One of the great things about being a sophomore is that it has given me a much broader perspective. For close to a year before that, I was testing my boundaries and pushing my limits in an attempt to see where I fit in the puzzle of the collegiate layout. I felt like I had to be this type of person, or I should be that type of person. It was very much a time of questioning and experimentation.
Through it all, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again: Stop trying to be who you think you should be, and start embracing who you actually are!
There has always been some part of me that has been aware of what makes me unique, and what sets me apart from others. I am definitely one who likes to "stop and smell the roses" or at least slow down and appreciate the small joys that I am given. I observe tiny little details about things or people that otherwise tend to go unnoticed. I have an extremely sharp memory, and when something or someone impacts me in a positive way, I can recall almost every single thing about that experience
My reasoning behind that isn't solely because I almost didn't live past infancy. It is true that life moves incredibly fast and that you only get so many opportunities to do certain things. But there was also a time in my life where I spent nearly five years steeped in depression and self-loathing. I was in a dark place, where I questioned whether or not it was worth it to keep going or to fight through it.
When I think back on it as both an older and wiser woman, I try not to think of it as a waste. I've come to learn that everything does have it's own time, and maybe I wasn't meant to start pulling myself together until now. But that dark period has motivated me to seize every moment that I can, and soak it in for what it's worth. It is what enabled me to choose to get help when I did. I clearly remember saying to myself "I don't want to spend any more time wallowing in all of this. I want to get better and move forward."
That being said, it doesn't mean that I'm immune to hardship or pain; it just means that when it does happen, I will choose to approach it from a different perspective and handle it with grace, dignity, and strength.
The second aspect of my true self is that I have a very diverse and multi-faceted personality. I like doing a multitude of things with different people, and I don't allow a singular aspect of my life to define who I am. I've grown up perceiving myself as sweet and kind, almost to the point of being slightly naive. It wasn't until recently that I noticed that I have a fierce and feisty side; the side that tends to both surprise and scare anyone that gets to know me well enough.
I realize that some may take that as me being fake or superficial; after all, how does one have multiple sides to them without having ulterior motives? In my case, I think it just happens naturally. That's how I've come to define authenticity as a whole; when you're being authentic, you don't have to purposefully try to pull it off. It just shows.
What I mentioned above has often been a discomfort for me simply because I am afraid of how others will take it. Being vulnerable and telling it like is has been a huge blessing, but also a little bit of a curse. There have been acquaintances that have never fully turned into friendships because they don't know how to feel about who I am. They might be intimidated. They might be scared. In turn, they either keep me at a distance or walk away completely.
Whenever that has happened, I've wondered whether or not it has anything to do with me. And if it does, what do I do about it? Do I dumb myself down a little? (or just around specific people). Do I keep my writing (especially blogging) even more under wraps then it already is? Am I being vulnerable too much, too soon?
The reality is that I cannot control how anyone sees me, or the choices they make as a result. No one forces them to make the kind of decision, so I can't blame myself when I was simply being myself.
And besides, I've discovered that when someone decides to cut you off for no apparent reason and with no explanation, you really didn't need them anyway.
Concerns aside, I am proud of myself for how far I have come in the last six months or so. Living authentically has helped me to not only gain a better perspective, but it has allowed me to cultivate stronger relationships with my friends and family. Overall, it has taken a huge weight off my shoulders because I'm no longer using the majority of my strength and energy to craft this near-perfect presentation of myself.
And as scary as it may be sometimes, it's important to have the confidence to share your gifts and abilities with the world. I put a lot of myself into my writing, especially on this blog. I do my best to be honest and real with people, along with being genuine about what I choose to share.
Yet, the best way to be authentic isn't just by talking about who you are, but by living it out through your daily life. Again, it's not something you should have to constantly try to do. Just be. That's a tough one for me because I make these little mistakes and tend to beat myself up for them. But the more comfortable you become with your flaws, the easier it gets.
My main struggle now a days is being vulnerable; when to open up to certain people, or even if I should. I recently spent the weekend with a few close friends of mine, and was in turn introduced to some of her friends that had come into town. There were several times where I found myself discussing things that I normally wouldn't talk about with someone that I had just met, at least if I had time to think about it before the conversation happened.
Then again, I felt comfortable and at ease with these people. When that happens, I tend to live in the moment and say whatever comes to mind. Since then, I wonder if I should have watched myself more closely. Yet, I look back on it and think of how nice it was, and how I still have memories of it nearly two weeks later.
As time has passed and I have become more confident in myself as a whole, I have felt both liberated and relieved. That is one of the greatest feelings that can come from embracing your own uniqueness. The joy of understanding that you're not doing it to prove anything to anyone, or to gain their approval. You're doing it because it is simply who you are as a person.
In a world full of editing, doctoring and all-out superficiality, having the courage to demonstrate the kind of boldness is a gift. Don't let it go to waste at the expense of someone else.