Sometimes my yoga teacher will give us a topic to think about as we flow through poses and begin to quiet our bodies and minds. This past week he presented the concept of “true north”–connecting with and expressing who we really are. As I went about my week I wondered when (1) I was aligned with my true self (beyond the fear, worry, and narcissism of the ego) and (2) when and to whom I showed my true north. The concept of “true north” was brought up again in the different arenas of my life.
“If there is no authenticity…I don’t want to be there,” said a client with a wave of her hand in a meeting a few days later. A coworker and I have been working with an incredibly intelligent director who wants her team to be transparent, honest, and work together seamlessly for the common good. Much of their challenge lies with fears they have around being open (i.e., vulnerable) and honest with each other due to cliques, fear (warranted or not) of retaliation, and just plain old human nature of mistrusting your coworkers to some degree. She does not like passive aggressive behavior, mind games, or any other actions that sway them from truth. We have slowly begun chipping away at their walls, but it’s going to take some time.
“Your body knows what it needs to do,” my instructor said yesterday. He held a special Saturday practice for me and two bo dans as we will all be testing for bo dan (me) and black belt (my classmates) in three weeks. He was giving us a little pep talk after two hours of hard work. Then he looked at me out of the corner of his eye.
“I’m worried that you’ll get to the test and think too much,” he said. And he’s right. I do think too much, which slows me down, diminishes my confidence, and can ultimately affect my performance. He didn’t come out and say, “Be yourself,” but it would have made sense if he had. My mind and body know what needs to happen. My ego is the one who needs to get out of the way.
When am I authentic? Is it at work? Is it around my family and boyfriend? Is it with my taekwondo buddies? In each setting I am a slightly different version of myself. The same underlying operating system is at play, but some of my mannerisms and patterns of speech are different. I’m not sure which one is the true me. Maybe they all are. I don’t feel like I have to “fake it” for any of those groups of people even though there’s a little more “acting” with some groups, especially in the professional arena. I just interact with them differently because our relationships are so different. What works for my coworkers isn’t the same as what works with my parents.
I don’t feel the pressure to be a certain way or adopt a certain persona. I just naturally meld into the relationship I have with them: daughter, sister, girlfriend, employee, coworker, student, classmate, and soon to be black belt and the expectations that go along with it. Each one is a “true” version of me that is consistent with their reality. Who I really am underlies each one of those relationships. Now, I am also a fairly reserved person, so there are things about I me I don’t reveal. One could argue that I am less authentic with people than others may be, but who it is truly open about every thought, feeling, and secret that they have? Name one person…I’ll wait.
What’s been more difficult to grasp throughout much of my life is that it’s OK to be my true self, to express my “True North.” For so long I hated who I was and wanted to sink into the floor with embarrassment rather than interact with anyone. I didn’t really think anyone wanted to know the real me and couldn’t understand why people tried to talk to me. Coincidentally (or not?) I began to lose my authentic self when I quit taekwondo at age 12. I began to put more and more stock into what other people thought of me. My relationships carried too much weight and too few boundaries. I sometimes wonder if I would have saved myself years of pain and humiliation if I had stayed on the black belt path. It’s a relief to know I’ve come full circle.
I’m finally starting to realize that it’s OK to be who I really am, and I can create my own truth. One of my favorite enlightenment teachers values Truth above all else. For a long time I wondered what his Truth was. Now I realize it doesn’t matter. All that matters is my Truth. All that matters to you is your Truth. The trick is to be consistent with it and let go of the fear of expressing it and bringing it to light.