Authenticity, Self-Expression and The Need for Safety
Posted on 1st November 2021 at 08:36
Speaking at an event last week, I shared the most difficult part of my personal journey towards expressing my whole self has been loosening my grip on the desire for safety. Authenticity is hard because it compromises the human need for security and acceptance. A question I have reflected on often has been ‘Is it safe to be myself?’ In today’s society and workplaces, we don’t always create safe spaces for people to really flourish authentically. To live a full life, we each need to overcome the challenge of this reality. The alternative is to spend life in a constant internal battle between who you want to be and what you feel safe revealing.
My work demands that I share myself more fully than comes naturally to me. Each time I share, I allow more of myself to be seen. It is a vulnerable place to have all of who you are seen and recognised. We have all suffered the pain of a vulnerability hangover when we have shared more than we intended. I am no different. Yet, to be seen is to be significant. Part of having a meaningful life is feeling that your life is significant. If we hide who we are, we dilute that significance for ourselves. Conversely, when we choose growth and decide to express more of who we are, we must accept that we are removing an element of safety from our lives.
While you cannot control how others will react as you allow more of who you are to be seen, you can control how you create a sense of safety for yourself and others. To do so requires an understanding of the barriers to authenticity that exist within you. The trauma you carry. The protection you feel to be essential. All of this encapsulates the internal work; what strengths need to be built, what parts of you healed, how your story can be retold. Where you need to draw on your courage to stand apart from the crowd. And who you need to surround yourself with to support that. As we do this inner work, our environment begins to feel safer because we become more equipped to handle other people’s reactions to how we may differ. Equally doing the inner work forces us to address our shadow. In doing so we become safer for others because we can hold a better space for how they may be unique. As I walk this path myself, I have reflected on how I may not have been safe for others in the past. When their ability to show themselves triggered my inability to do that. We all must grapple with this dual nature of safety; are others safe to be around when I express fully who I am? And, perhaps more importantly, am I safe to be around when they do?
More than anything, I have learned Authenticity is a process not a state. You don’t learn authenticity, you live it. Bit by bit, you put yourself more fully into the world. Taking small risks. Opening your mind and heart to the idea there is always a choice to be more fully who you are.
Tagged as: authentic, authenticity, diversity, expression, leadership, meaning, safety, self-expression, wholeness
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