Authenticity

 Photo by  Dmitry Boyarin , copyright 2012

Photo by Dmitry Boyarin, copyright 2012

I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown, the vulnerability and shame researcher. If you haven't listened to her TED talk, stop right now and do that. I'll wait.

Isn't she great? I think she has some pretty profound things to say about the human condition. For example, I've heard her say that connection and a sense of belonging is why we're here. I write romance. Of course I resonate with that.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, she has a set of ten guideposts for wholehearted living (summarized here). I've been trying to consciously do at least one of these every day. In fact, I've turned her into a verb, as in, "I still need to Brene Brown today." I thought I'd start sharing some of that journey with you, starting with:

#1: Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think.

Sheesh. That's a big one. There are so many ways I get trapped by other people's opinions. For instance, just this morning I was riding my bike, trying to get some exercise by interval training. (That makes me sound much more jocky than I am. What really happened was that I read a New York Times article about cramming an exercise routine into a couple of minutes and thought I'd give it a try). Anyway, there I was riding my bike and I found myself waiting to start my little bursts of hard work until I was sure no one else could see me. Yeah, pretty silly, since I'm quite sure no one on that trail cared or even noticed.

Sometimes I need to balance a healthy avoidance of criticism (I rarely read reviews) with a recognition that what other people think actually can matter (I always pay attention to my editors). I'm hyper-tuned in to the emotional life of everyone I come in contact with. It's a sickness. On the other hand, developing empathy has absolutely helped me as a writer. There's nothing like it for character development.

So how authentic am I in my regular life? I try to be as real as I can and to allow those around me space for the same thing. Which means I try to keep my opinions to myself. Because it's easier not to care what other people think if they don't share it. Except, of course, I think you're fabulous for reading my rambling all the way to the end. Thank you. 

What does being authentic mean to you?