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.

Guilty Secrets

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.

Scary Truth

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

Related Links:
Owning My Inner Nerd
Do You Fear Your Own Desire?
What’s On Your Bucket List?

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.

56 comments

Alex Lanni
Alex Lanni4 years ago

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Elle G.
Elle G.5 years ago

I love the notion of "letting your freak flag fly"! And there are so many ways in which we cover our own light -- for many of the reasons you note in your post.
Thank-you for your honesty. You can't possibly please everyone – and a true friend doesn't need you to. They simply want you to be your best self.
Yet there are times -- such as when you're coping with a husband's infidelity -- when cloaking yourself is the safe thing to do. At least at first, until your skin is thick enough to handle others' often unkind comments about infidelity, which can tend to "blame the victim."
I look forward to the day when I don't have to hide under a pseudonym.

Zuhra Abbamin
Zuhra Abbamin5 years ago

It's crazy how soul connected I am with the words you just wrote. I'm an old soul with a completely different mindset from the people I am constantly surrounded with. I have my good times with them and even my bad but I find myself holding my tongue back plenty of times. I don't care that they won't GET IT per se but I guess the underlying factor is rejection. I'm at a point where I'm fine being alone and I like it, hell, I LOVE it. But ultimately, I wonder why is it that when I'm done hanging out with great people I do indeed like, I always get a little glum? It's because I don't express myself when I know I should. When they say or act in a way I completely disagree with, I don't say anything and it eats at me later, later when I really can't say anything. There's a lot I could say now but I'll end it here because there's a lot I need to say to them and I hope that with each passing day I do. That I open up a little more and accept myself the way I am and they can accept it too, if not, SIONARA. Spell check? Haha, Thank you for the great post, Lissa.

Jewels S.
Jewels S.5 years ago

Sue T everyone gets to make the comments they want whether it is popular or not. You chose to comment, that is your right. The highest purpose of this is to not spread negativity. Before you condemn take a look at your own contribution.

Aleksandr J.
Aleksandr J.5 years ago

Boo hoo! The 2010 Self-Absorption Prise is clearly yours!

Aleksandr J.
Aleksandr J.5 years ago

Boo bloody hoo! You most certainly should receive The 2010 Self-Absorption Prize!

Shawn S.
Shawn S.5 years ago

I just wanted to say I totally agree with you. I am currently going through a similar process of first getting to know my true core self, and from there living my life in accordance with that true self. And like you, this has caused some changes in my life. Change, even for the better, is often a rough process, but things can only be improved by being true to yourself.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna5 years ago

I am authentic in my pursuit to end pedophilia to the point of receiving death threats and more. This doesn't mean I give out all personal info. Just put my all into the cause. Realize where the line is and follow it.

Sue T.
Susan T.5 years ago

.... to continue my thought...the info in the article made me not want to read further.

Not to be mean but I really have no need to read about this. These are things I talk about with people I really "know".

Sue T.
Susan T.5 years ago

I think yeah TMI from an unknown person is like a bit offsetting to me. I can write anything I want to. How does someone know if it is true or real?

Save the personal stuff for close personal friends ....