Imagine a world where everybody lived, worked and related to each other as their authentic selves. A world where there was no pretending, no masks, no false personas. A world where the only part anyone played was their own – the one part they were destined to play.
I have a feeling we’d all be a lot happier. And we’d be really good at what we were doing – because we were always meant to be doing it.
I got a glimpse of that world yesterday, and it was a pretty cool place. I took part in a Women in Business conference hosted by the National Black Women’s Network, and the indomitable Sonia Brown MBE (@soniatalks). I was at a similar event in May last year and came away just as inspired and moved to blog about it: If you can dream it.
The difference is that while last time I was sat in the audience, wondering where on earth my career was going and how I was going to find the time and money to maintain my creative writing and pursue my passions, this time I was at the front of the room, stood at the podium, delivering a presentation about those passions.
I gave a workshop on blogging and talked about how blogging had helped me discover my authentic voice after years of silencing it, how it had given me back my love of writing and how it had created a platform from which to approach different newspapers and magazines and write about issues close to my heart.
I talked about my initial motivation for blogging – to publicise my efforts to abstain from negative thoughts about my body, appearance and achievements during Lent last year – and how exploring my feelings, thoughts and ups and downs throughout the past year and a half as I turned 40 and then 41 had been a cathartic experience for me and, from the responses of my blog readers, inspiring for others. And I explained just how far a blog can take you in your career or your business.
And despite all my talk of fear, panic, dread and anxiety in my last post, I didn’t experience any fear, panic, dread or anxiety as I spoke, apart from a few seconds of pre-talk nerves, which, I think, are healthy because they mean I’m moving out of my comfort zone.
And what was the response from the audience to my authentic self? What was the reaction to me being me? It was overwhelmingly positive, affirming and validating. I got so much love, support and positive feedback that I was buzzing until the early hours of the morning.
This is really exciting. It turns out that the love, security, validation and affirmation I’d been chasing my whole life – through a high-profile career, by achieving a certain professional status, by following a well-worn path, by adapting myself to suit the needs of others or by hiding my true self in relationships – is available to me, and by the bucket load, when I’m me.
Nobody else. Not an edited version of myself. Just me.
Authenticity is cool. And I want to write and speak about authenticity and inspire others to be their true selves. I know there will be lots of opportunity to do this in the future – and even to get paid for it.
To give a flavour of my last 24 hours of authenticity, I received many supportive tweets and emails from those who heard my blogging workshop yesterday, I was offered the opportunity to do some paid work in a field that really interests me, I’ve had an encouraging conversation with a literary agent about my book, I’ve been invited to guest blog on another well-read site and I’ve been invited to speak on the radio tomorrow morning about women and wellbeing.
Authenticity rocks. And it brings results.
That was in evidence at the NBWN event yesterday: so many women following their heart and pursuing their dreams, ploughing on regardless of obstacles, challenges or limited resources. So many women inspiring others to do the same.
I loved Sonia’s encouragement to all of us to take rejection in our stride, to get up, brush ourselves off and to try again, as many times as necessary. Her enthusiasm and energy know no bounds. There’s no slouching or napping when Sonia’s in the room.
I loved Jenni Russell‘s (@pelvicsecrets) boldness, her vision and her passion for our pelvic floor.
And I loved Carol Pyke‘s (@carolepyke) presentation on the power of our stories and the importance of staying true to ourselves : “In this game of life, only play YOU to the best. Play someone else and you’ll be mediocre at best.” “Be yourself – all others are taken!”
Carol asked us all to come up with three words to describe ourselves. I decided on authentic, passionate and inspiring.
It seems, from the reaction of others, that is how I was yesterday. And it’s how I hope to be every day.
In case you were wondering, that little white box I blogged about in my last post, Be still my beating heart, is no longer in my handbag or so much on my mind. It’s in the kitchen drawer. For today, I’m relying on my inner resources and God to give me my strength, ease my fears and bring me through.