Authenticity. I thought I understood its meaning. Genuine. Real. Legit.
Then one day, I discovered it meant all the things I hadn’t been for the majority of my adult life. I had backed myself into a corner of fraudulence and it was suffocating me.
I had everything I thought I had always wanted: degrees, a profession, a salary, a home, and a relationship. When those things started to unravel, it felt as if I was coming undone, but in truth, I was coming alive.
Years before, I made a practical decision as an adolescent and declared that dentistry would be my profession. I graduated high school with honors, obtained my undergraduate degree and dutifully entered dental school. I say “dutifully” because I felt this was my obligation. I chose a tract and I thought I had no other choice but to stay on it.
Unfortunately, I discovered that I despised general dentistry halfway through the program. However, leaving never entered my mind. I simply chose a specialty that would avoid the aspects of dentistry I disliked. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery required a four year residency involving everything from extractions to facial reconstruction due to trauma or pathology.
It was exhausting as all residencies are grueling. However, I feel that those specialties where trauma is concerned add another dimension. My program, located in Washington, DC, had no shortage of trauma. I witnessed the consequences of inhumanity firsthand. The stories were brutal. They are forever imprinted within my mind.
Day in, day out, we would operate on patients. They would come in broken. We would assess, fix, and discharge. We would render them “functional” within a few weeks then release them from our care.
Though the work was essential in nature, and honorable, I never wholly felt satisfaction in what I was doing. I was pleased that the patients received the treatment needed and some were unfathomably grateful. And yet, I felt empty.
I eventually learned that emptiness is the call of authenticity or more accurately, lack of authenticity. There’s a consistent discomfort – a knowing that part of you is not being recognized or fulfilled, or worse yet, it’s suppressed.
In my case, it was the tract that I had chosen that became my oppressor. It’s not easy to take a detour after thirteen years of schooling and admit that it’s not the path on which you wish to travel. There is no support for that. You are on your own…and that’s terrifying. I had been so busy being who I thought I was supposed to be that I completely abandoned who I really was.
Over the next few years, I adjusted my schedule leaving more room for the real me to surface. I started reading my inspirational books again. I started writing more regularly. I picked up the activities I dropped when the tract had demanded my manufactured self to take the lead.
Before I knew it, I was inspired to start an inspirational website, which would be followed by self-published books, speaking opportunities, and building a community of inspired individuals.
This part of the journey wasn’t comfortable. I lived a double life for many years. I never shared with colleagues what I loved to do after hours. Anything I penned was in my middle name. Initially, there were no pictures online to tie me with my daytime persona just in case someone happened to stumble upon it.
Not anymore. I’m not even sure there was a conscious dropping of the veil. As more of the real me emerged, it seem that the world was conspiring to support it. My two worlds started to merge without effort.
I came to realize that what I was professionally trained to do on a physical level, was what I longed to do on a spiritual level. The parallel was there all along. I transitioned from broken bones to broken spirits – healing in another expression.
This is the sphere where I feel most myself. This is where I feel whole. Striving to maintain my own light so that I may help others find their own. In short, helping others to come alive.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Dr. Howard Thurman
This quote encompasses what authenticity is all about. It’s what happens when your outward actions start to align with the truth of who you are. There is a shedding of a skin that never really fit. There’s an emergence of buoyancy once weighted down by all the things that were never inherently yours.
Authenticity is learning to trust the truest version of your self. It’s loving her dreams, her experiences, her imperfections, her wholeness. It’s allowing her power to come forth in her most comfortable expression. It’s knowing that her unique perspective is infinitely invaluable. It is truth, self-compassion, and freedom. Authenticity is coming alive.