“That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.” Meredith Monk
I am sometimes shocked by the extent to which people will go in order to please others at the expense of destroying who they really are. I watched an hour of the Academy Awards the other night and was absolutely shocked when I saw Kim Novak who was presenting an award. I kept staring at her because I could not find one detail about her face that looked the way she used to look. In addition, parts of her face looked frozen.
The next day on Facebook, I saw a picture of Goldie Hawn and had the same reaction. I stared for a long time and could see only hints of the face she used to have. I’ve always thought of Goldie as being very genuine, more so than most Hollywood actresses, and I would never have dreamed she would do this to herself.
Aging Can Be Empowering
I understand the competition for roles in Hollywood is fierce, but the truth is that as I age I enjoy seeing actresses who have aged naturally. I can relate to them more. Judy Dench is a wonderful example. She has wrinkles and gray hair, but this seems to work to her advantage because she is frequently cast in roles with depth that tap the wisdom of her years rather than focus on her appearance. She has lived long enough to know how to go deeper, and I can always count on her performances to have substance.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the entertainment industry that is obsessed with youth. Most of the people who have plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes are women, but ten percent of the people in the United States who have plastic surgery are men. We are so obsessed with appearance that many feel they need to look younger in order to succeed in their careers even when appearance has nothing to do with performance.
Changing Our Appearance to Gain Confidence Is Superficial
In researching this topic, I came across the story of a young woman who had plastic surgery to change her body shape to a sexier one and was delighted with the attention she received and how it enhanced her career opportunities. All this positive attention from others made her more confident, but I wonder how long that confidence will last when she starts aging and drooping. Will she simply turn to surgery again or will she realize it’s time to heal her insecurity.
Fear Is the Basis of All Insecurity
When we live authentically, we accept who we. We accept our flat chests, large noses, big ears or gray hair. We don’t let the external define us. We want to change our appearance only if we feel we aren’t good enough or that we must please others in some way. Hiding beneath those insecurities is the fear that we are inadequate or that we will be rejected, so the root of the problem is our fear, not our appearance.
When we allow these fears to persist, we may not say no when we need to, so we continue to live with dysfunctional relationships that only reinforce our fears. We are more afraid of the unknown than we are of remaining miserable and hiding our true selves. When we live in fear, we never know joy, for it comes from deep within and comes from a deep feeling of freedom, unfettered by concerns for what others think of us. We never know peace because we are always looking around us to see if we have pleased another.
To Be Our True Selves, We Must Get In Touch With Our Core
Relying on anything external to define us is risky. The core of our being lies deep within us, so that the only way to truly know ourselves is to “keep going down to the bone” where we will find the inner voice that will guide us through all life’s experiences. We must be willing to let go of society’s expectations in order to discover what we want for our lives, and when it is different from what others want for us, we must have the courage to follow our inner guidance and let go of what will no longer serve us.
Authenticity Expresses What Is Unique About Us
One of the reasons I chose the quote by Meredith Monk is because I saw her perform in the 1970s. It was clear from the moment her modern dance company began the performance that this would be unlike anything I had ever seen. The dance was performed with the dancers singing, much like an opera. She created a landscape of movement, sound, and lighting that was exceptional. Clearly she expressed herself in an authentic way and she inspired me to do the same.
What I produced wasn’t always so good; sometimes it was silly; sometimes it didn’t work. But after seeing her work, I knew I had to experiment. I had to have the courage to find out what I could do and that was a greater motivation than the fear of failing. It is difficult to have courage if our personas are not genuine. In that case, our real selves are hidden beneath many layers that we must peel away. As we let go of what is artificial about our lives, what is authentic will emerge. As we face our fears and release them, knowing we are strong enough to survive whatever change occurs, what and who we no longer need will drop away, and our real selves will emerge.
Being Authentic Gives Us Freedom
This is why having a meditation or contemplative practice is so important. These practices clear away the mental debris so that we can hear the inner voice that will guide us. Until we become who we truly are, we may not even see the true gifts life has given us because they do not fit into the inauthentic life we created, but these may be gifts the world deeply needs. Finding love and joy and the freedom to express ourselves is a gift, not only to ourselves, but to the other people as well, and we can only do that when we are authentic. © 2014 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5