I have been thinking a lot lately about what it is to be authentic. Tied up in the many changes of the past year (leaving a job that made me unhappy but also composed a large part of my identity, going back to school, turning 30) is I think–I hope–a greater effort to live like the most authentic me. Socrates supposedly claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living; not leaving us with a detailed description of how to examine our life, however, leaves the figuring out up to us. I was in high school when I first read about the unexamined life; I don’t remember now when or where. I do remember thinking to myself that I had to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, so that I could get on with being me. I think by now I’ve got it right: that this figuring out, this examining, IS life. It’s not something that you do once–Examine Life, check–and then spend the rest of your days living as your best self. Lightbulb moment.
Part of midlife is scooping up all the different versions of yourself that you’ve created to please folks, and integrating them into one whole, authentic person. This is tough work for me. I’m so good at assessing exactly who I need to be and when I need to be it. It’s really too bad that “alternating” eventually sucks your soul right out of your body.
In addition to curbing the chameleon action, the other part of integrating has been the very painful process of reconnecting with the parts of myself that I orphaned over the years. You know – the parts of ourselves that we abandon because they get in the way of who and what we need to be now.
The ever-eloquent and inspirational Brene Brown wrote these words in a recent post about accepting all your past selves, the insecure ones, the ones who did things that you would never do now, the ones who who brash and thought they knew-it-all, and letting them be.
Hard, too, is seeing your way to supporting those in your life to be their most authentic selves. Although our kids are still just little, they definitely have minds of their own. It’s a struggle to know when to exercise parental authority, when to let the kids make their own choices, and, even harder, recognizing when I’m cloaking a decision in this is what’s best for you when really it’s this is what easiest for mommy. I have always had a tendency towards bossiness; I can see that and own it. I have a younger sister who bore (bears) the brunt of it, and as I got older I learned to temper it so as not to p*ss off everyone around me. Where is the line between bossing and parenting?