Living authentically - honoring personal values and the spirit within

Living authentically means honoring personal values and at the same time,  the spirit within. It means making choices to live a life that is in alignment with your own core values. It also means looking deeply at those core values to ascertain if they are in alignment with the spirit within.

living authentically - the first step to honoring personal values is deciphering what they are

Deciphering our true,  personal core values can be difficult. Uncovering our deepest, most driving of personal values can require some deep self inquiry.

Most of us have grown up surrounded by  the voices and opinions of others, and although we may believe we are in fact honoring personal values, we may in fact merely be responding to the  echo of the voices of those others, as we move about our life. The voices and opinions of others can be difficult to dismiss as at a very early age, we all to some degree become people pleasers. It's not uncommon at all to unknowingly, unconsciously,  place the personal value of others, ahead of our own. Honoring personal values, and living authentically means seeing where we have taken on and substituted the personal values of others, in place of our own. 

It takes personal courage to veer off the well-trodden path of popular opinion. But when we make living authentically a priority, the trek towards spirit onto a path that is uniquely our own, is well worth the effort. Most of us encounter pivotal moments in life where we’re called upon to either live in a manner that is in line with honoring personal values and the spirit within,   or continue along the path dictated by the expectations of other.

My own struggles with being authentic and honoring the spirit within - not always easy, but so worth it!

All through high school, my parents made it very clear to me that they expected me to gear my studies towards University acceptance. “You absolutely MUST go to university,” was the message I received from them since childhood. I had no interest in any career for which a university degree would be necessary, but obediently followed through with a vague intent to adhere to their plan. The real truth was, I had no idea whatsoever what I was interested in pursuing in terms of a career. The idea of living authentically, or being true to self was second nature in some areas of my life, but regarding this area, not so much.

Upon graduation, I accepted a job in a typing pool in an engineering company. My dad had lined up an interview for me as he had previous dealings with this company as the manager of an affiliated project. As my dad was well known to management and highly respected, I knew that my getting hired was pretty much a given. I worked at this tedious job for a little over a year at which time the company was forced to lay-off a good portion of its employees due to cut-backs, and I was one of the employees let go. 

I was deeply upset for about 20 minutes. I believe my dad thought it was the end of the world. My feeling of new-found freedom was only marred by the fact that I still had absolutely no real idea what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.

Once again, the “university” issue came up with my parents. I decided to meet them half way and agreed to attend the local college. After all, I had parents who were standing by, more than willing to support me in attaining a higher education. My luke-warm attitude towards it all left me feeling like somewhat of an ingrate. The luke warm sentiment was a clear message from spirit within that I was not honoring personal values, living authentically, or being true to self.

I leafed through the college catalogue of classes, hoping something exciting would jump out at me. “Interior Design, now there’s something I could see myself doing,” I told my parent’s as we sat down to discuss my plans. “You’ll never be able to make a good living doing that,” they both agreed. Surprisingly, I readily accepted their opinion regarding this. (Spirit within, just got booted the curb!)

Mere hours later, I pin-pointed my ‘new’ career. “Rehabilitation Practitioner, that’s what I’m going to be,” I told them that night over dinner. Working with mentally handicapped people appealed to me on many levels, different than interior design, but nonetheless, I could feel a resonance with the spirit within.

It was something I could see myself doing that would bring a degree of joy and  personal satisfaction, and would also fulfill my parent’s wishes at the same time. I completed the two year course, received my diploma and began working in group homes with mentally handicapped adults. I’d spent two relatively fulfilling years within the same group home when the singing bug bit me, hard!

Sometimes being authentic to the spirit within, means having the courage to admit we've had a change of heart

Sometimes living authentically means admitting and being okay with the fact that we've changed our mind.  The spirit within,  after all, is not static.

My brother had started singing in a rock band several years prior. He pretty much lived on the road, performing and traveling from town to town with a group of musicians. Living authentically, honoring his personal values,  seemed to come easy to him. My parents were not at all pleased about my brother’s choice of career. I absolutely knew what their response would be if I were to tell them that I also wanted to quit my job to pursue a career singing in a rock band.

