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The True You: Are You Living An Authentic Life?

Lissa Rankin's picture

pinklissaAre you living the most authentic life possible, Pinkies? I thought I was until three years ago, when suddenly, my life came crashing down on me and I realized I didn’t remotely recognize my life- or myself. I kept thinking, “How did I end up here?” And so a transformation began to unfold in me, and with it, my authentic self began to creep out, inch by nervous inch.

What about you? Does your work bring out the best in you? Are you doing what comes easily, naturally, happily- authentically? Or is your work sucking the soul out of you? Are you able to truly let your hair down in your relationship? Can you listen to sappy love songs while dressing in muumuus and drinking mint juleps, because, by golly, that’s just who you are (and are you saying “by golly” or are you squelching your inner voice so that it sounds cooler or more appropriate)? Have you found your tribe where you live, or are you surrounded by Pod People who can’t possibly relate to who you are and what you’re thinking? Do you wonder what your kids or your church or your boss would do if they knew the real you? Do you have any clue who the real you really is?

If you’re nodding your head right about now, listen up. I’ve learned a few things in the past three years, and I’m grateful I figured this out in my thirties, rather than my eighties. I feel blessed that my Personal Storm knocked me out of my complacency and made me realize that you only get one chance in this lifetime, and do I really want to waste another day not being who I really am? Not me, girlfriends (and Pink Gods!) I made a pledge a while back that I was going to make every effort, from this day forth, to be ALL LISSA, ALL THE TIME. Before that, I felt like I had to wear “hats” or, more accurately, masks. When wearing my doctor hat, I had to wear a white coat, avoid swearing, sound intelligent, and stand on my pedestal, far from where others could reach me (after all, that’s what they taught me in medical school- that I needed to maintain professional distance so my patients will respect me). While wearing my artist hat, I had to dress funky, be flaky, sound creative, and be “deep.” When wearing my Mommy hat, I’m supposed to instantly know how to relate to kids, carry organic snacks everywhere, show up at preschool gatherings looking rested, athletic, and unfazed by the fact that my kid puked all over me the previous night – not to mention bring unfettered volunteer efforts to every kiddie project. In my wife hat, I’m to be lovingly available, endlessly sexy, intellectually challenging, and ever-present. To publishers, I’m supposed to be a dedicated writer who plays by the rules, self-promotes, makes myself vulnerable (but not too much so), and tells the truth- but only a wee little bit of my truth- maybe more of the truth everyone else wishes was true.


(I’ve screamed that from the top of my lungs dozens of times. I highly recommend it. Find a quiet place. Take off all your hats. And just scream the bejeezus out of your lungs. Ahhhh….okay. Better now.)

But enough yada yada yada. What have I learned over the past few years? Here are some tips to scooch you a little closer toward living an authentic life.

