Authenticity

What does it mean to be authentic?

I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought lately. At its core, being authentic is being true to yourself. Easy, right?

Not so much, it turns out.

Children are the most authentic humans I know. They freely express their emotions – from sheer joy and delight to downright defiance, speak their mind (the wisdom that comes from these wee, little beings is mind-boggling) and have an innate belief in themselves, their abilities and the possibilities of life. “Reality” is not going to interfere with their dreams.

Of course I can be a superhero-dragon-training-fairy princess!”

And if these children grow up with parents that mirror their joy and genius, chances are they’ll continue to listen to their inner voice into adulthood. We should all be so lucky.

But if they have parents that deflect their fragile truth, who don’t affirm their gifts and talents, then slowly it becomes buried as they conform to whatever norms their social circle embraces.

I fall into the latter category. This isn’t about blame. You can’t teach or model what you don’t know and chances are these norms and behaviors have been passed on from generation to generation. I can look at my family dynamics in a detached manner and understand why people acted the way they did. And I can also be incredibly grateful because I broke the mold. It took me 50 years to realize it – I’m the maverick in my family!

Listening to our inner voice is complicated for women because our brains are wired to connect. It’s a survival tactic. In a study that examined the effect stress has on men and women, men went into the typical “fight or flight” mode. Women, on the other hand went into a “tend and befriend” state – protect the children and make friends. There is safety in numbers.

The combo of being disconnected from your authentic voice and the biological drive to connect with others can create a perfect storm – we feel like we are losing ourselves. I know the feeling, I’ve uttered those words. When we aren’t living from our truth we tend to rely on these connections to define us. It’s why we find it hard to end a relationship even when we know it’s wrong for us. We give the connection priority. How can it be any other way? We don’t have the wisdom of our inner voice to balance us.

In me, this imbalance created a need for approval. I feared rejection because without the guidance and support of my inner voice, I didn’t know who I was so I relied on others to validate me. I accommodated their wants and needs even if it went against my own truth (even if deeply buried, your inner truth will make itself known, usually physically – headaches, butterflies, muscle spasms, etc). I felt like I was slowly sinking under.

They key to authenticity isn’t to give up our connections. It doesn’t mean never compromising or accommodating someone else’s needs over our own. We have room to grow and our truth will change. The key is to reconnect with our inner voice.

How do you do that?

Listen.

If you’re truth is buried deeply, chances are that voice in your head is your inner critic so you’ll have to listen to your body. How do you feel? Do your actions or decisions resonate? Do you feel heady with excitement? Are you engaged and losing all track of time? Do you feel expansive? Or, does it feel like you’ve got a mud brick sitting in your gut? Are you dragging your feet? Does it feel like drudgery? Are you unable to focus on anything because you’re too upset? Do you silently stew?

Pay attention to what lights your fire and what dampens your spirit. In order to connect on a meaningful level, you first need to connect with yourself.

Question your thoughts.

Instead of assuming you know what the other person wants and trying to bend yourself in a pretzel to accommodate them, ask. If you find yourself disagreeing, that’s OK. You don’t have to nor should you, agree on everything. If you want a real connection, you’re going to have to dive deep and not just skate on the surface. If you can’t negotiate your differences or you don’t feel safe speaking your truth, you don’t have a real connection and the sooner you learn this, the better. Give up being the designated compromisor. Real, lasting, meaningful relationships are a give and take for both parties.

You’re not for everyone.

Get over the fact that everyone has to or is going to like you. It’s unrealistic. Focus on the people who you like and like you instead of wasting your time on trying to convince someone otherwise. Life is too short to be giving away your energy to someone or something that will not enhance your life.

Accept yourself.

You have nothing to prove. There are no tests to pass. Your mere existence is proof that you are enough. You don’t need anyone’s approval. We are works in progress, accept and acknowledge your gifts and flaws. No one is perfect so quit pretending you are. Our willingness to admit vulnerability is our strength. It’s what makes us human. Personally, I give mine a blankie and some hot chocolate so they’ll be quiet, curl up in the back seat and quietly watch the scenery and while my strengths take the wheel.

