I’ve just come back from running a quite extraordinary Embracing Health Retreat, and one of the themes that came up time and again when talking to the guests, was that of authenticity. How my ability to speak openly and with honesty and vulnerability, gave them permission to access their own truths and insights.
The definition of authenticity is to be true to one’s own personality, spirit or character. For me, authenticity is much more than this – it is also the ability to be transparent, to be genuine, and to offer an experience of truthfulness to others that gives the opportunity of connecting in a way that may not be possible, were I wearing a mask that showed only my ‘ideal’ self.
When I wrote my heartfelt post a couple of weeks ago – The Real Story of Where I’ve Been the Past Year – I had an avalanche of positive comments, feedback and good wishes. It touched me deeply and left me with a profound feeling of love and of not being alone on this journey through life. One of the questions that came up from many people was “Why write about something so very personal?” And that is a good question.
I know that I highly value honesty, integrity and authentic communication from those I surround myself with, and aim to embody those traits myself. I built my business from not just my naturopathic skills, but from my depth of empathic interactions with the hundreds of people I came into contact over the years of working at and running retreats. To connect at more than just a superficial level requires both vulnerability and authenticity. It is in those heart spaces of true connection that a shared moment can lead to an insight or awareness that shifts a person forward in their growth and evolution.
So why reveal so much of myself and my journey? I did think long and hard, (and gained the blessing of my husband) before revealing some of what has happened for us over the past eighteen months. Knowing that I was moving into a new phase of my business, releasing a book next year, and starting to communicate with people a lot more – it seemed shallow to just launch myself back into the internet sphere and just say ‘Hey, I’ve ignored everyone for the past year, but here I am again!” I felt I wanted to give some sort of explanation that both honoured my journey, and was open with those who I’ve built a relationship with over the years. Of course boundaries are important, and even with my post, I still kept much of the personal details to myself. There is a difference between authenticity and indiscriminate disclosures which serve no purpose in their sharing other than an unburdening by the teller that maybe should have been kept for their therapist.
One of the shortcomings that I have found of being in the natural medicine industry is a tendency for those who preach health and may have written books and have large audiences of followers – is for them to have a vested interest in appearing to be 100% healthy all of the time. They hold themselves up to a standard of health that is unattainable for many, and unfortunately they can end up believing in their own rhetoric.
I have met many in the industry who wear a mask, who are frightened to be authentic because of what it might mean to their tale of immortal health and their holy grail of dietary regimes. The regimes that they promote are claimed to bring their followers the robust vitality that the health guru radiates. And for a time this may be true.
However life isn’t static, it twists, it turns, it changes and the one thing that is guaranteed is that it never stays the same. As it is with our health. We have so many influences on our health that even if we do stick to an incredible diet, life can sometimes interfere and knock us sideways. Stress, emotional trauma, injury, unhealed wounds and unforeseen circumstances can impact our health in ways that are little understood. A guru holding themselves to an unrealistic expectation of perfect health, not only robs themselves of the opportunity to be authentic and learn via the interaction of both their physical and emotional bodies, but they also hold their followers to a view of health that may be false as well as unrealistic and unattainable – setting people up for disappointment and despair.
Which is why, being in this industry for more than two decades, I can truly understand the value of being authentic and open. To be able to honestly say that I don’t have all the answers, but be able to genuinely share the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of health I have gained over the years. To not hold myself up to a model of perfection is liberating. It allows me to do the best I can within the circumstances of my life, and not be scared to show others that sometimes the rug can be pulled out from under you. It is how you move forward and how you strive for the best quality of life and health possible when on shaky ground, that shows the strength of who you are.
Anyone can wear a mask – but in my world – genuine, authentic connection is a gift that is only possible when the mask is gone and the beautiful truth of our vulnerable soul is revealed. It is in this mysterious and enchanted space that healing of more than just the physical self, can occur.