  1. Choose whose opinion you care about. It’s easy to say “screw everybody.” But come on, Pinkies. That’s not nice – nor is it realistic. We’re social beings and live in a world with other people. Instead, choose who you respect, admire, and value … and screw everybody else. If you lose your job or your boyfriend in the process, chances are they didn’t resonate with your authentic self.
  2. Get in touch with your intuition. Mine has gotten really annoyingly noisy lately. If I try to ignore it, it gets this Queen Latifah attitude and starts strutting around, shaking its hips and tsk-tsking me. Or it throws bricks at me from the universe to whip me into shape. But it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, it was a very quiet whisper that I barely heard and did my best to stifle when it did come through. Sometimes, you have to be quiet- and very respectful- to hear your intuition. (That’s when mine turns up the volume and starts YELLING. And then there’s no shutting her up. I call her Yoni- but that’s a whole other story.)
  3. Practice saying NO. When your authentic self tells you it doesn’t want to do something, LISTEN. Say no, and if others don’t like it, refer to #1. Those who truly love you may resist at first, especially if you’ve been saying YES for a lifetime. But give them time. They’ll love you more for being who you really are. And if they don’t, that should tell you something.
  4. Practice saying YES. I spent so long learning to say NO that I forgot how important it is to say YES. When your authentic self jumps for joy over something that seems like it will take you away from your family, cost too much money, interfere with your productivity, or whatever the hell tempts you to say NO, pay attention. That’s your authentic self asserting itself. It might serve you well to listen.
  5. Keep a journal. Remember that Joy Journal? You can use it to talk to your authentic self, too. Pretend your journal is the identical twin you never had (and if you’re a twin, pretend it’s the triplet). Tell your twin what you most want your life to be about. Share your deepest darkest secrets. Write about a day in the life of your authentic self – tell it in present tense, like’s happening this very minute. Tell the WHOLE truth. Be brave. Keep it under lock and key if you need to, but don’t leave anything out. Pay close attention to what you’re writing.
  6. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. Really, Pinkies. I challenge you to come up with one example of when it’s a good word. Replace “should” with the word “invite.” Instead of “You should call your mother,” think “I invite myself to call my mother.” What does that feel like? Do you still feel like calling Mom? If not, why? That’s your authentic self talking again. Listen up!
  7. Try an expressive arts project. Get a sheet of paper. Pull out magic markers, crayons, colored pencils, whatever. Draw a portrait of your authentic self. You will not be graded. Make this real. Tell the truth.
  8. Try guided imagery and invite your authentic self to answer some questions. I did this multiple times and it was amazingly helpful. One of my sessions was with Pink Posse member Malaya Quinn, who introduced me to my “Inner Guide,” whom I named Willow. Willow taught me all kinds of things about my authentic self and continues to help me when I face forks in the road. If you don’t have access to private guided imagery sessions, try Belleruth Naparstek’s CD about getting in touch with your intuition.
  9. Pick your favorite member of your Pink Posse (also known as your best friend) and ask if this person will let you be your authentic self for one hour. Invite her to do the same. Establish from the get-go that no feelings will be hurt and that there are no apologies. Practice being exactly who you are. Say the first thing that comes to your mind. Dress however you want. Dream big together. Do something silly to make you feel safe and a wee bit nutty- go bowling, do karaoke, or take a pole dancing class together (I’m taking one in July with Pink Posse Kandy Lozano!) If you and your best friend can’t shed your hats and be authentic for a single hour, maybe you need to rethink your best friend.
  10. Make a list of your slashes. As in doctor/artist or firefighter/candle-maker. Write down every single title you could possibly give yourself- parasailer/ dog walker/ meditator/ teacher/ window washer/ healer/ mother/ volunteer/ house painter/ tree trimmer/ wife/ yogi/ singer/ artist/ cook/ reader/ marathon-runner. (You get the picture.) Check out your list. Circle the ones that make you smile.

This is so much fun. My authentic self is getting so riled up writing this post that I’m trying to listen closely and interpret what she’s saying. Would I rather be a life coach than a gynecologist? Dunno. Better ask my best friend to let me be myself for an hour and see what comes up!

What about you, Pinkies? What does your authentic self have to say? Are you listening? We invite you to be real here at Owning Pink. Tell us your truth (even if you have to do it under an assumed name- I swear, we won’t out you!)

With all of me front and center,


PS. Joy just stumbled across this poem (her authentic self talking, I think) and we wanted to share it:


By Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --
Anything can happen, child
ANYTHING can be.





Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you, Indy Grrrl!

Thank you, Indy Grrrl!

Indy Grrrl's picture

This is a fantastic post!

This is a fantastic post!

Lissa Rankin's picture

Oh, good Sally. I love with

Oh, good Sally. I love with you said. "Maybe what I need to do is to actually stay inside and find something blog worthy there."

It's so tempting to go outside ourselves to find our truth. When I met my husband, he had travelled the world. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, fed refugees on the Sudan border, lived in Paris, moved from Boston to Chicago to Southern California, and he was still seeking. I asked, "What are looking for?"

He said, "I don't know. Me, I guess." Don't we all do that? Sure, getting out of your comfort zone can spark new discoveries within us or awaken us to old fires long dimmed. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the best way to find ourselves is to be within ourselves. To write, be quiet, make time for space, go for walks, talk to friends about the truth within us. I am not good at these things myself. Especially the quiet part.

But every day, we step one step closer to be who we really are, right?

So much love to you, Sally Keep us informed! Lissa

SallyK's picture

Lissa thanks for this post.

Lissa thanks for this post. I've been feeling the need to really figure out my authentic self lately and it's not easy. It's not easy when you have a business to take care of, kids to take care of, a partner, a house, a dog, laundry, the list is endless.

Frankly, I've been bored with myself lately. I've been bored with my blog and feeling I need to go out on an adventure and discover something blog worthy but maybe what I need to do is to actually stay inside and find something blog worthy there.

Thanks for making me think about this. You inspired a blog post on my other blog about being authentic.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Okay, I accept your triple

Okay, I accept your triple dog dare, and I raise you one!

1)What if you really could ask anything, of anyone, at anytime? What would you ask and of whom? I would ask Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love to be my mentor. I feel a little rootless right now and am so flummoxed by the challenges of navigating the publishing world and learning how to be more of a public figure. If only Liz and I could chat over tea, maybe I could figure a few things out. As one who does a lot of mentoring, I really need mentors. Anyone? Bueller?