When we reconnect with our truth, an amazing thing happens. We mirror and acknowledge other people’s truth, no matter how different it is from ours. We may even be influenced and grow from the experience.

The irony is when we connect from a place of authenticity, it’s deeper and more satisfying than anything we could ever imagine

Authentic Marketing

authentic marketing

My inbox is flooded with offers – webinars for turning pinterest into a business, how to use Facebook groups to make money, how to be a six figure author and speaker, etc. Then there’s the calls from telemarketers who can get my name at the top of a google search (for the right price) or “radio” producers who want to interview you for their show, give you 10 minutes (which never airs), lavishes you with praise (“You’re just what we’re looking for!”) only to try to sell you a slot (for a ridiculous amount of money.). One so called internet radio station called me and when I looked them up they had only been around for 3 months yet they claimed to have “millions” of listeners. When I ask for names of other people who have done it, somehow we got mysteriously disconnected. With one station, I actually found some people who had paid for a “show” and contacted them. It was unanimous that they didn’t get a good ROI on their investment.

The amount of promotional materials and marketing calls I get is overwhelming, not to mention, it could get pretty expensive if I bought into every webinar, online class and promotional stunt out there.

I’ll confess, I have bought into some of them and they were fine. There were others I thought about buying but the price tag was a little too big for me. I want my books to be bestsellers. I want sold out workshops. I want financial, emotional and intellectual success so these offers are enticing. So should we succumb to their siren song?

At a recent NAPW meeting, Jean Berry came to teach us the Miracle Manifesting Formula. She is fun, energetic and smart. Check out her game Angels, Peacocks and Butterflies – 100 days of Miracles. But then again, I think play should be a vital part of our business and our life. I’m certainly working to incorporate more play into my business.

Anyway, the big takeaway for me was:

“You need to do what you need to do out of inspiration and that’s how your business will grow”

I already knew this but it was validating. So many “experts” are out there telling you this is how you’re suppose to run your business:

“Facebook marketing is the way to go”

“You need to have an Instagram account”

“Have to have a website”

All these “have to’s”, “should’s”, “musts” – it’s enough to make your head spin. The problem is I’ve tried my fair share of things and you know what? My follow through has been crap. Why? Because they didn’t feel right to me.

This is my business and I can follow the “experts”, try everything, drain my bank account as well as my confidence doing things that don’t feel right to me. And that’s the key word – feel. Does it resonate with you? Are you excited and energized? Or does it feel like one more thing you have to do?

We live in a world where we have lots of options and for that I am grateful. But I learned I have to shut out the external noise about what I “should” or am “suppose” to do and listen to what my gut tells me. And that’s what you get to do too. If something doesn’t feel right, if you can’t seem to make yourself do it, then do something different! Pick something that makes you sing!

 

 

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

Authenticity and Entrepreneurship

When you have three meetings in a day and in each of them the same word comes up, you take notice.

That word was authenticity.

I like Miriam Webster’s definition of authentic:

true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

It doesn’t surprise me at all that each of these meetings were with women.

I don’t think being authentic is something men worry about. I could be wrong as I’m not a man, but I know women of my generation were told, subtly or not, that to succeed in the workplace we had to be more like men – dress more like them, don’t be emotional, etc. One of the women I talked to told me she was advised to dye her naturally blonde hair darker to avoid looking like “Barbie”, the implication being no man would take her seriously. Can you imagine? She went darker but now that she owns her own business she proudly displays her beautiful blonde mane.

In her book Leaning In, Sheryl Sandberg, points out that success in the traditional workplace was often contingent upon a woman not speaking out but fitting in. We often compromised our goals for our spouses and children, sometimes willingly to be a stay-at-home mom, other times to avoid conflict because, as Sandberg notes,women are discouraged from advocating for themselves.

