I used to believe that how we live, the way we dress and behave, where we work, and how our houses are decorated, tell a story of who we truly are. However, I’ve changed my way of thinking, as I’ve become aware of the many people I know, who live and dress and have their being according to others’ expectations. I notice how many are living familial beliefs that are far removed from their authentic selves. I also realize the ease and comfort we can feel when we’re stuck in familial patterns, and no matter our age, it can be difficult to break free and live life our way. Though we may dislike our lives, we can stay stuck because it feels familiar and it fits into our comfort zone.
Take my friend, Charlotte. Recently, while speaking to her about wearing red, which I wear often, she remarked that she had been taught that “ladies of the night” wore red, therefore she does not wear red. Even though she likes red, her wardrobe is composed of dull, drab colors. I said to her, “Aren’t you glad that you’re an adult now and you can make your own choices?” I saw the light bulb go off in her head as she responded, “I never thought of that. You’re right. I’m an adult and I can wear red if I want to.” What I know about this lovely friend of mine is that there is a bright, ebullient, free spirit hiding behind the matronly, conservative life she lives. However, due to the messages she received while growing up, she feels she has to be a certain way, so she stays stuck in her patterns.
My experience is that this is the story of all of our lives. We become programmed by our caregivers, to be what and who they believe we should be. Our programming is based on their rules and their beliefs, and as children we are usually not given any choice to retain our own true sense of self. We are taught to “color within the lines”, to obey the rules, and to not question mom and dad’s word. And there’s nothing wrong with coloring inside the lines, if the lines are our boundaries and not someone else’s. Most of us grow up believing that what our families told us is etched in stone and there is no other way. We each have our own unique set of programming that we believe represents who we are, and unfortunately, many stay stuck in this program for their entire life and miss the freedom of being authentic.
It’s good and it’s right to question our beliefs and our patterns. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me the “proper” way to hang clothes on a line. Because my grandmother said it was the right way to do it, I believed it and didn’t ever question it. One day I found myself in an argument with someone over the right way to hang clothes on a line. As I was trying to tell her that she had to hang the towels first, then the underwear, and lastly the socks, I experienced extreme shock as I saw what I was doing. I was stuck in a belief and ready to fight over something that really didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of life. I began to wonder how many other things I did and said and modeled my life after that had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with what someone else believed was right. Finding out who I was and learning to be my authentic self became paramount.
Learning who we are is a lifelong journey, and we have to be willing and ready to take that trip. I knew it was time to put my foot on the path when I realized I was not happy or satisfied with my life. I could experience happiness at times, but true joy eluded me. My happiness depended on outward circumstances, and I somehow knew that joy was inward and was not dependent on what was happening in my world. At the same time I became clear about how much I needed others’ approval. Lacking true self-worth, I spent a lot of time and did a lot of things I didn’t even like in order to be accepted. “No” was a word that was hard for me to utter because I was afraid if I said no, I might not be liked. I’m grateful that in my spirit I knew I needed to find out what I really wanted in life in order to live fully and authentically. I began the journey that has taken me into my soul and into the discovery of who I truly am and who I am not. It’s not always been an easy journey, but it’s always been fulfilling and healing.
If you’re not sure whether you’re living your authenticity take a look around and within. Do your clothes, your home, your hair, your furnishings, your friends, your job, and the way you live feel good and right for you? Are you truly happy with yourself and life? How often do you do things or say things because it’s what’s expected, even though you don’t believe in what you’re saying and doing? Does your life mirror joy, peace, and contentment or are you top-heavy with fear, misery, and anxiety?
When I look at myself today, I know I’m being true to who I am. I’ve been told I dress like a gypsy and a bohemian and when I hear that I heartily respond with “Thank you. ” I buy what I like and I wear a lot of bright colors, which is right for me because it expresses my life. My way of dressing may not be right for you, but it is for me and since I dress for myself, my clothes suit me. My hair is curly, long, and usually looks untamed. The only time it is combed and smooth is when I have it straightened. My mother tells me often that a person my age should not wear long hair. When I ask her how she thinks I should wear it, she says, “Short. You’re too old for long hair.” My response to her is usually, “That’s not my belief mother, that’s yours.” There may be many who think I should cut my hair and wear it short , as befitting an older woman, but I’m no longer invested in looking like others think I should. I wear my hair the way I like it and feel comfortable doing that.
Having the courage and the strength of character to look within and ask questions is the way to find your authenticity. When you inquire of yourself you’ll get answers, and if you listen carefully you’ll know if you’re on the path you’re meant to walk. You are the author of your life and you have the power to change what’s not working. The journey to self-discovery is a blissful one, and if you’re feeling the need to find your authentic self, I trust you’ll put your foot on the path and start walking, one step at a time.