My Word of the Year: Authentic

by Auriel

This year I decided to try something new and choose a Word of the Year for 2019.  That is, one word to represent my intentions, goals and desires. A theme for the year ahead.

The first word that popped into my head was peace. I really want to be that zen, mindful person that meditates and does yoga.  That person who doesn’t get stressed or worry about the small stuff. The one who’s at peace with themselves and the world around them.

That’s who I ultimately strive to be…And one day I will be that person.  But I have some work to do first.

I had a few other options for my word of the year, but the other top contender was authentic.  A word I’ve been hearing a lot lately, especially when it comes to blogging. With the hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, you have to have your own unique voice and style so that you can stand out from the crowd, but also be relatable and connect with readers. You must be authentic.

But authenticity isn’t just necessary for writing a blog. I realized that if I want to be that peaceful, zen person I envision, I need to first focus on living authentically–knowing myself, accepting my strengths and weaknesses, not being afraid to be vulnerable, and not caring what anyone thinks about it.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

-Brené Brown

I believe that is really the first step toward achieving that inner peace I’m looking for.

So this year I’m focusing on being authentic.  But how??

Letting Go of Perfection

This is a hard one for me.  I’m a HUGE perfectionist and have been for as long as I can remember.  My dad always tells the story of how, when my parents separated, he had to comb my hair for school and I would get so upset and make him redo it if ever my pigtails weren’t perfectly symmetrical on both sides of my head. I was maybe 6 or 7 years old then.

So this goes wayyyy back!

Until recently I thought being a perfectionist was a great thing.  It afforded me good grades, compliments and praise, acceptance into excellent schools, and many other accolades.  

But honestly, it’s draining. I might even go so far as to say it’s debilitating. You put so much pressure on yourself and you fear any mistake and this makes you barely want to do anything at all. It stops you from taking risks, it makes you question your every move, you knit pick at everything you do and you constantly wonder if what you’re doing is good enough to reach that elusive standard you have set.

And when you don’t hit that mark of perfection, it can be painful.

There’s no better example of my perfectionism in action than with this very blog.  I’ve been working at it for over a year. Choosing a domain, tweaking the design, deciding on the niche, playing with topics, not to mention all the research on the best way to do xy and z.  

Not to mention writing posts and feeling the need to double and triple check to make sure everything, down to each sentence, sounds perfect.  

I got to the point where I thought maybe this whole blogging thing wasn’t for me. It shouldn’t take me a literal day and a half to write one post. But I have to shake that pressure off because I don’t want this to hold me back.

I’m learning that “done is better than perfect.”

I’m also learning that perfect and authentic don’t mix. You can’t be perfect and authentic because perfect isn’t possible.  It’s not real.

So this year, if I’m going to be authentic, I have to let go of trying to be perfect.

Easier said than done…but my strategy is to strive for imperfection.

It’s so ingrained in me to set goals, but instead of doing things in the name of perfection, I’m going to work toward accepting and showcasing my imperfections.

That means…

Being vulnerable.

Not being afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

Being ok with being wrong.

And not worrying about anyone’s opinion.

Self-Acceptance and Self-love

To be authentic is to know, accept and love that person you see in the mirror everyday. It’s being ok with not just the good, but the bad and the ugly. And not being afraid to show all three sides.  

I realized that so often I focus on the person I want to become–more successful, more fit, clearer skin, better communicator, happier–that I completely neglect the person that I am right now.  

But I must say, who I am today deserves a little more credit. She’s working hard, she’s learning and growing each day, she’s following her own path, and taking more risks than ever before.

This year I want to get re-acquainted with that person.  I need to get crystal clear on who I am–values, goals, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses. And most importantly, what gives me peace and joy.

That means…

Wiping the dust off my journal and developing a regular practice of writing to going deeper with my thoughts and feelings.

Giving myself grace–setting goals for the future, but accepting enjoying who and where I am right now.

Listening to and trusting my intuition.

And using positive affirmations of self-love and encouragement.

Living for Me

At some point in my childhood, I learned the importance of keeping up appearances. That there was an image I needed to uphold to the outside world.  At home you can let your hair down, but outside you need to be on point–have your clothes ironed and cuffed, be polite and likeable and never overshare.  

A lot of the messaging I received was framed as:  if you do ____ then people will think ___.

For example, if you dress nicely, then people will think you’re so cute.  If you don’t do your homework, then people will think you’re lazy.

Naturally, I became really conscious of my image and how I was perceived by the world. I prioritized external validation and other people’s opinions over my own.

I really became aware of this a couple of years ago when I arrived at an important decision: whether or not to go to law school.

This wasn’t just an idea that popped into my head, but a long term plan I had since college. I was to graduate with a degree in sociology, work as a Teach for America corps member, go to law school, and have a career in education law and policy.

It made perfect sense, sounded great. But I knew, if I was being completely and 100% honest, that wasn’t the life I wanted.  It was what I thought I was supposed to do, what would look good to the outside world.

Ultimately, I decided against going to law school and the experience taught me that I’ve got to start living for me.

I’m unlearning those early messages and valuing my own opinion over everybody else’s.

That means…

Reframing my thought process–asking how something will make me feel, instead of what people will think about it.

Doing what feels good and resonates with me.

Posting the things I like on social media and not caring about likes or comments.

Not being afraid to say no.

And embracing the fact that I won’t always be liked.

Authenticity is a journey and something to work at everyday. I’m excited to start 2019 with this focus and intention and I encourage you to do the same! If you want to know how you can choose your own Word of the Year for 2019, check out my post here.

But I want to know…what does being authentic mean to you? How do you show authenticity in your daily life? Do you have any tips for being a more authentic person? Let me know in the comments below.

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