Monday, February 20, 2012

Finding Authenticity

It took 20 minutes of this hour lesson for me
to breathe.  That's the Authentic Me.  Fortunately, Linnea Seaman's
Authentic Self is used to idiots.

t’s not an absolute requirement that you watch the video below.  Today I'm putting it at the end of the post because some of you will undoubtedly be offended by the song centering firmly on the F-word as applies to our current social and political and financial and every other –al situation.  Personally, I found myself humming it for days after I first heard it, and I ordered the t-shirt.  And I wore it.  In public.  That's my authentic self.  Putting the video at the end of this post isn't, but I'm going to roll with that to avoid offending...which is my authentic self.  We are nothing if not completely screwy. 

Anyway, you can skip the vid if you like.  There will not be a question about it on the final exam.

What’s important in the TED lecture below isn’t that the world is a mess and none of us wants to take responsibility for it.  The point of the lecture is the difficulty in finding (and releasing into the wild) our authentic selves.  The Real Us.  The voice inside that lets us know that we’re faking it when we’re shaving the facts to suit the listener.  We may become more popular with the PTA for not announcing that the planned Spree Day Fantasy Outdoor Wind Chime Fundraiser is a about as exciting as watching milk curdle.  But those close to us, including our animals, aren’t fooled.  You can’t control that hitch in your voice or that slight increase in your pulse rate that screams to the sensitive, “Liar!  I’m a damn LIAR here!”

This morning I had a very interesting email convo with a friend who is having a scary problem with her horse.  She wrote about it this week in her catalog newsletter, and you can read it for yourself here:  Hoofprints Catalog.  Click "archives" under "newsletter" and read the first entry.  Order some stuff while you’re there.  Anyway, it was that conversation that got me thinking about authentic selves.  Gina, bless her little heart, is being completely authentic when she admits publicly that she has made a training mistake and is regretting it.  She is authentic in her fear, her anxiety, her worry that what she has done can’t be undone.  She is like the rest of us, only without the heavy makeup and perfume that make us feel like pretty flowers instead of flawed humans.

Like Gina, I have my own training issues and my own anxiety, and I’ve posted about both in the past.  Admitting to those problems is the first step in excavating one’s authentic self from the rubble of desires and requirements it's buried under.  Doing something about them in a way that is in keeping with that self is more difficult and constitutes the next step in the process.

For me, ignoring the naysayers and the railbird critics was hard.  I had a public persona to defend, after all, and that persona does not brook idiots or stupid mistakes.  Unfortunately, that’s not who I am.  I am an idiot generating stupid mistakes like my cat generates hair on the carpeting.  Accepting that I could get past the problem by accepting myself and the horse was the next step, and using that to advantage is the current stop on this Success Train.  

Letting our animals smell the fear on us is bad, according to Conventional Wisdom.  The thing is, it's there; they know it; they smell it, and they probably wonder why we're behaving so oddly given the obvious terror we're experiencing.  That can't be good.  Nor can bulling through a scary situation--rearing horse, dog in a state of stress over an interloper, teenager in angst because the BFF is BF-ing with some other F--when it's obvious that we have no plan and are about as inwardly-hysterical as we can get.  That doesn't help anyone, including us.  Feeling inauthentic is feeling like a fraud. That's hard to live with.  That kind of disconnect is incredibly stressful and probably accounts for that knot in the pit of your stomach when your public face is challenged.

Now, before anyone jumps on me for flying in the face of research, yes, it's true that if you can put a smile on, you'll feel happier.  That's really, truly true, I swear.  Our mind-body connections work in mysterious ways.  And sometimes--sometimes--making that leap past your wall of fear can kill the demon you're dreading and let you move on.  But admitting who you are and what you're feeling and making a plan that sticks to those principles will do the same thing and probably more safely and with far less drama.  

Where my authenticity lives is a place that swings wildly between bravery and bravado-laced-with-terror.  I'm easy pickin's for my big Paint, Zips Terrorist because a huge part of my self hates pain.  It didn't when I was younger, but, well... I was younger then.  My last attempted outing with the big lug resulted in an injured rotator cuff...and I wasn't even on him!  That means he's had three weeks off, learned that I'm a wuss, and has no idea why he's lost his spot in the riding rotation.  All of that will have to be sorted out and corrected as soon as I can raise my left arm high enough to saddle him. But my new Authenticity-Forward approach means I will do it when it's possible without worrying about whether my progress meets any standards but my own.  And Zip's.  Authentically. 

PS:  If you're in a place where you're questioning yourself and your horse life, I'm going to recommend once again that you listen to (really, the audio book is the best) Healing Shine: A Spiritual Assignment, also available at the link above from the Hoofprints catalog.  

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