The point is many women my age have been socialized to play a role because being ourselves wasn’t good enough. When you get to the mid-century mark though, have raised your kids and accumulated enough life experience and time is closing in on you, you get real. Suddenly, you have no patience for all the bull, the drama or squandering time working towards someone else’s dream while yours withers. I think that is why so many women (of my generation) are  building their own businesses, because we’ve been told (subtly and not-so-subtly) that to succeed we can’t be ourselves. I spent decades thinking something was wrong with me so I tried to “fix” myself. Denying my true nature made for some very difficult, unhappy, unfulfilling years. Once I accepted myself, aligned with my strengths and values, a peaceful calm took over me. As a business owner I get to be who I want to be.

For me, being authentic has been a discovery process. I made certain assumptions about myself. Since I started my entrepreneurial adventure and realized the only person’s expectations I had to live up to were my own, I’ve surprised myself. Having suppressed or tried to change my true nature for so long , I’ve learned that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. This was inevitable but it’s been eye-opening.

For instance, I learned that I’m a lot more social than I thought. And I have a deep desire to take what I’ve learned and help others achieve their dreams. Of course there were hints here and there but I was too worried about getting approval and trying to “fit” in or do things the way the “experts” instructed that these gifts didn’t have the space to shine. Now that I’ve come to accept and, dare I say love and honor, my unique qualities, they’re bubbling up to the surface.

Building a business is tough. There is a lot to learn, challenges to overcome and fears to face but the reward for your perseverance is your own little universe where you write the rules according to your values and get to express your talents.

That, my friend, is living an authentic life.

 

 

Not Knowing is the Path

Not knowing is the path

I’ve taken up meditation. I’m horrible at it. But at the end I say a little prayer to acknowledge the blessings in my life. I don’t have a set prayer, I usually just say something off the top of my head and yesterday I said, out of nowhere, “Not knowing is the path.”

Whoa! This struck an immediate cord with me.

Not knowing is the path.

Maybe there’s something to this meditation stuff after all. But what does that even mean? A couple of things came to my mind.

  1. Our strength lies in our vulnerability.  Do you think you have to know all the answers before your begin? That’s how we’re trained, isn’t it? But none of us know it all. NO ONE. In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says that mentality weakens us as individuals because “the search for understanding, knowing there is no ultimate answer, becomes a creative process.” He goes on to say, “Then curiosity, previously buried under the belief that ‘I know the answer’ is free to surface. The fear that ‘I don’t know, but perhaps he or she does,’ or ‘I don’t know but I should,’ dissolves”. Not knowing makes us curious and open. When I tried to hide my “not knowing” (that includes my lack of experience) it always backfired on me. I was wearing a mask and it wasn’t fulling anyone, least of all myself. But when I admitted I was a beginner, that I didn’t know but I was willing to learn, a lot of supportive people showed up. People like to help and it takes guts to say “I don’t know.”
  2. Not knowing leads to growth. For me, part of the appeal of being an entrepreneur is exploring new ideas, developing new skills, facing new challenges. I am easily bored. I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over and over again. Not knowing is the path because when you choose to go down it, that’s were the magic happens. That’s where we stretch outside our comfort zone (sometimes we are dragged there), where we learn about ourselves and our ability to grow into our goals. That’s what this whole journey, at least for me, is all about.
  3. Not knowing keeps us open to the possibilities. I told a friend I never would call myself an “expert” because once I did, I was closing my mind off to new possibilities. No matter how far I come, there will always be something new to learn, areas to grow. It’s never ending. I never want to be at the point where I say “I know it all, there is nothing more to learn on the subject.” Life is continually changing and we can move forward with it or we can stop. I’ve seen first hand what happens when people stop. It’s tragic. I want to stay engaged in life.

The takeaway is don’t let not knowing stop you from doing what you want to do. Creating a business is a process, a journey. It’s not plug in and go. There will be parts you feel confident about and other parts you don’t have a clue to how to do. And there are still parts you don’t even know you don’t know – yet.

It’s good to have a starting point, know what you want to do, who you want to do it for and how you’re going to do it but there’s still a lot of leeway and flexibility. You don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t so try something. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not knowing is the path.