Mastering the Art of Authenticity

We are told this when we are kids. "Just be yourself."

"You can't please everyone."

It dazzles me how many of us still struggle with this as adults. And I recommend that you doubt the ones who say they don't care what others think. Bravado is a thing, after all.

The truth many of us come to learn the hard way as adults is not everyone will like us. The same stuff that tripped us up as teens still hovers above our heads and in our subconscious as we age. Your need to please or be accepted by others might be so ingrained you aren't even aware of it.

And you're not alone. Trust me.

Each and every person struggles with insecurity. Because it manifests so differently for each person, it's often really hard to tell who is and who is not battling an inner demon.

I made the deliberate decision about a year ago to be increasingly more authentic with my own life experiences and share them in a public way. I don't share everything, I'm not entirely transparent. But I share a realistic range. For instance, I wrote about my experience with depression and it was my most-read article to date. I share "all the things" I know others grapple with and some people find me and my stories incredibly inspiring.

Inspiring. I get that a lot. To many people, I appear incredibly confident and oblivious to the opinions of others.

But for each and every person who likes my posts or tells me of my impact, there are also many, many, many people who do none of these things. It's one of my deepest insecurities, actually, that people seem to be so split down the middle about me. I think some people say to themselves, "oh man. Another self-aggrandizing post from Dillan the Showboat."

self-aggrandizing:   arrogant        pompous      big-headed    conceited   hifalutin     self-applauding


I know there are more than a handful of people who would describe me in those words--or maybe worse, who knows?

There are moments where this triggers me to feel so misrepresented or misunderstood. Many of my clients share these worries and concerns with me, they know I know how difficult it can be to sit with those feelings. The fear of this is why more people aren't open and honest about their lives!

There's good reason why people have varied opinions of us. If you're being authentic, you aren't only sharing what's safe and convenient, you're sharing the complexity of who you are as a person. You're sharing the dark parts of you and your life as well as the light parts. Many people don't do this: they aren't this honest with themselves and they aren't being this honest with you.

People see us through the filters they use to view the whole world--staring with themselves. Anything that is unresolved, unhealed or uncomfortable for them will be reflected and projected outward, it will be the lens through which they hear and see and experience the world. Even their experience of us will be colored in this way.

You could be saying the sky is blue, and if their filters see green---they SEE GREEN.

There's nothing any of us can (or should) do about this, other than to know it and accept it.

People will perceive and experience us as either a threat or source of inspiration and it speaks more to who they are and what they are addressing (or avoiding) in their own lives than what we are actually doing.

If we didn't learn this as children and teens, we get decades of adulthood to master it. We get to master the art of being our authentic selves and draw people toward us who desire the same for themselves. Get out your magnifying glasses and x-ray goggles because imposters roam among us--the ones who are talking a talk that doesn't ring true.

A lot of folks are more invested in fitting in and keeping up appearances than doing the hard work of being real and sharing the complexity of that with the world.



Focus more on being a kind person and sharing your light with the world and worry less about the ones who can't get on board with the ways you're doing it. Remember that not everyone will like you because they only see you with the limited filters they use for themselves. Practice this every time you forget it, and you'll have mastered the art of authenticity.


Increasingly I am finding that my clients are really resonating with my meditation practice. I was raised Catholic, but ironically, I know more about Buddhism than 12 years of Catholic school actualized.

I do believe, with each passing day, that a spiritual grounding is essential for optimal health. As I nurture this aspect of life with my clients, I see a profound change come over them during our time together.

As we head into the home stretch of 2010, I encourage you to stretch your spirituality muscle a bit. What would 2011 bring to you if you felt more connected to something beyond the tangible and physical world?

What roles do spirituality and meditation and/or prayer play in your life, currently? What do you get from it? What do you stand to gain from expanding it and/or building upon it?

My own spiritual practice transcends to each interaction, relationship and experience. I am humbly grateful to mentors along my path who nurtured my search for truth and meaning because it grounds everything I do, everything I say and puts all the "small stuff" into such a grand perspective. It helps me breathe more deeply. It relieves stress. It allows me to focus at work and it brings more love into my relationships.

Despite being raised Catholic, meditation and Buddhist philosophies have provided me more mental, physical and emotional stability and health so they have been my primary focus for the past 8 years. I worked for a spiritual community/organization for several years and have a deep understanding and respect for each religion (and curiosity about the ones which I have yet to know more intimately). I find many people in my life don't talk about religion or spirituality---and it comes as no surprise. It is safer and "more polite" to not speak of it. Just like politics, right?

But at what cost?

As a health coach, I experience the beauty of being open and honest about my own vital spiritual practice. My clients repeat back phrases and words I use, namely identifying instances where they witness "the Universe" at work in their lives. Let me tell you, there is nothing more rewarding. More than the greens they ate, more than the relationship they negotiated, more than the minutes logged on the treadmill---when my clients share a connection they made to something outside themselves as a result of our work together...I feel truly satisfied. I have helped someone connect to something upon which to rely when life feels unmanageable, unreasonable or really fucking confusing.

As I head into 2011, I resolve to deepen spiritual exploration with each of my clients and challenge my peers to expand this area of their lives.

What changes, if any, will you make to your own spiritual life?