The Joy of Practicing Authenticity

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Authenticity. It’s a buzz word these days. Be Authentic. Be yourself.

I strive for authenticity. It’s important to me to be real. But upon some reflection lately, I think I have fallen short in really embracing the authentic me.  We probably all struggle with this more than we realize. I love that Brene Brown says it’s a practice. That’s a much better way to think of it because we will never be perfectly authentic all the time.

It’s difficult to really show up, to be your true self. And It’s hard to admit when we are less than authentic. It’s vulnerable. But I think it’s time for me to make some changes. If I were grading myself on my authenticity, I would give myself a B+. I feel like I am usually myself when it comes to dealing with others and the “me” I put out in the world, but I know even that version of me is more edited than I want to admit. Thankfully it’s becoming a trend to be more real, unedited, less photoshopped than ever before and I am working on embracing this way of life. It’s hard. And it’s my relationship with myself that I most need to dig deeper to further uncover the real me.

One definition of authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself”. Another definition…”not false or copied; genuine, real”. And I am at a point in my life where it’s time to get real with myself. It’s time to go farther outside my comfort zone than ever, push myself to reach those dreams that are so deep and private that we are afraid to even speak them. You know the ones? I know you have them too. On second thought, maybe it’s moving INTO my comfort zone that I need– it’s being comfortable in my own skin that I am looking for.

Living an authentic life to me means being true to what you want. It means having the courage to say no to what the world wants from you or your family wants from you, or what you thought you wanted at once time, if you now know in your gut it’s not what you really want anymore. It means being courageous enough to speak up when you need rest, or something isn’t fun anymore or the pressure is too much. It takes admitting to yourself what you really want and believing you can reach it and that you deserve it.  It’s about no longer dismissing thoughts or dreams as things you will do “one day” or when you make enough money or when your kids are grown. 

Your body is your authenticity litmus test. How many of you are tense most every day? Are your shoulders and neck tight? Do you feel pain in your low back or chest? Does your head ache? Your jaw hurt? That’s your body trying to tell you something. And I have had many of those feeling for years and just kept pushing through them, as if one day my to do list would magically get shorter and pressure would subside.

How many of you wake in the morning thinking “I’d give anything if I didn’t have to do (fill in the blank) today? And how many days do you wake up and start your day in a dead run because you are already way behind and it’s not even breakfast time yet? Now don’t get me wrong, for the most part I love my job and I love my life. But I am definitely hitting a phase where I have decided to recalibrate a bit. It’s time to lean into a few dreams and goals and areas of interest that I have been hesitant to embrace and its time to step away from some things that have run their course or at least time to reinvent them so they are fun and exciting again.

For a girl who’s been striving all her life, I love this idea of unbecoming. I want more time freedom. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.  And don’t we all, right? But more and more I have been asking myself, “when?” When is it time to stop doing some of the things I think I should, in lieu of some of the things I want? There’s a great Oprah quote that says “Do what you have to do, until you can do what you want to do.” And I have been doing a lot of “have to’s” for years. Of course as I have gotten older and my brand more known, I have gotten to sprinkle in a lot more “want to’s” like product lines and exciting collaborations. But I want even more “want to” in my life. It’s time.

I am ready to tell my gut and my heart and my soul YES to my deepest desires. And I have already started in that direction with moving my studio home, traveling less, being home more with my family and pups, and being more selective with the things I say yes to. But for the rest of this year, I am going full speed ahead with what my heart wants. I am leaning in to my desires. I am going to play more (we all need more play and pleasure) and find more joy than ever.

I am tired of hustling. Of proving. I am done with that way of life. I am taking more time off than ever before. I am closing my office 4 weeks between now and year’s end AND taking a week-long vacation on top of that. I believe I’ve earned it! I am taking Friday’s off all summer to spend with my pre-teen who before I know it will be heading off to college. Next year I may even close the whole month of July, take off all the other summer Fridays, and close for 4 or 5 other weeks during the year. That excites me! That feels reckless and free. And I suspect that if I do this, I will make more money and live my passion more than ever. Tim Ferris, author of the 4 hour work week was genius when he said “Make as much money as you can in as little time as possible so you can do what you want with all the rest of your time!” Yes time! That is what my authentic self craves.

And I am bringing this freedom to my business this year! I am launching an all new website in a few months that embodies all the things I am passionate about in design and consulting and life I am redesigning many of my classes and courses and have some really progressive ideas around my consulting business that are totally lighting my fire but will take less hustle to provide. And I am taking only the design clients that are a perfect fit for me and my philosophy of life. I couldn’t be more proud of that! I have been selective for years, but I am taking that to a whole new level and I know because of that, I will bring my best work in years to a select few ideal clients. And I will be more fulfilled.

My business is smaller (thanks to outsourcing) and stronger (thanks to clarity) and more profitable than ever because of these changes, and I am becoming more rested and fulfilled and healthy than I have been in years. I feel like I am right in the middle of my sweet spot. Exactly where I am meant to be. And my body is telling me that’s true too! I am easing into my days and relaxing at night more than I have in 15 years and it feels oh so good! Until I made these changes, I don’t remember a morning in years that I felt relaxing and like I had a choice of where to start my day or what to work on or a choice to not work at all. It’s liberating and it feels like the real me is in charge, maybe for the first time ever.

So how do you feel?  Take a minute and check in with yourself. Check your shoulders and your gut. Check your jaw. Are you tense? Are you overworked? Are you taking jobs that don’t inspire you just because you don’t think you have a choice? Well you do. You can choose you. You can lean into your authentic self and be better, healthier, happier and more profitable because of it. It takes courage but it’s all in your power.

So embrace your authentic self. For a hustler like me, it takes practice. I feel anxious when I am not crazy busy. I feel nervous when I am not hustling. It’s all I’ve known for years but I know with practice I’ll figure it out. I know with time it will feel great. An authentic life may seem ordinary, but that’s where the magic happens. I’ve been striving for the extraordinary and I agree with Brene Brown. You can get so focused on becoming important, that you miss THE most important stuff that is already there in the ordinary parts of your life. So consider getting back to ordinary. Your body, your family, your clients and those commitments you say YES to will thank you, because they will get the very best version of you.

Here’s to being true to ourself. We only have one life to live, so live a life that you love! I’ll see you there.

Joyfully yours,

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to The Joy of Practicing Authenticity

  1. SusanS says:

    Tobi, you deserve to scale back and put your energies into your personal life whilst being selective in your professional. You’ve also been generous with your readership in opening up about your journey and sharing many design videos. I don’t see how you could possibly be any more authentic. All the best!

  2. Tobi says:

    Wow! Thank you Susan. That is so kind of you to say. All the best to you too!