I’ve never met a person who claimed they want to be fake.
Most of us desire to show up in the world in a real, meaningful and dare I say “authentic” way.
The trouble with trying to become more authentic is that authenticity can’t be chased.
In fact, if you’re actively looking for it, you’re missing the entire point. We will not find our authentic selves by looking around us, watching what others are doing, or searching outside of ourselves.
Authenticity requires vulnerability.
And vulnerability is found by turning inside and deciding to look.
The reason so many of us miss the mark with authenticity is that this kind of inspection into who we really are is scary as hell.
Because I’m not talking about a mere glance here. You can’t give your shit a quick side-eye and consider it seen. I’m talking about digging deep and really looking at your shit. (And yes, I’m aware. Super professional word. Yet somehow, it fits. Think about it. Everyone has it. Everyones’ stinks. And very rarely, do you get excited by the prospect of either examining it or for the love, talking about it.)
We all have shit. And if we want to be authentic and genuine, we must be willing to dig into it, see it for what it is, and have the courage to speak about it.
I consider the ability to do this owning your story.
We all have a story.
Some stories are darker, scarier and far more awful than others and as hard as it might seem to believe, it’s not the depth or severity of the story that really matters.
What matters is your willingness to let it be heard.
This past week, I was reminded how powerful this is.
I had the privilege of hearing a fellow NoDak blogger speak at a local event. She is known for her quality speaking and generally, she speaks on the topic of farm advocacy which is (IMHO) an indisputably important topic. There is so much misinformation about food and her goal is to clear it up and help people understand where their food comes from.
She is really good at speaking about this topic. She shares her family’s professional farming experience and it would definitely qualify as “her story”.
But at this particular event, she wasn’t speaking about farming practices.
She shared about her journey of receiving and working through a thyroid cancer diagnosis over the last year.
This was personal.
As soon as she got past her brief opening and started telling her story, she began to cry.
Her surprise at her own reaction was evident and she literally fought through her feelings about crying in front of an audience while crying and standing in front of an audience.
That takes courage. That requires bravery. That is authenticity.
She owned her story.
Recently, another dear friend shared a similar experience.
She’s a gifted speaker and recently found the courage to open up and share a part of her life that practically no one knew about. It’s the stuff of Lifetime movies, I kid you not. It involved traumatic, serious, and life-altering experiences.
And until recently, she’d never spoken aloud about it.
We cried together as she shared her story with me because I was counted among those that were not-in-the-know.
This experience unlocked the truth in her and undoubtedly helped many, many people who heard it. Was it painful? Absolutely. I truly can’t imagine the pain she felt reliving those experiences.
But it was also beautiful, raw, and again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, authentic. She’s not a crier by nature and to cry in front of an audience? Never.
But by allowing her real, true self to shine through, she said, in her own words, “I feel free.”
Now if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking to yourself, Yeah, but my story isn’t special. I haven’t had cancer, lost a close loved one, or experienced any other serious trauma like you must be speaking about, allow yourself to be encouraged.
That really isn’t the point.
It doesn’t actually matter what your specific experiences are. If you’re unwilling to accept them as part of your story and talk about them, you can’t be your truest self.
You may also be questioning whether owning your story means you need to share it loudly and proudly on a stage with crowds of people like the examples that I shared.
No, that’s not the truth in the least.
You only need an audience of one. (Psst…that’s you…)
Being honest with yourself, owning your story, and embracing the truth about who you are is how you live authentically and frankly, how you move forward and write a different ending if you so choose.
I’m because we’re talking honesty here, I’ll end with my truth.
I still often have feelings of unworthiness because my story is so…boring.
When the editor I worked with to write my book suggested I write it as a memoir, I had no idea why anyone would care.
I didn’t want to own my story because it seemed too easy, too privileged, and not “dark” enough.
Here’s the truth: this isn’t a competition. No one wins for having the “best” or the “worst” story. The only way we win is to confidently own our own story.
Once we do, we can start showing up in the world like only we can.
ICYMI, here’s the clip of me sharing my story on television. Yes, not exactly a subtle way to share your story…but, I’m determined to keep sharing the triumphs and the challenges because I know that people connect through honest, real stories.
Our pain, struggles, and hardships, whether traumatic or seemingly standard, are a natural part of life and they only get bigger and scarier when we keep them in the dark.
Bring your truth out into the light.
I am owning my story.
I hope you’ll own yours, too.