When was the last time you looked into the mirror and genuinely smiled at yourself for who you are and who you are becoming?
Last year, I took off a mask that I had been wearing for 20 YEARS! For the first time, I saw myself fully and loved who I saw, from my dark side, my quiet side, my soul…all of me. It was a radical experience and shifted everything about my life personally and professionally.
I was 36, and for more than half of my life had attempted to be someone I wasn’t in order to be accepted by my family and society. For years I had felt like a fraud, parading around with a fake smile feeling like there were no options, no possibility of freedom in my own skin. No amount of ocean swims or bush walks were able to remedy the toxic thinking that was slowly and steadily draining the life from my veins.
I love the definition of authenticity by Brené Brown, a popular author and researcher whose TED talk on vulnerability has gained over 40 million views and who has caused the topic to become mainstream. “Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice - a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
At the age of 19, my entire world came crashing down. It was my first year of university and despite having a full academic and athletic scholarship, there was no one to turn to as I had been raised in a conservative Southern American Christian home and it was like a spiritual death sentence and an abomination to who I perceived as God. Day after day, I focused my energy on suppressing my thoughts and emotions rather than living and it made me physically and mentally ill.
Long story short, I even married a man and had two children!! He knew of my sexuality from the start, but we were both convinced and raised to believe it was something that could and had to change about myself. But as the years went by I felt like I was suffocating. Each day I felt like an actor trapped in a bad dream from which I could never shake myself awake. And then, after 12 years of marriage, I woke up.
It was like a light switch went off within my soul and I could no longer pretend one more second. I took ownership over my life and walked away without the guilt or shame. I walked into the light of who I was and always had been. I looked in the mirror and for the first time loved who I saw…and made the choice, to be honest with myself and others. Within a couple of months of coming out, I was on tv with Studio 10, my story going into the homes of 80K Australians. Now I am working on a book to help others embrace themselves and walk with their heads held high.
I have found that when we embrace our own authenticity, we release others to do the same. Be you…unapologetically. Dance to your song and splash in the freedom and beauty of your uniqueness. Don’t waste decades of your life trying to fit into someone else’s mould. The world only has one you…so shine on!
Find out more about Creative Entertainer & Speaker, Sarah Rowan
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