“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brené Brown
One of my favorite qualities in children is their ability to have zero self-consciousness.
They speak the truth, they want what they want when they want it, and they make no apologies for who they are.
On the flip side of the coin, sometimes their lack of awareness can lead them to say inappropriate comments, but even when this happens, they can get away with it because their innocence makes it humorous.
The same rings true for grumpy elderly people that have no filter. It generally comes across as charming that they care less what others think about them.
I have hope that I’ll end up as one of those firecracker old ladies, but for now, I’m still a work in progress when it comes to letting go of what others think of me.
I got to thinking about this more this week after my son went to a week-long summer camp.
During the car ride there on his first day of camp, Parker said, “I’m going to go up to someone and ask them to be my friend.” I told him that was a nice idea.
We arrived, and my daughter, displaying her own lack of self-consciousness, insisted on wearing her big-girl backpack that she brought from home because she wanted to be like big brother. The backpack, ten times too large, nearly reached her heels when she put it on, but it was a battle I wasn’t willing to wage to keep it from her.
On our way over to the check-in table, an UN-self-conscious older lady about twenty feet ahead of us, said in a loud voice to her friend, “Did you see the size of that backpack on that little girl?!” I should have responded, “It’s empty, and you have to pick and choose your battles, lady!”, but my own self-consciousness held me back.
After checking in my son, I walked about thirty feet away and hovered, watching him like the helicopter mom that I am.
He went up to the tallest boy in the group. I like my son’s confidence. I couldn’t tell what Parker asked him, but if he used the “Will you be my friend?” line, it didn’t go over well. The boy turned his back to him and the disappointed look on Parker’s face felt like a punch in the gut to me.
He then set his sights on a boy that looked younger than him. He walked up to him and said, “Do you like my shirt?” Not a bad line, in my opinion, since Captain America is rad, but this little boy also turned away without responding.
I could barely handle Parker’s crestfallen face. He stood under the tent and stuffed his hands in his pockets looking both lost and alone. I so badly wanted to rescue him, but I told myself that he would make friends by the end of the day.
Well, when I went back to pick him up that afternoon, my heart broke all over again. Most of the kids were running around and playing, but he was sitting under the tent. He had been crying and the woman in charge said there was a spat over places in line and that Parker really missed me for the last couple of hours.
It dawned on me that my sweet boy has entered the stage of life when self-consciousness can rear its ugly head. I see so much of myself in my sensitive boy, and I had to really think about how I was going to handle this situation.
As kids, we’re ingrained with the message, “Just be yourself.” It’s communicated as though this is the easiest thing in the world. Just be yourself. The part that’s often left out is that sometimes being yourself takes courage.
It’s tough to be yourself when you don’t fit in with the crowd or when the person you truly are might be deemed weak or unacceptable by the majority of others. Sometimes being yourself requires rejection, and this is a confusing concept to learn. (Heck, I’m still trying to come to terms with this concept every time someone unfollows me on Instagram.)
I thought about the young and the old and how they seem to have the most bravery in unapologetically being themselves. It might be a stretch of the imagination, but maybe it’s not a coincidence that the young and the old are also closer in proximity to God.
I don’t think there is any belief that gives a person more courage to be themselves than knowing that they are a child of God. Once you realize (or, rather, remember) that you’re a child of God, you realize that God is a part of you because you came from God. How’s that belief for increasing your level of personal power and confidence? You also realize that separation from others is all an illusion, because we all came from the same source. This levels the playing field quite a bit.
Fear tries to get in the way of authenticity, but when we realize that we are all at our core the same (God and love), there is nothing left to fear over our human differences. For me, faith in God correlates with faith in myself and faith in the human race.
I preach my faith, but I will admit that faith, in my life, is a journey with peaks and valleys. It’s one thing to know faith in my mind, and it’s an entirely different beast to experience faith, day in day out. #Goals
The next morning, Parker was in tears about returning to camp. “But I’ll miss you Mommy.” I turned off the television, looked him in his eyes, and said, “I will miss you too. But I want you to always remember that you’re never alone. God is always with you and inside of your heart. You have nothing to fear.”
I’m happy to report that when I picked Parker up that afternoon, he was playing ball with the tall boy.
The thing about courage is that we can’t earn it unless we’re afraid to begin with and we face our fears. We don’t get to have the courage without the fear. It’s a package deal.
May we all be brave enough to be our authentic selves and open up doors for others to be their authentic selves. Authenticity is contagious in the best possible way.
May we all be brave enough to be as sassy as the old lady, as obstinate as the 2-year-old, as tenderhearted as the loner, and exactly the way God intended us to be.
(And P.S. Don’t think for a minute that I wasn’t self-conscious to post this. Work in progress, people. Work in progress.)