A New Year, an Authentic You

I wanted to say something profound this first day of the new year, you know, dazzle you with my literary composition skills or evoke a tear over something perfectly poignant.  Maybe I will.  Later.  Instead, right now, I want to give you a pep talk.

Are you living the life of which you dream?  If you are, congratulations.  You deserve good things, unconditionally, as much as anyone else.  Never feel bad for following your dreams and doing what’s right for you.

If you aren’t living the life of your dreams, what’s holding you back?  Well, I can tell you what was holding me back.  Fear.  Fear of failure.  Mostly, fear of disapproval, fear of not being accepted and loved.  Hiding behind fears left me angry and bitter because it never provided the love and acceptance and approval for which I pined.  I blamed others for my stuckedness and, certainly, there were some people who took advantage of my fears and contributed to my misery.  I worried that walking away would leave me even more vulnerable and would mean that I failed.  I had allowed myself to be convinced that other people’s decisions were my responsibility, that I would be to blame for their outcomes.  Ultimately, only I could remove myself from those situations and relationships, and it had become clear that anything short of leaving wasn’t going to work.  Staying allowed me to blame them and continue the cycle of misery, but it was a dead end.  It was never going to end until I got out.

Messy, isn’t it?  I didn’t even give you any specifics but you probably feel like you need a shower.  That’s how it is when we are stuck.  It’s nasty and awkward and chaotic.  It’s walking on eggshells every day of your life.  It’s feeling on edge, grinding your teeth at night, constantly poised to defend yourself.  It affects absolutely every aspect of your life and health.  You don’t sleep well, you have digestive issues, you might struggle with overeating or smoking or drinking or other forms of self-soothing or self-medicating.  You might get every virus that goes around or just generally feel unwell all the time.  Because of the lack of sleep and state of feeling unwell, you may be short-tempered or moody or lack motivation.  All of this and more can happen as a result of living a counterfeit life.  When you are doing and saying things with which you don’t agree to get a desired result – to keep the peace in a relationship, to be accepted, to keep a job – it takes a toll.  It can literally make you sick and perpetuates your misery in every possible way.

So how do you get unstuck?  Well, you take action.  You do something differently.  How I did it was I availed myself of therapy and various self-help programs and books over the years – yes, years – that I planned my exit.  I got to know my own crazy.  All that knowledge of myself and my circumstances, the awareness of my motives, served to intensify my misery.  But don’t get me wrong, I needed to get more uncomfortable because that’s what propelled me forward.  I made an exit strategy from my old life and an entrance plan for the life I wanted and then I just had to do it.  I vacillated between staying and going like a bobble head on a dashboard.  It was agony.  At some point, after I had planned things to the nth degree, I had to forego the planning and just take a chance because the getting was suddenly good.  It was scary.  At one point there was an eviction notice and a new plan to sell everything and live in my car until I found a new job.  This was when I learned to ask for help, another scary thing.  I talked about my dreams openly and, because of that and the plans I had previously made, solutions presented themselves in the nick of time.  People stepped up to help.  Not all at once, but it did come together.  In four short months, my life was transformed and I was living my dream.

I want to be clear about what this transformation looked like.  It included new jobs, a handful of new relationships, a pile of relationships lost, drastically improved health, a sense of calm, and never having to say anything that is incongruent with what I believe.  It included permission from myself to continue to change and learn and grow.  It also included a loss of income, a reduction in standard of living, and a reassessment of what is most important.  For a while, it included huge financial uncertainties and concerns about what I would eat on a given day and the very real possibility of homelessness.  It was not without peril.  But I got through it.

Last night I spoke to an acquaintance I hadn’t seen since the spring.  She, too, is undergoing a transformation and, like me, she found the losses and uncertainty totally worth it because she no longer has to pretend.  She is finally pursuing her dream, too.  The parallels were uncanny.  We are two people each becoming our authentic selves and that fear that kept us stuck is falling away.  It’s not that things have become more certain for either of us; rather, things are more volatile in both of our worlds.  Yet neither of us is afraid of the uncertainty.  In comparing notes, it seems that having walked through the fear of beginning the change has rendered fear moot.  What kind of change are we talking about here?  We are both pursuing new degrees, me in human services (BA) and her in music (BFA).  I just got accepted to law school and she is traveling to Austria to perform with a marvelous orchestra.  It’s dreamy stuff, but neither of us know where we will be living in 6 months.  Neither of us cares, either.

So if you feel stuck, if you feel like a fake, if you feel trapped in a life that isn’t what you want for yourself, or if you just want to move forward on the path you are on, I encourage you to take action.  Do some planning, make some arrangements, talk to the people that need talking to, ditch the ones who don’t support you, and then just do it.  Start moving.  Make the change.  You deserve to be fully you.  Kick fear in the teeth and live your life.

If you are scared, reach out.  If you ask the right people for help (read: not the ones helping to keep you stuck), you might be surprised what opportunities present themselves.  You deserve to be fully you.

You are awesome.

Go for it.

Live your dreams.

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