Who we truly are will reflect in how others are around you. So, what are we putting out into the world?
I grew up in an environment and culture that applauded conformity, and any deviation from the norm was severely and quickly punished. ‘Uncles’ could touch me inappropriately after leading prayers in church, and ‘aunties’ could report me for crimes that I did not commit in the name of social propriety. ‘Friends’ could treat me like toilet paper for being the wrong color, and ‘teachers’ could dismiss me for questioning the system. And in this atmosphere, I grew up not being allowed to explore who I really was or what I really felt. Navigating the expectations of others became my normal. As decades slipped by and social media raised narcissism to a well-paid art, my real self slid into even darker recesses, and I have had to claw my way out of that hiding place where I only shone as much as others polished me.
Somewhere along the way came the realization that it was okay to be my imperfect self. To have breakups, to have failures, to have health issues and lousy bosses and horrid family members, and to not measure myself by anyone else’s expectations of what I should be. It was slow…this realization process. But today, it’s easy to pay compliments to another woman, pardon another soul without giving way to hate, to see good in someone who has harmed me, and have compassion for an alternate viewpoint. And I can do this because despite the plethora of naysayers that have compromised the majority of my socio-psychological influences, I sometimes ran into people who loved me so authentically that I wasn’t afraid to be myself around them. I could collapse into a hormonal mess, or spend three days in pyjamas around them, or be utterly imperfect in all sorts of annoying ways… and they allowed me to be that way without any judgement. And that in turn propelled me into being a healer, for these people taught me a powerful lesson about being authentic and holding space for others without compromising my own well-being.
Authenticity has been studied since time immemorial. We have packaged it into books, magazines, philosophies, and each of us has our own version of it. Also, never before, in the history of mankind, has hypocrisy been paraded more openly as authenticity. Gurus and godmen, influencers and ineptitude… never before has the good life been this bad. And while I continue to meander through this mire of madness we call life, I believe I have arrived at a formula for being genuine amidst all the posturing, and it contains two elements. Firstly – these days, I try to ensure my social media posts align with my highest ideals and my actual inner landscape rather than painting a fake picture of my life for others to envy. And second, and this is truly important – I try to let people be themselves around me. Whether doing it at close quarters or from a safe distance, I allow people feel safe enough to be their most authentic selves around me. Because to enable authenticity in others, we have to first connect to who we really are, accept all our own glories and all our brokenness, and be equally comfortable with both. There’s nothing quite like becoming the star of your own reality show. Believe me… tune in once and you’ll never be able to stop watching.
But don’t take my word for it. Greater minds than mine have said it from time immemorial. Still, few have said it better than Carl Gustav Jung, who beautifully summed it up when he so elegantly and accurately stated, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Embrace the privilege.
Sangeetha Shinde Tee is an author of four books, editor of 3 international magazines, an acclaimed healer, and reluctant entrepreneur. Also an unconventional traveler, rebellious truth seeker, and inveterate animal rescuer, she is working on her fifth book – a collection of ghost stories from around the world. Find out more about her life, books, and work at www.sangeethashindetee.com