I have written that one of the ways to achieve authenticity is to embrace our "mistakes" and to have compassion for ourselves in this perpetually imperfect human experience. We can't be authentic if we are only willing to express and have contact with the parts of ourselves that we think other people want to see. While I have read books by brilliant authors and have heard many people speak on these topics in the past, I have had to take my own personal journey towards an experience of wholeness. I've had to dive into the waters of what it means to be genuine, transparent, unique, and imperfectly perfect. I have had to apply the principles (and continue to apply them) in order to glimpse some understanding of what they mean. These personal experiences have led me to a true fascination and appreciation of authenticity in all its forms, and I realize now that I didn't truly understand what people were talking about until I had some lived experience of my own.
I also realize the irony of writing about these same concepts now, knowing that telling someone usually doesn't penetrate. But I offer these words as a seed that you might grow in your own life. Rather than crafting a compelling story about personal development and authenticity, I want to encourage you to find out what it means for yourself. Embrace all of your hopes, dreams, gifts and flaws and see where they take you. Trust the process, engage in it fully, look under the rocks that compel you to investigation, make the call you've been longing to make, get the haircut you've been afraid to get and even if you hate it—notice what it feels like to take a risk, focus on the moment to moment experience of being alive and follow the trail of choices before you. Know that there really aren't mistakes, only more information that leads you to yet another choice, and then boldly choose.
Can you remember a distinct, personal and private moment from your past? One where you felt connected to yourself, your purpose, or your essential nature? Maybe it's a complete picture or just a wisp of a moment in time. Connect to that now. See it in your mind's eye and set the intention to amplify it, to trust it, to take care of it like the most precious commodity you have. I can remember the feeling of writing my journal as a child, or the color and texture of the carpet in my Grandmother's cabin against the soles of my small feet. These are freeze-frames of me-ness, without judgment or agendas—just grounded being. I encourage you to remember those moments in your life, to be on the lookout for them now, and know that there is magic contained in those spiritual spaces in time where the unique individual that you are is vibrating at a perfect pitch. To me, these moments are like "authenticity unplugged" and we have the extraordinary opportunity to plug them in to the rest of our lives.
As always, I welcome your comments and personal experiences on what it means to be authentic, to be emotionally sober, and to be living each and every moment of your life to the fullest.
Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice.
Copyright by Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D., 2012. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include links to the original on Psychology Today.