I see this juncture of my life as one that is absolutely defining in terms of living authentically and choosing to honor my own personal values and  uniqueness of  spirit. I knew with certainty that my decision regarding the crossroad that lay before me would have life altering consequences.

I knew on a deep level, that if I did not follow the urging of my spirit to pursue a singing career, I’d never forgive myself. I knew if I gave in to the fear, the spirit within me would wither. It felt to me like I was being offered the choice between a life of mediocrity, lived according to the expectations of others or a life of my own choosing...essentially,a life filled with the freedom to be myself! Although I was terrified of making the leap, I really didn’t see that I had any other choice if I was to live with myself.

Telling my parents about my choice was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. They were mortified. “You can’t do that. You’re being ridiculous,” they told me over and over again, right up until I started packing for a six month road-trip with my first band. The sad part was, their sentiments echoed those of my own inner skeptic. Despite this my courage and my will to honor my spirit prevailed. I can still recall the bitter-sweet feeling as I said goodbye to them at their front door.  I loaded my suitcases into the trunk of the drummers car with my doubts at war with my conviction. 

While the first year of band life was difficult to say the least, circumstances improved steadily with each year I spent singing. More than twenty years later, Singing continues to be one of my strongest passions and one of the aspects of spirit and self that positively defines me. I cannot begin to imagine my life had I not taken that chance so many years ago. The memory of making that difficult choice and disappointing family in the process, to honor the urgings of my spirit within,  is one that to this day continues to shape my life.

What’s interesting is that as my parents came to see just how passionate I truly was about singing/songwriting and performing, their acceptance of my choice increased…I suppose it didn’t hurt either that they came to see that I could actually support myself doing it! I'd like to think that perhaps through my actions I offered them some lessons on living authentically.

This leap of faith it took  to venture into uncharted territory and go against the expectations of those surrounding me has paved the way for many other excursions into the unknown. My varied career forays include; selling sculptures and jewelry I created from clay, reading tarot-cards and more recently, writing. My largest leap of faith, and the one that I’d say has had the most profound and positive effect upon my spirit is that of choosing to become a parent.

My struggles with authenticity these days are much more likely to revolve around smaller, more seemingly trivial day to day issues rather than the larger life changing choices. These choices involve such things as having the courage and confidence to go against popular parental opinions; To parent my children, honoring personal values in the  unique ways that resonate with my spirit.

I actually have found that becoming a parent threw me into an entirely new arena in terms of the struggle to remain authentic and true to my spirit. There is nothing quite like the raising of children that ignites and incites strong opinion within parents as a whole.  Similarly, there is no other endeavor or task that causes as much insecurity and indecision as parenthood. As a result, many parents it seems, feel a strong need to have others approve of their parenting skills and related choices. Many express this need by judging the performance of others parents around them, just as they also unwittingly judge their own. This is a game I’m simply not very interested in playing.

Each year that passes, I find being true to self, honoring personal values as a parent, without succumbing to popular opinion to get a little bit easier.  This being said, my son just turned ten and I’m suspecting we’re very likely heading into a whole new level, complete with brand new challenges to being authentic and true to my own personal ideals and values surrounding being a parent. 

Honoring our spirit and living authentically involves making choices on a day to day, sometimes moment to moment basis. It’s not something that we accomplish simply by making one life decision towards authenticity. Each time though that we honor our spirit, it paves the way to do it again.

Living authentically means having the courage and confidence to honor our unique personal values regardless of what others around us are doing or thinking. No doubt, some days this is far easier to do than others. On a really good day, I can happily send my seven year daughter off to school, proudly wearing her pink fuzzy jacket with orange T-shirt underneath, purple stretch pants topped by a multi-tiered black velvet skirt, sparkly chiffon neck scarf, and hair that's been slicked over to one side with half a cup of sparkly hair gel, with a smile on my face!

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