The path to authenticity is one with twists and turns. At times, we shed a layer from our holding back or gain a new level of understanding. At other times, we shrug a layer back on or find a new reason to stop being as authentic as we can be.

When I was asked “why are you doing all the boys’ subjects?” at school, I held my head high and marched on into the labs and workshops. I’ll show you just what I can do and I did. 

I did it by striving to survive. Pushing hard. Extra hours. Tons of study. I embraced Superwoman pretty early.

Was I authentic? To some extent, I was showing up as some of myself. I owned my talents and I stood my ground. I felt the weight of others expectations and with youthful pride, fought on.

It took me several years to discover how to thrive would be for me.

Woman at art gallery, mindfully looking at a portrait of an older women in historical dress

Surviving became a habit. At university. At work. At home. 

To prove myself as capable, as credible, as acceptable. I just had to work hard to be recognised as a valuable friend, colleague and member of my family. I clocked up qualifications, promotions, job titles, passport stamps and experiences that I thought matched who I was, what I stood for and what others would recognise and like me for.

Yet I didn’t feel much joy. Happy? For sure but I craved an easier path. I craved doing things that brought me alive. I craved saying no to things that weren’t aligned with what I felt and believed.

It took serious major surgery for me to say “Enough is enough”. I needed to change things. I needed to find the courage to hold my own as me. I needed to find where self-trust and bravery could work for me. 

Woman on paddleboard, on greeny blue sea

I began to find people who would be ok with me being a more true version of me and also to do things where I could push my comfort zone a little to build self-confidence. I started saying no a bit more often and used my playdates to explore the edges of my courage.

I embarked on reigniting my self-confidence in my strengths, whilst accepting how I was different to the idealised version of who I was supposed to be in the eyes of others. It felt like putting on new glasses and really looking at my own reflection and smiling back at the person I am and can be.

Redefining my values in my personal life, my career, and my relationships helped me filter my experiences, my behaviours and choices, and those of others. I gained a feeling of profound clarity. Now was a time for new choices. Somethings had to go.

I invested my time, money and energy differently. I changed my work and switched my grocery shopping patterns for more zero waste and environmentally safe products.

I choose to do new things like adventure holidays learning to paddleboard and kayak, indulging in art exhibitions and theatre visits. I spent more time outside in nature. I meet new people who like and value this me. 

Then it hit me.

My true friends and colleagues had seen elements of the true authentic me all along and they like her. The hardwork and striving to survive had diminished. I was feeling more joy.

I was thriving and being more authentic more of the time. I was ok. Nothing bad had happened and whilst the path still has twists and turns, my faith in me means I know this is the right path to follow. I keep walking the path and doing the self-work as I peel another layer off.

Finding your path and the courage to walk it can begin in surviving and striving. With support, you can thrive too.