Updated: Jul 2, 2021
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~Brene Brown~
Not too long before the world shut down, I started getting into audiobooks. I recently finished Bevelations, by Bevy Smith. I remember listening to the chapter Red Sole Proposition as I was heading to the beach. In this chapter, Bevy posed three questions that really stood out to me, and prompted a moment of self-reflection; “Who am I at my core? “How do others perceive me? How would I like to be perceived?” I began to reflect on how much I struggled with others’ perceptions of me throughout my life. I thought about how hard I tried suppressing my authentic self. I also reflected on the many years it took for me to really figure out who I was at my core, and accept her.
I’d gone most of my life feeling like I wasn’t really allowed to be myself. When I thought about how others perceived me, I was reminded of how it was often communicated to me that my authentic self was unacceptable. Being introverted and naturally quiet, I was usually made to feel like there was something wrong with being quiet. I’d receive suggestions on how to change, been outright told I can’t be quiet, chastised for being quiet, and even had people attempt to physically force me to be something I’m not. I got the message loud and clear. Quiet was negatively perceived.
Not only was I insecure about my personality, people also made sure I knew I wasn't attractive. Great. My personality sucks, and I’m ugly. I’d do my best to hide my face. Hoods and hair were my thing. I was already quiet, I figured I could pull off mysterious. The problem with hiding my face, I rarely made eye contact with people. I didn’t like that focus on me. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be perceived as stuck up, which had to be one of the most hurtful, not to mention confusing assumptions people made of me. How could anyone think I’m stuck up? Have they seen me? Why would I be stuck up? How is it that others perceive me to be someone totally different than who I am at my core? How is it that others perceived arrogance when I showed up, yet I often felt unsure of myself, full of anxiety, and ready to shrink whenever attention was on me. Nobody saw that. They saw someone who doesn’t respect them enough to look them in the eye. Ouch. So yes, there was work to be done, so at the very least, I’m not perceived as disrespectful and stuck up.
I would find myself making an effort to behave as others suggested I should. One familiar piece of advice I’ve received from various people was how to walk into a room. I’d often hear, “you have to work a room with confidence. When you walk into a room, you have to walk in like you’re the baddest in the room.” This never felt right to me (this felt arrogant; why should I walk into a room even pretending I’m better than anyone?), but people convinced me that was what I needed to do. In addition to that, I tried being overly nice and accommodating, even when I was uncomfortable, just to prove to people that I wasn’t the devil. It worked a little, sometimes; however, it’s hard to maintain a personality that really doesn’t belong to you, and my quiet disposition still stood out as a negative. When I could no longer wear the mask, the discomfort was palpable, and so was my unhappiness. I eventually began to show up to the world how I felt to my core, over it. We had a match.
It wasn’t until I stopped obsessing over what others thought of me that I began getting comfortable with who I was. I spent less time trying to be what anyone else said I was supposed to be, and doing things I enjoyed and that felt good and right for me. When I began to do this, I gradually noticed how I began to show up more confident and sure of myself. I keep in mind I’m not for everybody, and that’s ok. It’s ok to have insecurities, everyone does, just don’t be consumed by them. I will continue to do the work to align how I’d like to be perceived with who I am at my core.
Who are you at your core?
How do others perceive you?
How would you like to be perceived?
I recommend reflecting on these questions. Self-reflection can be uncomfortable at times, even painful, but self-awareness is very rewarding.