Are you repressing aspects of your real self? At what cost?
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
(New to this series? Start here.)
So, what’s the point of loving the hell out of myself to become unfcukwithable? Why go on for six blog posts, first talking about the hell that’s within me and then about how I’ve been learning to love it out of me? Why encourage you, my readers, to invest in the unending, difficult, often painful work of personal awareness and development?
Answer: because the ROI is unprecedented. Priceless. And one of the many valuable paybacks is the ability to live authentically.
There’s a lot of buzz these days about living as our real, genuine self. About marching to our own drumbeat. Taking off the mask. Being comfortable in our own, flawed skin. Living in alignment with our personal values. Not living to others’ expectations. Not being a people-pleaser or perfectionist.
Living as our authentic selves means no longer having to hustle for worthiness, approval or validation. It means no longer having to suppress bits of ourselves that we’ve thought of as insufficient, damaged, weird, wrong or different. It means loving the hell—the toxic beliefs, thinking and behaviours—out of ourselves and creating uncontaminated space in which to nurture our perfectly imperfect self.
I can best describe the empowering freedom that comes from living authentically by sharing a childhood experience. I might have been around 10 years old at time. It was the height of summer, and the refreshing water of great Lake Huron—whose Canada-side shore I had the privilege of growing up on—had warmed sufficiently to allow my two younger brothers and me to play in it for an extended time without becoming numb.
One of the water games that summer was a contest between the three of us. We’d each take a volleyball-sized beach ball into the water and with straining, little-kid muscles, we’d each push our ball down as deep as we possibly could below the surface of the water. The further down we forced the ball, the greater the exertion required until we’d reach our physical limits. We’d then each release our ball to a great, geyser-like spray of water, and, of course, the winner was the one whose ball shot the highest into the air.
If our beach balls had the ability, I’m sure we would have heard them shrieking for joy as they exploded upward out of the water.
Those sensations—first of the intense exertion of forcing the ball deeper and deeper until our heads were submerged and our muscles were quivering, and then the vicariously-felt power of release—have remained with me five decades later. The recollection of the childhood game now serves as a vivid, sensorial analogy for what I’ve come to learn about living inauthentically; about the cost of suppressing aspects of myself and living out of alignment with my values. And also, about the joy of release from suppression.
For many years, it took a helluva lot of my energy, focus and attention to keep the bits of me I wanted out of sight pushed down. Just as the air-filled beach ball had a tremendous need to be out of the water and back up in the element where it belonged, my suppressed, authentic self craved to be released into the open, into alignment with my personal values. Year by year, I expended more and more energy to hold down my real-life “beach balls,” until the time came when the pressure to release the balls exceeded the energy I had available to keep them submerged.
My real-life beach balls are aspects of my real self. However, the suppressed balls haven’t exactly been shooting up with sudden release like they did at the beach. They’ve been floating up to the surface gradually over the years, one by one, in the process of my becoming unfcukwithable. Although it’s been a slow-motion liberation, the feeling of freedom with each release is joyously explosive.
Over my life, my repressed aspects have manifested in things such as:
- resisting a strong pull towards a career as a teacher in favour of entering the corporate world. Why? Because the mid-1970s were all about newly liberated women pursuing careers in the business world, beyond the traditional woman’s roles as a teacher, nurse or secretary. Conform to societal expectations, I must! (Now, having left the corporate world, I’m passionately pursuing my dream as an educator, speaker and coach.)
- denying for years the many symptoms of an unhealthy marriage. Why? Because I couldn’t let family and friends—and myself—know I was a failure. (I now know and love and talk about the me that tries and fails, repeatedly.)
- holding down, by the shackles of shame and blame, a long-held secret around infidelity and paternity. Why? Because others would judge me by my unforgivable mistake and reject me. (I forgive and accept my mistake-making self, and am now okay with not everybody liking me or aspects of me.)
- unquestioningly conforming to the tenets of the religion I was born into. Why? Because to deviate from them would cause pain to those closest to me. (I am closest to me and I now enjoy a spirituality that does not cause me pain.)
Earlier on I said I imagined the beach balls shrieking with joy as they exploded skyward. That, my readers, I now know is the feeling of freedom that comes with living with ever-increasing authenticity—with releasing our suppressed, real parts. Whenever I notice myself quivering with the strain of still holding down a “beach ball,” I excitedly say to my inner 10-year-old: let’s see how high this one will go!
What “beachballs” are you expending tremendous energy on keeping pushed down below the surface? Which beachball are you going to release first? What do you need to do first to let it go?
The ability to live authentically is but one benefit of loving the hell out of myself. Want to hear about some others? Read on.
 Unfcukwithable: (adj.) when you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself, and nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you. (Urban Dictionary)