Must Authenticity Equal Rejection?
When I launched Owning Pink a year and a half ago, my goal was to stay true to my authentic self, even as I revealed more and more of myself publicly. Many times, when writing a post — and later, writing Whatís Up Down There? — I questioned how much to reveal. Where do you draw the line between being authentic and just TMI (too much information)? Iíve been known to tweet on Twitter about signing off so I can go get lucky with my hubby. Iíve written openly in my blog and my book about the HPV that led me to have a procedure on my cervix meant to ward off cervical cancer. Iím featured in Redbook magazine this month discussing the sexual dysfunction that contributed to the demise of my first marriage. In my book, I confess to the elective C-section I had, the one I lied to everyone about when it happened four years ago. I write openly about the ambivalent feelings I had as a new mother.
So why am I doing this? Donít I have any sense of modesty? Donít I have secrets Iíd prefer to keep to myself? Is nothing sacred? Does the world really need to know every little detail of my life? Arenít there people I should protect? Do I really want to be ALL ME, ALL THE TIME? These are great questions — ones I wind up asking myself all the time.
For most of my life, I modulated everything I put out there in the world. I didnít tell my friends where I applied to college because I didnít want them to know if I wasnít accepted to my first choice school. I kept secrets from my parents because I was afraid they wouldnít love me if they knew the truth. I was afraid to tell one boyfriend that I had slept with someone he knew, thinking he might not like me if I confessed. I wasnít living truthfully in other ways, as well. I did things at work I didnít want to do because I was afraid Iíd get the boot if I stood up for what I believed was right. I hung out with people I didnít respect because I was afraid to be honest about how I wanted to live my life. In other words, I spent too much of my youth living a lie.
Coming out as the authentic YOU is crazy scary. Lies, withholdings, and half-truths can feel so much safer. For me, the scariest part of putting myself out there in the world was the fear of rejection. What if I show my true colors and my parents donít love me anymore? What if my friends donít like me? What if my colleagues donít respect me? What if my patients donít trust me? What if my husband discovers that Iím not what he thought I was? What if I reveal my true self and nobody loves the real me? These are daunting fears and they kept me up at night more than once.
For the most part, the results have amazed me. The flood of acceptance and love Iíve received in exchange for my openness has brought me to tears of joy, broken my heart open to new levels of love and helped many others who confess to similar feelings of fear and secrets. My greatest hopes have been realized.
But this week, my biggest fear also came true. Someone I love has decided, between my blog and my book, that she no longer wants me in her life. I wonít get into detail — that would just add insult to injury for both of us. But I felt like it was important to address this issue, since I think fear of exactly this kind of rejection is what holds many of us back from being who we really are.
So Why Do I Do This?
I canít even begin to explain to this person who doesnít want me in her life why I do what I do. How do you put words to the joy you feel when you can strip off the pretense and let your freak flag fly? How can I communicate that Iíve never been happier in my entire life than I have been since I decided to stop trying to please everyone? What do I say to explain that I want to set an example for my daughter that shows her that she doesnít need to dim her bright light just so other people wonít be threatened by it or that she doesnít need to lie to be loved? How can I explain how many people have come to me in gratitude for giving them permission by example to be more of who they were born to be?
Before my book came out, I had nightmares about being crucified for speaking my truth in service to my mission. But I plunged forth anyway. Why? Because along with speaking the truth comes a joy beyond measure, a profound sense of vitality, a sense of liberation that is truly indescribable. I am free. I am whole. And I am enough, just the way I am, regardless of what someone else thinks.
While one person might reject me because of how Iíve chosen to live my life, hundreds love me all the more for the person I really am. And itís been a very effective filter. Being ALL ME, ALL THE TIME has caused some people to sort of naturally fade out of my life — and thatís okay because itís made room for other beautiful souls. Life is not some popularity contest to see who can get loved by the most people. If some people learn to know the real me and we donít resonate anymore, itís okay to move on, to hone down, to realign. I hope that my example of putting myself out there in the world inspires others to do the same, so they can dance in the moonlight, paint whatever their hearts desire, find work that makes them giggle to their toes, say what they really think, or slither around a pole at an S Factor studio.
But Iím hurt and disappointed and sad, nonetheless, because I love this person and I donít want her to cut me out of her life. Iím trying to tell myself itís not personal, but it feels personal. She doesnít agree with how I live my life. And she has a right to her opinion. But I also have a right to be real. Which leaves us at an impasse. Iím not willing (or able) to stop being me. And sheís not willing to have me in her life the way I am. But I will keep right on loving her, hoping and praying sheíll change her mind and at least respect how I choose to live my life, even if she wishes I was different.
Are you afraid that if you let your true self be witnessed, you will be rejected? Does this fear keep you from letting your freak flag fly? How much are you holding back? Or have you put it all out there? If so, have there been any consequences? Any advice for me? Iíd love to hear your thoughtsÖ