“Authenticity means exercising the compassion to know that we are all made of strength and struggle.” Brené Brown, Gifts of Imperfection
I believe that “being seen” is one of the most profound human experiences we can have this side of heaven. I think it means that someone understands, accepts and loves your heart, the core of your being. They are able to fully acknowledge all the beauty right alongside all the ugly; they are able to smile at all the joy, as well as the sadness; they celebrate the light burning inside of us, as much as the darkness that sometimes gets the better of us. I think being seen is a lot like unconditional love, except that it’s not built on ignorance of our many shortcomings, but rather the knowledge and acceptance of all that makes up our authentic selves – the good, the bad, the strength and the struggle.
I wrote a book on the journey I went through and the lessons learned along the way to finding my authentic self. It was not the prettiest path to getting to the truth and certainly not always the most direct route, but it led to me have a deep understanding of who I was, who I am now and just as important, who I am not. I was finally able to shine a light on the woman that had been hidden behind this great big wall of perfectionism and “I got this.”
And here’s what I found: I really like that woman. I like what I see.
I used to hold back connecting with people because I didn’t want them to be able to get too close; what if they saw that I wasn’t perfect? Now, I own my flaws as much as I own my strengths – because they’re all a part of me. I try not to place any judgment on any of them – they are neither bad nor good. Rather, they’re all simple threads that when woven together create this beautiful fabric that wraps around me like a warm scarf. Now, I allow people to see the real me, though my daily interactions, in the choices I make and certainly when I have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned. I don’t always have it all together all the time, but now I just like to think of that as part of my charm. I like things that look a little worn, like a piece of furniture that needs refinished; it means it’s been though something and it has a story, a history. I think it’s the same with people.
I used to believe that I had to “suck it up,” and do the soul-crushing jobs in corporate America until I earned and saved enough money and paid off enough debt so that I could one day do something I really enjoyed. I had convinced myself that I had to be unhappy for some period of time so that I could ultimately be happy later, like paying my dues. Now, as I sit here in the middle of my life, I know that to have abundance in life, you don’t have to give your life to a corporation that doesn’t see you and you don’t have to sell your soul. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As soon I found my soul and begin to nurture it a bit, everything came to life. The dreams that had been placed on my heart and that had been speaking to me all those years, they never went away, they never quit tugging at me or beckoning me (by the way, yours aren’t going anywhere either). With just a little light and love, the dreams began to take root and flourish. Not only can you make a living doing something that makes your soul sing, but you can live in abundance and happiness too. When I got took the time to see and value myself, the universe winked back.
I was watching TV last night and a successful and confident woman was giving an acceptance speech for an award and they thanked their partner for “seeing them even when they didn’t see themselves” and tears came to my eyes. To me, as a newlywed, that burst of gratitude articulated what being in an authentic, loving, committed relationship is all about. Allowing ourselves to be truly seen by another and knowing that feeling of security and comfort that is right there when you need it is such a beautiful gift.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about personal or professional relationships, we all want to be seen, accepted and loved as our authentic selves. Because we all have a story of strength and flaws and we’re all imperfectly perfect. The greatest gift I can give to my clients is to hold a safe space for them so they can be seen.
Seeing ourselves is truth. Allowing ourselves to be seen is a vision of courage. Being seen by another is a miracle.