can you see the real me?

It’s August, and I’m sitting on a tile floor in Nicaragua. It’s hot. I’m wearing a sticky t-shirt, am desperately fanning myself with my hands, and I’m talking about passion with a group of people that I met five days ago.

“Write down your three biggest passions”

  1. Presence
  2. Authenticity
  3. Garbage

I didn’t know these were the most important things to me, but talking it over in that hot room made it clear to me. I am passionate about ideas. And garbage. But mostly ideas. I value being in the moment, and being genuine in who I am and how I present myself. I was the only person in my grade 11 English class who didn’t hate The Catcher in the Rye. I relate to Holden Caulfield, because he has no idea what he’s doing and also because he hates phonies. I definitely try not to judge other people as harshly as he does, though. I’m trying not to be a phony. That’s a lifelong goal. That’s my passion.

What do you believe in?

Jennifer Aaker asked this question of her audience in her 2009 Stanford lecture on authenticity (x). One attendee answered with a word: “Myself”. Everyone laughed, because of course, that’s what everyone should say. But of course.

I believe in myself. That’s how I can be authentic. I’m not afraid to tell people about my insecurities or flaws, and I’m equally not afraid to celebrate my accomplishments. (Sometimes it gets too personal or too braggy, it’s a delicate balance). But I believe that who I am is going to be exactly who someone wants in their life, so I’m not hiding anything.

I believe in myself. That’s how I can apply for jobs that I’m not even a little bit qualified for. That’s how I can take on leadership roles that I’m not equipped for. I believe that I’ll be able to figure it out, because I know myself. I spent years being inauthentic, and I questioned my decisions on the daily as a result of that. Committing to authenticity meant that I got to know my own capabilities, and now I can take more risks and be more confident in my outcomes.

Who feels better after being with you?

Three years ago, the obvious answer would have been “nobody”. But this changed recently. A friend told that she admires me. The idea that someone would look up to me never even occurred to me, and honestly I still find it ridiculous.

When I started university, I relished the idea of ~recreating myself~. Who doesn’t? A brand new start! New year, new me! I got a new haircut the day I graduated high school. I moved to a new city, determined to make new friends and create this whole new life. I wanted everyone to like me. I wanted to be different.

First year Linneah was a disaster. I was so determined to recreate myself that I forgot who I was, and I ended my first year with significantly fewer friends than I’d hoped and broken connections with the good people I’d left behind. I felt like a failure.

Except, I just learned, I didn’t fail completely. Because there was at least one person I’d encountered in first year who felt better for knowing me. And if she thought anything of me during first year, she saw through my careful act and knew who I was at my core. She believed in me.

If you know me, you know me. I’m not hiding from you. First year Linneah was not a failure because nobody liked her, first year Linneah was a failure because she wasn’t genuine. And now, if people don’t like me, I can’t blame myself. I like me. I’m my own harshest critic, but I still like me and two whole people believe in me, and one whole person is better after being with me. People trust those who they believe to be authentic, so if I can keep this up then I can earn the trust of people, or organizations, or communities. My authentic self is enough to do development. She’s enough to do anything.

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