Updated: Aug 22, 2021
One day, while going about my daily routines, the random question came to mind... "who the hell are you?" In that moment, that thought seemed really out of place. But as the day moved on, I could not shake the feeling that I needed to pay more attention. I needed to pay attention because it called me to get out of my head, examine my inflated ego, and to confront the caricature of myself that walked around flaunting an air of confidence. This false narrative hindered growth and stifled authenticity. I was someone else - someone I did not know.
It is quite self-defeating to sell oneself a story about oneself - a false narrative. I often revisited my past, recrafting, re-editing, and retelling stories in such a way that made me appear much wiser, stronger, in control, and rather self-assured. I became skilled at reverse-engineering my failures, fears, foolishness, and lack of knowledge into something palatable, or better yet, into someone I could accept, someone I could sell. Fantasy appeared more desirable than truth because truth was (and is) often hard and inconvenient to accept. Little did I realize that fantasy was the silent enemy of reality and the notorious thief of one's identity and personal happiness.
False narratives hinder one from being fully present. They cause one to avoid introspection, to lose sight of the journey, and to shun becoming an avid student of life. Because ego stands in the way. Someone who thinks they have it all figured out will not focus on (or build on) the game plan that brought them success. No successful team throws away the playbook simply because they have won the championship. They reexamine every play, every strategy, and build on that success for future games.
I firmly believe that each one of us is unique in our own right - with one's own path that one must follow. But when we lose sight of that uniqueness, ego steals the spotlight, and shines it on the apparent successes/accomplishment of others. Gradually, we begin to mirror and aspire to their portrayals of 'greatness' and soon begin to feel insignificant, lost, or even envious. That creates an identity crisis, forcing us to 'become' something or someone we are not, simply to keep up in a race that we were not meant to run in the first place. Their approval (subconsciously or not) becomes the prize. No wonder we are all burnt out, sick, and tired! Narratives are simply exhausting. But authenticity matters. It is priceless.
To be authentic, I must always be conscious of what is important to me. That is my real prize. - my goal. That perspective keeps the journey real and uniquely truthful for me. It breathes purpose and significance to my life. It is the raison d'etre of my existence. Only I can decide on my journey and decide the actions steps I must take. That journey, however, is fraught with obstacles, setbacks, starts, stops, finishes, failures, and successes. And I am willing to accept that. But I must show up - fully present, truthful, and ever ready to put in the work. Sitting on the sidelines fantasizing about winning the race, will not get the race started, much less won. Telling myself that I am a winner but unwilling to run the race, is nothing but self-deceit - a reengineering of my obvious laziness. I can be anything or anyone in my fantasies. But who I am in reality is what really matters.
But striving towards authenticity, however, can be somewhat daunting and makes one feel vulnerable. It peels away the layers of self-deceit and ego, and often brings feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness to the surface. The key to being authentic, therefore, is to be particularly honest with oneself no matter how uncomfortable it feels. One must stand in the truth of who one is - accepting one's flaws, insecurities, weaknesses, strengths, and gifts. One is who one is. There must also be a willingness to learn from everything and from everyone. But one must resist the urge to become them. You are enough. The more one strives to be authentic, the more committed one is to their happiness. Authenticity and happiness are eternal lovers. They walk hand in hand.
Now the truth of the matter is, I have come to realize that there is no show - no lead role and no protagonist in this journey called life. One becomes an actor only when one chooses to live a lie and/or when one succumbs to fear. Life, however, does not reward the fearful. Only the brave can claim the prize. For the brave dare to show up and be counted. So show up and live! Reject the narratives! Embrace the truth! For there is great reward in living intentionally and authentically. That, to me, is the most beautiful, truest expression of personal success and achievement.