Fear of authenticity

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I’ve noticed something about myself, since I started this blog. I love, love, love sharing my writing with others, and forming connections. Every time I have a meaningful moment on here– let’s say I publish a particularly personal post, and people really respond to it– I’m exhilarated. I get totally fired up. I start planning my next post immediately, and come up with a long list of topics for future posts…

…and then somehow, I don’t end up publishing anything for like a month.

Something in me always pulls away. I get stage fright about telling my story publicly; I procrastinate. I decide I don’t want to publish something until it’s perfect, and the next post is never perfect.

For a while I just thought this had to do with my fear of putting myself out there and being judged by strangers; of writing something really personal and then wishing I could take it back.

But I’m realizing now that there might be a deeper level to my hesitations.

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I think it has more to do with the fact that sometimes it can be painful to get in touch with that deepest part of yourself. The part of you that’s really you, that knows exactly what you want most out of life. Sometimes it’s easier, safer, to pretend that that space within you doesn’t exist. To focus on the tangible, the everyday.

I seem to go through months- or even year-long phases where I focus most of my attention on the more surface aspects of life. I am practical; pragmatic; planning my future. What graduate program do I want to attend? (Been stuck on that one for a while). Where do I want to live? What do I need on my next trip to the grocery store?

I want to be put together; organized. I don’t want the future to catch me off-guard.

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Something I’ve learned about myself is that I’m happier when I’m busy; when I’m surrounded by other people, and by ideas. I get really focused on things– my classes when I was in college. Different internships. And then, after college, the various jobs that I’ve had.

And with each one, for a little while, I’ll think that I’ve made it; that I’ve finally figured it all out. But after a while, when I’ve been focusing exclusively on other people’s ideas and never on my own, I start to feel a creeping sense of emptiness.

I try to ignore it at first. I mean, it’s an unpleasant sensation—obviously, my first response is going to be to try to block it out.

But it grows, and grows, until there will be a night when I feel distraught and cannot sleep. I will no longer have the option to try to hide; it is time to return to my own center. To get in touch with what I want, not what I think I have to do.

And for some reason, it always hurts at first, to come back in touch with this place within myself.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

It’s not that my hopes and dreams and desires are painful– it’s that it was painful for me to suppress them. I was so busy being distracted that I didn’t notice the pain building up, and now there’s a scab.

It’s not as though there has always been one thing, one way of living, one career path that my inner voice has always told me to do. First, I wanted to be a psychotherapist. Then, I wanted to work in social justice, with more of an advocacy role. Then, a few years ago, when my own physical issues had opened my eyes, I decided I wanted to become a physical therapist.  It’s not like there was one thing my true self has been telling me to do, and I’ve ignored it.

Instead, I think it has more to do with a way of being, of remembering to be in touch with that space within yourself on a more regular basis.

Why do I block out that voice? I don’t know. I think it’s because I’m not completely sure there is a place for that part of me in the world. If I was to truly listen to myself, to rely on intuition, to push ahead nonstop, guns blazing… what would happen? I’m afraid everything would turn out wrong.

So I temper that voice. I focus on external ways of making sure I’m making the right choices. (What are my PT-prerequisites? What’s the best way to build my resume until then?).

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Working on this blog, however, requires me to get in touch with that space within myself.

It’s a totally different experience than writing when someone else is telling you to. I can write academic papers or reports in my sleep; I can edit your paper, and you’ll be shocked at how much better I make it (haha, really!).

But writing in a truly personal way– especially when others are going to see it, when it’s a representation of yourself that you’re putting out into the world– requires a certain clarity; a sense of purpose. It requires being in touch with that truest, deepest part of yourself.

And it’s honestly hard to do that, at least on a regular basis. It’s hard for me, and I have the feeling that it’s probably hard for a lot of people.

But I also have the feeling that it’s not an issue for everyone; that there are people who have found a way to live out of that most authentic part of themselves on a regular basis, and that for them, it isn’t painful.

How do people do that? I want to know.

I have started to look for answers. I recently watched the movie “Wild,” based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and it blew my mind. I’ve also recently started to check out Brene Brown‘s work on vulnerability, after seeing some friends whose opinions I really respect rave about her.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, I am happy to at least have some insight into the problem, because I think that was probably half of the battle.

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Please, please, please, let me know what you guys think!  Does this dilemma sound familiar to anyone else?  I want to know your thoughts!

Photo credit: Magnus Karlsson


6 thoughts on “Fear of authenticity

  1. What a thought-provoking post! Indeed, I understand what you mean. Having myself shared some deeply personal posts at times, I have also felt this way. I have always perceived writing such things as a mean of being honest not only towards others but also being honest with my own self, but at times it does get hard, no matter the feedback. Honesty can be heavy.

    I just discovered your blog and I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    All the best,

    Giulia

  2. Wonderful post! Hopefully, this logs me as my blog this time! Wow! So many thoughts. First, for me, too much heartache,(which is the space that I found myself in physically this last year) has left me empty. At least, congested, these past few weeks. I think there is a fine line between getting to that place where we can reveal our true self and becoming lost in that search. In that space, I think creativity comes in and then leaks out. It is never constant. Does that make sense? I am in the leaky part. I don’t like but I have to accept it. (I also was greatly touched by Wild. It is proof that out of love, comes creativity.) Okay. Off to a doctor’s appointment!

    1. Thank you so much! I actually think your post “A Returning” helped me come to this realization. There are so many reasons why we turn away from ourselves, and from being creative, and then find our way back to it. I know I have a terrible time thinking and feeling a creative impulse when I am in a lot of pain. My blog may be about overcoming pain, but I usually write about pain after the fact, once the clouds have lifted.

      Hope your appointment went well!

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