Here's my triple dog dare back atcha!

If money didn't play into your decision at all and you weren't afraid of what anyone would think, what would you do with your life starting right now?

Great challenge Cleatus. Bring it, baby!


Cleatus's picture

Okay Cleatus isn't my real

Okay Cleatus isn't my real name and I'm outing myself by having my website link.

Love the post and I'm good at being somewhat authentic, but isn't that like a chocolate mocha being somewhat tasty?

Here's the thing. My website is good. It holds truth and expresses needs, the design and layout are authentic, but the wording.... well it's close, but there's still one more giant leap to go in expressing my authentic voice.

Why? Because I'm into the paradoxes of life. Fierce Compassion, Kick-Ass Kindness, and finding Joy in the completely Absurd.

My authentic state is a cross between Eminem and the Pema Chodron

And my gift is helping people (especially parents) make bold requests. Requests to the Divine, Requests to themselves, and Requests to their communities.

If I've peaked your interest, then riddle me this:

What if you really could ask anything, of anyone, at anytime?

What would you ask and of whom?

No need to track me down because you can comment and share it right here in the land of all things Pink!

Come on I triple dog dare you.

What REQUEST would have you giggle like a school girl, slapping high fives, and knowing that ROCKED the Party by sharing your request today.

Susanna's picture

Well, I think you hit the

Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Just a few more comments...Ever notice how the really good doctors are the ones about whom people say, "Oh my gosh, I have the best doctor ever! You would never know they are a doctor. I really feel so comfortable with him/her, like my best friend..."?

Or ever meet a phenomenal artist when you think to yourself, "What a really cool person! They are not artsy or weird at all..."?

All of these stereotypes are just that...stereotypes.

Just like we should strive to be our authentic selves, we must learn to accept others' authenticities. For example, how many times do we think, "What a really nice person, but kind of weird or quirky..."? Do we choose to not associate with "weird" people because it somehow threatens our normalcy?

Part of being authentic is accepting others in their authentic state.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Bravo, Leslee! Wow. Your

Bravo, Leslee! Wow. Your authentic self has spoken, sweetie. The affirmation I say to myself all the time is, "I'm on the right path, even though I don't know where I'm going." Signs from the universe affirm me constantly, and yet I have no clue what the future holds. But isn't that always the case? Isn't it true that any sense of certainty we cling to is merely an illusion anyway? If we can learn to embrace that uncertainty, imagine how much less we would suffer?

Leslee Horner's picture

I had tears welling up as I

I had tears welling up as I finished reading this. I have spent the week in NC visiting with my family and friends. I've said for years that I would never go back home, but here I am on the last few days of my trip with my inner voice screaming "This is where you belong!" Of course, I'm not exactly sure how I'll get back here...my husband can't exactly work just anywhere. But I'm trusting that voice and feel pretty sure she'll bring me home, somehow.

Then there is that whole career thing. I used to be a kindergarten teacher and when I think about going back to the elementary school classroom I feel like I'm going to be sick. I want to be a different kind of teacher now. I want to use my talents to inspire people, especially women.

These days I pay more attention to my heart and that voice than anything else. It doesn't always fit with what others would think I should do. The guidance isn't always safe and frankly scares the shit out of me sometimes. And I don't yet clearly see the path I'm meant to take, but I am aware, I'm listening, and I know that it will lead me home (in more ways than just back to NC).

Lissa Rankin's picture

Welcome to the club, honey.

Welcome to the club, honey. So many of us have jumped through hoops our whole life, given into the SHOULDS, kissed our authentic selves goodbye, and put ourselves in boxes, that when we're invited to be authentic, we don't even know what that might look like. You're SO not alone. Take time. Be gentle with yourself. Look deep- and discover- with love, patience, gratitude, and tolerance. You are ENOUGH- just the way you are.

Akirah's picture

Great advice. I definitely

Great advice. I definitely need to work on some of these things. I'm going through a really difficult time right now and I'm not sure I know who I am. I need to work on being my authentic self. I'm anxious to discover who she is.

Joy's picture

Hooray, hooray, amen,

Hooray, hooray, amen, namaste, bow, yes yes and yes. How many Pinkies out there don't even know yet that there's even an authentic life to be had? This is the first step to aliveness, to Owning ourselves, and inviting in the Mojo. Totally inspired to seek, discover, and encourage the truth. Thank you oh Goddess of Pink!

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