the age of 37. Many people in my family currently struggle and previously have struggled with this disease and it is not easy. This was a devastating diagnosis because I had to learn what foods and portion sizes had an effect on my blood sugar. I had to cut way back on foods that I love. Eventually I went from pills to injections at every meal and I don’t think I was as strong as my friend’s six year old. My authentic self had to learn how to adjust and cope to a new normal.
In 2015, I had another devastating diagnosis. My world and most authentic self was rocked to my core at 43 years old. While I thought I was experiencing gallbladder issues my doctor delivered the news that I had stage 4 inoperable pancreatic and liver cancer, adenocarcinoma.
I was dumbfounded, swimming in shock and disbelief. Are you sure you have the correct chart? My question was confirmed with an endoscopy result and now to digest the information and deliver it to my husband, parents, in-laws and my boss. I had a month to prepare for port surgery and chemotherapy. I relied on my faith, optimism, tenacity and propensity not to take no for an answer (fundamental values and personality traits of my most authentic self) to fight for my life. Between flight and fight, flight was not an option for me. Was I afraid, confused, in a fog? Yes, of course! As the port surgery date approached I was of the mindset “Let’s do this full force! What’s next?”
I am happy to report that three and 1/2 years later I am still fighting the good fight by the Grace of God. My condition is still inoperable, but is stable through faith, optimism, and chemotherapy. Stability is just as good as shrinkage and means no growth in my pancreatic tumor and minimal growth and some shrinkage of liver tumors.
I am grateful to be alive and try to inspire others with my voice, my writing of experiences past and thus far. I use my drive, tenacity and my propensity to not take no for an answer to fight against stage 4 cancer.
I know that all of us have crosses to bear in this life. Mine may be different than yours but that does not mean better or worse than what you are going through. Know that this too shall pass and rely on faith to garner the strength you need. If you never ask, you will never receive; everyone is worthy of miracles. Embrace victories no matter the size as miracles that are bestowed on you.
Today was my 89th treatment. Treatment for me is for life or until chemo meds, trials and innovations stop working. My fight is not over and my most authentic self-traits have brought me this far. Where will your most authentic self take you? It is your life’s journey to discover the answer.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Finding Your Voice And Give Yourself Permission to Use It by Judy Hoberman
- Our Messy Authentic Self by Shannon Thomas LCSW-S
- Coulda Been The Whiskey… Mighta Been The Gin… by Rebecca Liston
- The Courage to “Follow Your Bliss” by Kristin Kaufman