By: Marilyn L. Davis
What is Authentic?
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”— Brené Brown
Authentic means “not false or copied, genuine, or real.” It represents one’s true nature or beliefs, and when we’re authentic, we’re true to ourselves.
I think authenticity is essential for people in recovery because we’ve worn masks in our addictions to hide. We pretended to be okay at a PTA meeting, hoping people wouldn’t suspect we’d done a line of cocaine before giving the financial report – yes, that was me.
Or we tried to hide our shame and guilt over not being present for our children’s everyday moments by throwing elaborate parties to compensate – yes, that was me, too.
Authenticity is Consistent
An authentic person doesn’t switch up personalities depending on who is present. What you see is what you get rings in my mind at this time. For instance, I’m not a girly girl, wearing pink lace tutus or hair in place. It used to bother me that I couldn’t be more pulled together, but now, who cares.
One spring, I cleaned dead winter leaves from the yard and got called into the house for a phone call from one of our local judges. He started apologizing that my summons wasn’t served and he needed me in court.
Although not the defendant, I was to testify about treatment in the case. I calmly explained that I was dirty from cleaning leaves, dressed in jeans, and couldn’t make it. No, I didn’t think about my answer.
There was a pause, and he asked me, “Is what you’re wearing going to make a difference in what you say?”
I laughed and said, “No. Let me wash my hands, and I’ll be there.”
I realized that what I had to say was more important than what I wore.
Authenticity is Valuing a Changed Me
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
Recovery has taught me that I can’t have all of the successes and accomplishments of the other people in my support group. I also don’t have to experience some of the setbacks that still others have faced. We are all different in that respect. I don’t have to feel jealous or self-righteous if I do compare myself to others. Frankly, comparing is a waste of time.
I merely have to improve myself, not you, nor try to be you.
How Does an Authentic Person Fit In?
With so much exposure due to social media, are you presenting your authentic self? I question this because there are so many apps to alter ourselves. We can be a king/queen, jungle animal, flower, or the one that made me laugh, the “Barbie You” – complete with makeup, hair, and clothing designed to make me into a Barbie doll. Okay, I confess, I went to the app because I got tagged but couldn’t post it.
So, how do we take off the masks and trappings of something we’re not and show our authentic selves?
Look in the Mirror with Love
I am a better person today than I was in my addiction. Wanting to get better was part of my motivation for getting clean. My reason for staying clean is that recovery works to give me the opportunities to get better.
Do you look in the mirror and see a changed person? Then celebrate those changes and realize you’re looking at your authentic self. When you’ve done inner recovery work, practicing self-awareness, mindfulness, and made changes to the aspects you don’t like, then you know your true self.
When All That’s Left is You
I am not my bank account balance, the car I drive, or the possessions I have or don’t have. Yet, many people base their sense of self on these objects. I’ve had money – squandered it on dope.
I’ve had 3 Jaguars, the car not the cats – all gone, I’ve had an insured $10,000 McCoy cookie jar collection – again, gone, pawned to get $2,000 that I spent on dope—getting a picture?
I had those things and didn’t value them; I just used them to facilitate my use.
Then I was left with me.
Finding What Matters – That’s Real
If you discover your values, pursue your purpose, and stand up for causes you care about, that’s your authentic self. Finding this takes time, and some people never realize their authentic selves. I think the benefit of recovery is the Steps force us to confront our addictive behaviors.
Taking the Steps took some time, but they allowed me to see behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts that no longer benefited me and certainly didn’t benefit those I loved. Because I wasn’t using, I had the opportunity to change those things.
I also had to let go or determine the truth in the negative messages. I was no longer a crack whore, uncaring spouse, neglectful mother, or drain on society. But it took time to find positive attributes to refute those negative statements because they were true about me in my use.
Change – Become – Finding Your Authentic Self
I don’t claim to be an expert; I can only share what has worked for me. Each of these eight examples is how I try to remain authentic. Try them; I’m sure they will work for you, too.
- Be honest – speak your truth
- Find the courage to face your fears
- Examine family beliefs to see if they align with your changed self
- Be compassionate with yourself and others
- Stand up for injustices
- Listen to your inner guidance
- Find your life purpose
- Keep improving your recovering self
How Do You Practice Authenticity?
Let me know in the comments how you practice authenticity in your life. It will help me learn new ways to be who I am – me.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook.