Have you ever caught the eyes of a small child sitting in the seat of a grocery cart or as they are fleeing full speed from their mommy and they smile at you with the biggest, most beautiful smile and then playfully turn away?
It makes my heart soar when I experience that. Which is usually pretty often.
Those little ones are giving their most genuine, authentic selves in that moment, with no expectation of anything in return. They don’t care if you think they are beautiful, well behaved, well dressed, well mannered, etc. They show up in full appreciation of you enjoying that moment with them.
That kind of freedom to be yourself without care is forgotten the older we get.
We begin to put up barriers around our hearts and masks in our minds to protect ourselves from pain caused by ridicule, teasing, criticism and/or rejection.
What if we stopped caring how people perceive us and be true to who we are and how we want to be?
What if you make the choice to show up as yourself in every situation? Would you feel free?
It was a decision I made a few years ago. To be the real me, no matter what. While I have tried in every situation I’ve encountered, it does take some practice.
The best, and easiest way for me to practice it is onstage.
As I grew from an ugly duckling into a professional dancer, I was told to never “pull faces” onstage.
“Pulling faces” was a term some of my teachers used to describe the way some dancers would over-exaggerate their facial expressions to “entertain” the audience. What those kids didn’t know/realize is that they weren’t being authentic with their audience and their audience knew it.
The audience always knows when you are being inauthentic.
A really good example of inauthenticity from a performer was the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I love the series and was sad to hear it was Johnny Depp’s last performance in the saga, so I went to see it.
I was completely disappointed in his performance.
What I experienced while watching was someone who was “phoning it in” and not giving it their heart and soul. It was as if he had already checked out of the role of Jack Sparrow before the movie had even begun.
Whatever his reasons for not giving it his all in that movie, he let me down as an audience member. I paid to be entertained by him to portray a character that he created and refined with his genius; but he failed to embody that character in that one final film.
It is like this in real life too.
When you encounter someone who puts on a mask and doesn’t share their true self with you and the world, and you feel that inauthenticity, do you trust them? Or do you accept their inauthenticity as who they are and continue in their charade?
Being authentic is a choice. It takes courage and heart.
Having courage to not care what other people think, and sharing you from the depths of you, whether or not people deserve to receive that, is true freedom.
You can take this advice to the stage and in your world.
Being authentic—true to you and what you believe, no matter what others think or say, is the ultimate freedom.
It can be difficult to let go of the pressures we have imagined into being or behaving a certain way so others feel better, more comfortable, in control, etc. But unless we choose authenticity, we cannot be free.
I believe that when authenticity is revealed, passion can come into play. And passion is contagious.
How often do you show up in your life as yourself?
As always, I hope you take this bit of encouragement to be brave, be you and let go of what the world will think.
Athena, aka Gazella