Creativity, Self Empowerment

On authenticity, vulnerability and courage

These words are thrown around a lot. Especially the word ‘authentic’. It’s become a self-help buzzword, of sorts. What does authenticity really mean? I believe it is closely tied with vulnerability and courage.

Why? Because in order to be truly authentic – that is, to be truly yourself – you need to have the courage to be vulnerable, exposed. Being who you really are in a world that constantly tells you to be someone else requires courage. Especially if who you are is a little different.

The word vulnerability is a little scary, isn’t it? Sounds a bit dangerous, a bit risky. But really, there is a paradoxical truth here.

Vulnerability actually empowers us.

The more that we can truly own who we are, claim our identity and just be us – the less that others can influence us or hurt us. No one can take away who you really are. And if you know and love your true self, it really doesn’t matter what others think or say about you.

I’ve been finding that the more I come to accept and embrace – even celebrate – the quirks that make up who I am, the more I am forced to be vulnerable. I have to share myself, my true self, with others. It’s very difficult to tell ourselves that we are good enough while actively hiding parts of ourselves from others.

But a strange thing is happening: The more I share who I really am with the world, the more I am developing courage.

Brene Brown likens courage to swimming – you get good at swimming by practicing swimming. Similarly, you get good at courage by practicing courage. This makes sense.

So often we don’t share our true selves (our feelings, opinions, dreams, hopes, disappointments, fears) with others, because we don’t feel brave enough. We hide who we are; we are afraid to be vulnerable. We lack courage. It is only through the practice of being vulnerable that we can develop courage.

This can all seem a bit abstract. Let me put it in concrete terms. For me, vulnerability and courage look a bit like this:

  • Making peace with the way I look, including being overweight, and accepting that some people will have a problem with that (but that’s not my problem)
  • Accepting that others may judge me for some of my unconventional beliefs/choices (such as wanting to live in a tiny house, refusing to watch the news because it makes me very sad, not caring about things like fancy weddings or expensive clothes/makeup, choosing to be at home alone rather than out partying, refusing to eat low-fat dairy – because really, what is that?)
  • Being open about how I feel if I’m having a bad day
  • Asking questions when I am unsure, even if I think I’ll look stupid
  • Not caring what others think of me (still working on this one!)
  • Sharing personal things about myself on a blog!

But I’ve come to realise that in order for me to be authentic – to feel like I am accepting and loving who I am and just ‘being myself’ – I need to be willing to be vulnerable. I must have the courage to share who I am with others, regardless of what they will think of me.

Journaling has helped me immensely with learning to love myself and developing courage. The more often I engage in a journaling dialogue with myself, with my dreams and desires, my fears and opinions, the more I come to accept and even celebrate who I am.

Some questions to ponder in your journal:

  • What does authenticity mean to you? And courage? Vulnerability?
  • How authentic do you feel you are? Would you say that most people know the ‘real you’?
  • Are there parts of yourself that you deliberately keep hidden from others? What are they? Why do you hide them?
  • Are there parts of yourself you would like to share with others more readily?
  • How could you be more authentic? What parts of yourself could you start to share?
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