Coming into Your Own: A Lesson on Authenticity, Alignment, and Purpose
I muscled into my hotel room with great disappointment after turning down a lunch date with colleagues. It was a long walk from the convention center to the Westin, so I had plenty of time to think about what I had just done. I needed a listening ear and a loving heart, but as I entered the room to explain my error to my best friend, nothing came out. I was so upset at myself that I couldn’t even express how I felt.
I was at my first national conference in my new career field. It was an important moment for me to not only learn about industry standards and trends, but to connect with others doing the work – particularly those who look like me. I’d been participating in a group chat all weekend in preparation for this moment, but suddenly all I wanted to do was retreat to what was common to me.
But I felt bad about doing so.
Networking with these people was what I was supposed to be here for, but I’d been interacting all morning and my introversion simply wanted a break from it; I needed to recharge.
I learned a few years ago what that meant for me – how my need to spend time alone meant I’d be forfeiting a lot of interactions. I had to realize that my isolation wasn’t always a bad thing, but was simply a moment I needed, to show up in the world most effectively. I had to come to terms with my inability to actually network without first having had a glass of wine to take the edge off. I had to recognize the ways anxiety manifests itself in my life – especially in public settings where everyone’s a stranger. These realities weren’t over-exaggerated, they were real, and as much as I wanted to rid myself of them, they were who I’d become.
I’d been carrying these things for a while, but it wasn’t until this moment that I felt that real weight of them. It was as if they all collided and the lesson I was going to learn about this, was happening in that hotel room.
There were quite a few things I learned about authenticity on this day. Things that I needed to learn to be comfortable owning who I was — not just in my personal life which I seemed to have done so masterfully, but in professional spaces too. Things that have unknowingly helped me in the past (that perhaps, I just needed a quick re-visit from), and things that I’d need going forward.
Authenticity is a pre-requisite for alignment.
God coached me through my breakdown by reminding me that what’s for me will be mine. What He has for me can’t be shaken or moved by cancelled lunch plans, going to bed early, or my super pride for black womanhood. In fact, it’s when I’m operating as my most authentic self that things fall into place.
On several occasions I’ve found myself in spaces that didn’t serve me because I convinced myself that I needed to be there. I’ve had conversations and forged relationships with people who weren’t for me, because I thought those relationships were what I needed. I’d busy myself with work that didn’t agree with my fullest self, because I thought it’d be an opportunity for better — better possibilities and the emergence of a better woman. What I found myself in, time-and-time again, was mess. Drama from befriending folk that didn’t align with me spiritually or personally. Exhaustion from committing to projects I didn’t even want. Worry from forcefully aligning myself with colleagues that didn’t serve me — and with whom I didn’t serve.
I was operating outside of my authentic self and wondering why everything I created in those moments lacked authenticity. I couldn’t be aligned with the appropriate opportunities if I kept fighting who I truly was and what I truly wanted. The more I accepted the value in my existence, the more diligent I became in showcasing the real me. The more I let her out, the better positioned I was for the opportunities that had been awaiting me; opportunities that properly aligned with who I am and where I’m going. This has worked tremendously for my personal life and the cultivation of meaningful friendships, so I know it could be true for my professional life as well.
Purpose is assigned to the person I am, not the person I pretend to be.
If my purpose was to be in certain spaces, then I will get there with my truest self in tact. This means if I am drawn to specific content areas, if I’m a Type A personality that likes to work a certain way, or if I’m an introvert that skips out of networking events and co-worker lunches, my purpose will honor that. Opportunities won’t be lost because I exercise my authenticity. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I am not, to receive what God has for me. He has already created me in a way that’s conducive to my calling and to forfeit that being, means I will forfeit what has already been pre-destined for me. God doesn’t require me to be anyone other than who I am to be who He has called me to be.
I had to stop feeling bad for me owning my reality and doing what I had to, to ensure I was well — in this case, taking a step back to recenter my energy. I had to stop trying to force certain conversations because I thought they’d get me to the tables I desperately wanted to sit at. I had to stop using pivotal moments to be less than (or appear more than) who I actually was. I had to learn to just be me through-and-through and trust that all things would work together because of that.
The beauty of authenticity is that when you show up as you are, you receive the things that align with the real you.
I didn’t have to attend that lunch to have a relationship with the people I was pre-destined to have a relationship with — especially not if attending it was threat to my authentic being. I don’t have to go to places or do things that don’t align with my fullest self, to receive the blessings God has for me. Nothing He wants to provide will require me to step outside of who I am. His blessings may require new levels of growth, but it won’t require me to be stripped of my authenticity to fit a mold that isn’t me.
As I take up space in this world and dedicate my life to self-discovery (and in some cases, self-recovery) I’m encouraged to operate in my truest being. I’m no longer beating myself up for who I am, instead, I am finally owning it. I am finally understanding that my truth and authenticity don’t make me any better or worse than the next person; it simply makes me different. And the more I accept and honor those differences, the more comfortable I am in my own existence.