Posts Tagged ‘Authenticity’

I know how it feels to be passed by. I know how it feels to allow someone else’s success to be my own failure. I know all too well how hard it is to battle a nasty inner voice.” @AmericaFerrera


Inspiration is all around us. I found a little bit of it the other day in the New York Times in an essay about training for a triathlon by America Ferrera: “How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic.”

With every step, stroke and pedal, I turned “No, I can’t” into “Yes, I can,” “I’m limited” into “Look what I’m capable of,” and “I’m weak” into “I am whole, healthy and strong.’” @AmericaFerrera

You’d think that someone who is as successful as she is in her chosen profession would be beyond negative self-talk. Especially with so many agents, publicists and studio execs kissing her (bad)ass on a daily basis.

But no, she does it too. It was also nice to hear someone who is in the public eye openly admit to being human and fallible. I find that refreshing and inspiring. I have to admit that blogging about my own psychological challenges feels a bit strange at times. I’m not one who likes attention, I dislike most reality TV shows, and I was raised not to “air my dirty laundry in public.”

BUT, if no one aired their dirty laundry, how would we know that how we feel is also how a lot of other people feel. We can only learn and grow by sharing what we know, by being honest. So hopefully you appreciate my contribution to the noise as much as I appreciate America Ferrera’s.

And who isn’t guilty of negative self-talk, even though we know it’s not good for us. And it can be as innocent as calling yourself stupid if you make a minor mistake. I’ve called myself that just for dropping something. And each and every one of those comments chips away (subconsciously) at your self-esteem.

I have to admit that I have tried to use positive reinforcement on myself, but it always sounds silly or lame. Or like Donald Trump. “I’m Awesome!” “I’m Huge!” “I’m a force to be reckoned with,” etc., etc… So even if I don’t do that, thank you America for reminding me not to do the other.

I finally got my answer to that question: Who do you think you are? I am whoever I say I am.” @AmericaFerrera

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Operating InstructionsI am the piece of shit the world revolves around.” Anne Lamott, author of “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year” and “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” 

I was on the freeway yesterday, driving home, thinking about God knows what, or, perhaps trying NOT to think about God knows what, when my peripheral vision captured the image of a driver with blonde hair cruising past me in the slow lane.  The car I didn’t recognize, the hair was unmistakable.  It was Anne Lamott.  And as always, whenever I see her or hear her name, I am reminded of the above quote.  As someone who has been bipolar as long as he can remember (and long before it became fashionable (or profitable to the pharmaceutical companies)) I have had the distinct impression that I am both incompetent when it comes to handling even the simplest of tasks, and at the same time, fully capable of taking over the world.  At least my world.

Floored the first time I read it, I have since come to believe that it should be the bipolar slogan. 

Seeing her also reminded me of my first encounter with her, which was a reading of  “Operating Instructions,” and of my previous post on authenticity.  “Operating Instructions” was a revelation as well.  Long before everyone and their dog was publishing memoirs, and long before every last human being felt compelled to share their innermost thoughts with the world via the web and reality TV, Lamott dared to expose herself.  I can remember being both shocked and impressed when she wrote this about watching her infant son: “I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.” 

How horrible?  How honest?  How funny!  How refreshing! 

Bird by BirdA writer is at their best when s/he bleeds on the page, which is not an easy thing to do.  I attempt to do that here, but there is a fine line between sharing and dumping, between expressing and complaining.  What Lamott manages to do in that journal, and again in her follow up book on the craft of writing, “Bird by Bird,” is to open an artery. 

This all comes back to authenticity.  She is not afraid to be who she is.  She is not concerned about what we might think of her.  Whether she’s “selling out” writing a magazine article to make a buck, or confiding in us that her son, Sam “…is an awful baby,” she’s real, she’s herself. 

Who am I trying to be?  Who do I pretend to be so that others will like me, so that I’ll fit in?  Part of that is habit, from trying to present a “sane” front to the world, from trying to take control when I feel out of control.  Of course, sometimes we have to, to keep a job, to get a promotion, etc.  Or do we? 

How do you compromise yourself to get what you want?  And is it worth it?

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Be Yourself…many of us assume that who we are is not good enough and therefore we’re constantly trying to fix ourselves, or to act like others who we think are better than us.”  Mike Robbins on the Huffington Post

There is often a disconnect between who we are, who we pretend to be, how others see us, how we see ourselves, how—well, you get the picture. 

How can we possibly “get well,” when we have so many selves? 

I believe that a major component of depression has to do with our belief that we are not good enough.  How can we feel good about ourselves when just getting out of bed in the morning is a major accomplishment?  How can we feel good about ourselves when the irritability we experience because of our bipolar disorder turns us into raving lunatics? 

I would bet that people who have cancer or diabetes don’t berate themselves for their disease.  Yet so often we scold ourselves as if our depression or mania is our fault.  We imagine our life would be better if only we had more discipline, if only we were more motivated, if only we worked harder, tried harder, studied longer. 

I think that so often we feel the need to pretend to be something other than we are, that we actually forget who we are.  But what if we didn’t?  What if we just showed up, in relationships, at work, in the grocery store, just as we are?  Happy.  Sad.  Irritated.  Confused.  What if, instead of denying who we are, we accepted who we are, no judgments, no criticism, and presented that self to the world?  How liberating would that be? 

Today I went to what I thought was a book signing, an author reading, the recitation of a few pages of his text.  What it turned out to be was so much more.  It was a revelation.  It was Mike Robbins giving a mini-seminar complete with exercises that included turning to the stranger seated next to us and sharing some deep, dark, personal secret.  Sort of. 

Personally, I am not a big fan of those.  In fact I hate those.  Neither am I a big fan of the trend to percolate everything down to ten rules or eight secrets or six lessons.  But, even though Mr. Robbins’ book includes “Five Principles for Being Your Authentic Self: 1) Know Yourself, 2) Transform Your Fear, 3) Express Yourself, 4) Be Bold, 5) Celebrate Who You Are,” I cut him some slack because of the overriding message.  Be authentic. 

And that gets to the very core of our thought process, of how we see ourselves.  If we are not being authentic it’s because we feel we have something to hide, or fear, or lose.  And when we feel that way, when we think that way, we empower our depression, we give it cause. 

Here’s to being who we are!

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