We’re back again and this time talking about authenticity. This seems to have become a buzzword and thrown around a lot but what does it mean to live authentically and be authentic? How do we find that place within ourselves? We’re going to try to break it down for you all today.
The truth is, it’s hard to be your true self in a world that constantly wants you to conform. As women of color, being authentic in the workplace is very difficult. Why? Because most of us are not yet confident and truly comfortable with our whole selves. We have a lot of baggage that we have yet to unpack. We hear a lot of noise from our society telling us who we shouldbe, how we should look, how we shouldact. For anyone who isn’t confident in themselves, it can be very easy to fall into these traps. It’s easy to be like everyone else. It’s easy to be safe. It’s easy to not stir the pot. But at what cost?
What is Authenticity?
Most of us don’t even ask ourselves about ourselves. Living an authentic life means that you are constantly checking in with yourself. Asking yourself some difficult questions. How many times have you looked in the mirror and asked,
“Am I being real with myself today? Am I living true to how I feel today? Are my decisions true to my values and what I believe?”
Probably not very many of us but it’s okay. Don’t be hard on yourself. This is a process.
Those of us who can bring our whole selves to work have already dealt with our insecurities and the demons in our heads. Maybe you’re embarrassed about your identity, your culture, your accent, your skin color or whatever it is. Remember, we live in a Euro-centric world where everything white is beautiful. We’re taught at a very early age that our skin colors aren’t fair enough, our eyes aren’t big enough, our noses aren’t sharp enough, our hair isn’t straight enough. When you’re constantly hearing these noises from family, friends and the media, it is not your fault that you have doubts of who you are.
So, the real question is how do we unlearn everything we were taught?
How do we decolonize our minds to accept and love ourselves?
That is where authenticity is born. It is a journey of self-discovery and self-love. This journey is painful but once you make it out, you are a new person.
Block out the noise.
When I was younger, my mother constantly told me that I needed to use Fair and Lovely, a skin-lightening cream used all over India. I grew up hating my skin color because I felt too dark. I hated going to the beach because I knew my family would make comments about my tan skin. I was always told to stand in the shade or carry an umbrella with me so that the sun doesn’t make my skin even darker. It is often joked in the Brown community that having dark skin makes it harder to get married. I internalized this and I accepted it as truth. I thought my skin needed “fixing.” After hearing these comments repeatedly, I started to believe that women with lighter skin were more confident and more beautiful. At the time, I didn’t know how dangerous this was to my psyche, how demeaning these “jokes” were to the development of a young girl.
As I grew up, I began to question all of it. It wasn’t until college when I finally unpacked and unlearned everything I was taught. This was the first time I had the language to articulate how I was feeling. Colorism is deeply ingrained in South Asian communities. When babies are born, parents feel “ashamed” if their child is born with a darker complexion because darker skin is made out to be a “curse.” Lighter skin is equated to a higher standard, something that should be “strived for.” For years, I had no idea that I was dealing with this internalized hate for myself.
When I reflect back, I realize how much of an impact it had on my life and my decisions. When friends invited me to go to the park or the pool or a BBQ, I refused and decided to stay in because my mother’s words were continually running through my head. I would only go out when the sun went down so that I didn’t have to fear my skin getting any darker. I let fear and a toxic belief haunt me and control my life.
Journey to Self Love & Liberation.
The journey to loving myself took time but I am so happy that now, I embrace my melanin, my dark hues, my tan skin. It was difficult to reach this love because often times, I felt like I was going against what my parents were saying. In South Asian communities, strong loyalty to your parents plays a huge role in the guilt you feel when you don’t accept their philosophies. But you need to learn to question and live for yourself. Do not let a colonized culture set the standards of beauty for you.
The workplace is no different. If you work in a predominantly white institution, you may be one or two women with dark skin on your team whereas the majority of women have blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin. If you have not accepted and love your dark skin, you may find that you want to conform - you may be trying to find ways to make your hair lighter, your skin lighter, your eyes lighter.
Have honest conversations with yourself. Are you doing this because you feel left out, because you are different, because you want to conform? If the answers are yes, then honey you need to check yourself. You need to clean out your baggage because you are not living an authentic life. You are living up to someone else’s standards and ultimately sacrificing your own happiness.
How can i start to live an Authentic Life?
The first step towards an authentic life is asking questions to yourself, to your
family and to society. Simply, ask why?
a. Why do I believe in this? b. Why am I living my life in this way?
c. Why did I make this decision? d. Why am I not aligned in how I feel?
Then you must acknowledge that you are not living a life true to your
values. These are some questions you can ask yourself:
a. Did I make this decision for myself or did someone else influence me?
b. Who am I doing this for? c. Am I happy?
d. Will this decision sacrifice my happiness?
3. Unlearn + Decolonize Your Mind:
This step requires a lot of introspection.
a. Dig deep within yourself.
c. Read books.
d. Do your own research to understand what you’re feeling and why.
This is probably the longest step in the journey and can take a time amount of time for everyone. Be patient with yourself. It can be painful sometimes but know that when you’re uncomfortable, you are growing.
4. Validate Yourself:
Once you’ve made it to the other side, you should feel different. You should feel more self-love. You should validate and love yourself.
You do not want to waste your life being fake and not living to your potential. We only get one life, so why waste it not being the real you.Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be.
When we’re in alignment with who we are at our deepest, most authentic core, we are able to unleash greater possibilities, creativity, and power than we ever thought imaginable. Acceptance of all the various aspects of who we are enables us to embrace fully the true magnificence life has in store and share our soul signature with the world.
It’s okay to step away from what everyone else says you have to do to be successful or fulfilled. You can live your own expression, discover your purpose, and embrace your soul signature without judgment. No need to strive to become some unattainable fantasy of what your perfect self is supposed to be, rather than the perfect, authentic being you already are.
Do you know if you’re living your truest expression? Have you discovered what resonates with the real you?