Have you ever had a cappuccino in the city and people watched, longing for that Gucci handbag, caramel ombre hair cut, the champagne blazer… her very sparkly life?
“If I could just be like her,” you think as you take another sip, “I would be loved and happy.”
For a long time, I thought I knew who I was. I defined it mainly by the outside things; the material symbols of who I thought I should be. I wanted a job that held fancy galas and a man who worked in a white-collar career. My fancy city apartment would be filled with art on the walls.
If I possessed these things, then I would be living a life of impact and excitement. How could this type of life, a Hollywood movie life not be perfectly fulfilling?
So I went to university to study design, a degree that promised good job prospects, travel, glamour and adventure. I thought this was a step toward my shiny life I was meant to live, towards my authentic self.
I thought I knew who I was but I still hadn’t really met her yet.
As I chased the shiny mirage on the horizon, I started to doubt my self-worth for not having achieved it yet.
Deep down, I whispered to myself, “You’re not worth it. No employer will invest in you. You don’t have what it takes to live that life. You don’t belong.”
Slowly, I traded the shiny things for ‘safer’ choices. I gave up on my goals, and accepted this new judgement of my self-worth.
As years went by, it hurt to look at my life without those things I so desired in it. I felt a deep sadness for my teenage self who had allowed herself to dream. Without the shiny mirage on the horizon, I felt directionless and lost.
I buried that dreaming girl and tried my best to move forward.
I can see now, with 20/20 hindsight that I was motivated by the wrong things.
Your authentic self isn’t what’s on the outside. It starts with defining who you are on the inside; a unique combination of what you value and what you’re worth. These become your inner compass.
I valued things and status believing that these would make me worthwhile, valuable, precious in the transfer. I left my authentic self up for grabs to the highest bidder, the shiniest promise.
Many of us think this way, that having the stuff will motivate us to make the right choices which will help our self-worth.
In reality, it’s the other way around. We need to dig deeply and uncover our inner values, where we really want to put our attention. These beliefs need to be self-affirming, lifting our authentic self from the inside like excavating a precious stone.
Then, as we make choices and take actions in alignment with our authentic selves, we will end up with an abundance of things in our life that really matter: quality relationships, valuable work, memorable experiences and maybe even a few of the shiny things thrown in for good measure – if that’s what your authentic self truly values.
For me, I finally made the choice to value myself by leaving my toxic relationship. I took time to heal then I followed another dream I had as a 16 year old girl: to work a ski season. I purged my life and belongings down to a suit case and a snowboard bag and moved to New Zealand.
I started again from the beginning and chose to value kindness.
Now, 6 years later I am happily married to the man I fell in love with at the ski field that season and we have a beautiful daughter. I have some art on the walls but it is Dr. Seuss and incredibly playful. I love my garden. The nearest city is 3 hours away. My husband is not a white-collar worker with gala balls once a year – but he is kind.
Fulfilment comes from the inside out, from being your authentic self.
What does your authentic self value? What are you worth?