I have a student who moved here at the beginning of the year and is quite different from all of my other students that I teach. Mary* works extremely hard at school, takes dance classes every night, is involved in the drama class, belongs to the speech and debate club, AND wants to start a Junior National Honor Society Chapter at our school.
When I talk to her about the future, she tells me she is planning on auditioning for our Fine Arts College during her sophomore year of school (since she moved here too late to audition this year). She also laughs off the notion that she needs to relax a bit, saying that doing all of these things now will give her more options in the future.
To top it off, this girl is also the most polite and sweet child I have ever had the privilege of teaching. Her fellow students snicker when she talks and gives answers in class, mostly because she is a glaring anomaly in a sea of kids who have zero ambition and no future plan.
I am ashamed to admit, I find her irritating at times. She asks for her scores at inopportune times, will come back again and again if I am busy at the moment, and takes up my time in between classes because she enjoys talking to me about whatever is going on in her life.
Why am I telling you this?
She is always no holds barred, unapologetically, in-your-face, 100% her authentic self.
I cannot help but admire her. She knows what she wants. She takes the steps to accomplish it. And I will bet you my life savings that she is going to BE somebody someday. If she is this determined and strong in 8th grade, at a school where the culture is anything but goal-oriented, who knows to what heights she will soar when she gets around people who will embrace her true self rather than be intimidated by it.
I am almost 28 years old, and while I have always been someone who accomplishes what I set out to accomplish, it has taken me this long to be ok with my own authenticity. Growing up, I was always a person who secretly worried about what other people thought of me. Do they like me? Why not? Why aren’t they talking to me? OMG why ARE they talking to me? Should I wear this outfit? Talk about this topic? Maybe I need to be more serious/goofy/like them. And on and on.
Thank GOD I have gotten over myself.
A couple weekends ago, I hung out with a group of girls, one of whom rubbed me the the wrong way COMPLETELY. When I talked to my roommate about it later, she said “Yeah, it was so obvious you were annoyed, and I could tell she thought you were annoying too.”
A couple years ago, a comment like that would have crushed me. She thought I was annoying? OMG-Now I need to change everything about myself. I’m obviously a terrible person.
Today, I don’t give two flying f*cks about whether she thought I was irritating or not, because I know who I am, and dammit, I like who I am.
Revealing your true self is one of the scariest yet empowering things you can choose to do. People gravitate towards authenticity, no matter what form it comes in. If someone is genuinely a sweetheart, those around her will notice and appreciate her thoughtfulness. If someone is genuinely an asshole, peers will grumblingly admire his honesty.
If you are true to yourself, those who surround you will be able to sense the credibility in your actions. You attract the vibes you put out in the universe: fake begets fake, real begets real.
Success will come much faster and more abundantly to those who achieve it through being legitimate. Real desire, reliable work, and a convincing vision will win over slimy networking and brown-nosing any day. Those who are at the top have zero reason NOT to showcase their ultimate selves, and they got to where they are by shedding their masks and using their verity to their advantage.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have cart blanche to be a terrible person and hold out the “authentic self” card like an all-encompassing shield of justification. If you are that person who is authentically an asshole, stay true to the genuine core of who you are, but take the steps to soften the edges. It is 100% possible to be true to yourself AND work on self-improvement at the same time.
Finding and displaying your pure self takes a lot of courage in the beginning. It’s hard to shed the need for other’s approval. But when you understand who YOU are, you can use that knowledge to propel you forward in life. Trying to make progress without accepting yourself is like walking on a treadmill: you may get a workout in, but you’re not actually traveling anywhere worthwhile.
Overall, you will be surprised by how many people actually LIKE you for you. In a world of filters, contour, and butt surgery, finding individuals who proudly display their personality like Mary* is a rarity. Take a chance. Let others around you see your hidden glow. You just might find the tools you’ve been needing to take the next step towards your optimal life have been hidden behind your walls this whole time.