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.

Show up fully, even if it's scary


Last week I did something I'd been thinking about for a long, long time. I woke up and felt completely discouraged and a little bit hopeless and I posted what was really happening for me in a really long Facebook status. I put it all out there. I shared some really deep details about myself.

I was completely terrified to do this. I was afraid it would leave people with the impression that I was a failure of a human being and most definitely a failure as a health coach. I overcame the fear and was practically brought to tears as the likes and comments multiplied minute after minute. To date, it has 124 likes and over 60 comments! I overcame the fear and chose to open it up and put it out there, and people resonated very deeply with it.

I'd been carrying this fear around with me for a really long time, though. And it was bugging me to see person after person engage with my Facebook wall or blog posts and the whole time I was left feeling like they were really interacting with a cardboard cutout of me, instead of the REAL me. I know a lot of business folks, or just everyday people, who do this and are perfectly content with it.

I wasn't.

See, there's this trend that everyone's aware of but still participates in. A lot of people are going around posting the highlights of their lives and not really talking about whatever else is happening. I know this for a fact, because I know what people are going through and how it compares to what they show.

Welcome to the social media monster, right?


It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, the more I see people do this, the less I feel inclined to engage with them. And I was concerned people were getting that vibe from me, too. After listening to Pema Chödrön talk about "fake spiritual people" one day, I realized it was sort of my worst nightmare to be coming off as fake to anyone. I was talking about my life and the good and not-so-hot parts of it to other people but I wasn't really showing it publicly. I get the point of professionalism, really I do. But what's the point of that when I'm touting authenticity and fearlessness from one side of my face and pretending everything is fine and dandy from the other side.

I don't think I ever gave that impression but was focused on posting positive stuff to inspire and encourage people. Based on the response I received from that post the other day, people don't just want or need positive stuff. They certainly don't need more negative, cynical stuff but they want real. They want strife. They want to know how I struggle and overcome the same stuff they deal with every day.

I realized I wasn't sharing that with my folks and it wasn't serving me, personally or professionally.

I can't relate to someone who only shares smiles and sunshine. It tells me that person can't be present to the grief and darkness that is part of being human. And that isn't who I am or want to be for others.

I've gone through some very difficult times the past few months which included leaving a long-term relationship, moving all my worldly belongings twice in three months and opening a new office for my business. Not easy stuff, I tell ya.

It wasn't easy, but I did it all because I have learned how to take really good care of myself. In fact, those choices and changes are a RESULT of how well I take care of myself. It's all part of the same package. When I share that with people, it is the full picture of what's behind my healthy breakfasts, my personal-record-breaking jogs, my donut dates with good friends, the pink armchair in my new office and my selfies.

There was a time not long ago, several times in fact, where I couldn't stand my own reflection. To take a selfie and post it is a testament to how far I've come to appreciate my own likeness in the past few years.

This is what people need to see.

This is what people need to read about.

They don't need more resentment. They don't need more complaints. They don't need more advice telling them what to do or think or feel or say to be "right" or "wrong".

They don't need more pictures that highlight the good and make the pain or challenge invisible.

I don't believe it when I see it so I know people weren't believing it about me, either. People aren't stupid, they saw the void where a partnership used to be in my life. They saw a new table when I took pictures of my food.

By opening up and letting it all out, I invited them into what real transformation looks like, what real change requires and what real life is like when you're giving it all you've got to do the best you can.

I was afraid to be so real because I thought people would think I had nothing to offer them as a health coach. If my life isn't perfect, what would they have to learn from me?

I realized that wasn't true. The most valuable thing I can provide people is an example. I can show up fully and be a real example of the resilience, tenacity and self-love one needs to be your authentic self, to leave relationships that aren't supportive, respectful and loving, to pursue work that is meaningful and fulfilling and eat healthy food and exercise even when it feels like your life is falling apart.

I can show up fully, even when it's scary, to inspire other people to do the same.


What can YOU provide people? What would you share if you stepped into being fully authentic?