I don’t know why, but the subject of authenticity gets me all clammy. It feels so big and all-encompassing. Also, there’s the little matter of IT IS SCARY AS HELL. Because authenticity is nothing less than showing up fully yourself, and I can tell you right now that this idea perks up my perfectionist and my shame-monger in equal parts.

My perfectionist says, “Ooh, that’s a tall order, showing up fully myself. That’s an all-the-time, 100% thing, right? I don’t know if I can maintain that kind of standard. Oh man, no way. Don’t even try.”

And meanwhile my shame-monger says, “You can’t do that!!! You can’t show yourself fully! No one will like you if you do that, because let’s face it woman, you’re kind of a mess. Only show the good parts, okay?”

It’s helpful to remind myself that authenticity is a practice, as is everything else, really. That it’s not something anyone can do perfectly, and it’s definitely not something I can do when my shame-monger is in full swing, because when I’m in shame I want to hide anything that I don’t deem lovable, and authenticity is fundamentally about connecting to others and telling the truth.

Okay, but here’s a tricky thing. I’m noticing that “truth” sounds really different when I’m caught up in a shame spiral, than it does when I’m being friendly with myself. In fact, when I’m in shame I really shouldn’t trust anything I’m hearing inside my head. Authenticity is most accessible to me when I am accepting of and loving with myself just as I am in this moment. When I’m in the grip of shame, it’s helpful (and actually is a practice in authenticity) to reach out to others I can trust and share what’s going on rather than hiding. This is a really vulnerable thing to do but when I do reach out and share, others can guide me back to truth, back to internal resources that allow me to climb out of the shame spiral and back into friendliness toward myself.

I have to share authentically that this has been really hard lately, the staying-in-friendliness thing, and I’m reminded that when it’s hard, I owe it to myself to practice even more intensely. I’ve got this Mindfulness Bell app on my iPhone and when I set it to ring every 15 minutes, I have an easier time staying tuned in to how I’m feeling and what I’m telling myself that makes me feel that way, so that I can turn down the volume on shame and turn up the volume on self-compassion.

Another authentic share: I’ve been resisting writing about authenticity at all because it’s easy for me to sound like I’ve got something down pat, and that is so not the case. I’m writing because I said I would, and that lives inside another kind of authenticity, perhaps.

This interview with BrenĂ© Brown has been helpful for me in remembering that authenticity is a moment-to-moment practice…it also reminds me how intertwined it is with other qualities of wholehearted living, such as connection, vulnerability, courage. Let me know what it lights up for you.