“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
What do you think of when you hear the word authentic? The dictionary tells us that something authentic is of undisputed origin. It is genuine, real, and true. I must tell you that for the majority of my life, I was far from genuine. In fact, I ran in the opposite direction of my authenticity. I call these decades ‘my chameleon years’.
Back then, I was as changeable as the person or project I was standing near. The goal was not to be myself. Instead, more than anything, I wished to fit in and to be accepted. I wanted to be recognized for my contribution, to feel that I was an integral part of a clan, and a significant part of a tribe. Years later I understood that this need for acceptance at any price was a way to get my parents to look at me and say, “She’s a success.” I was willing to do anything to get that validation.
So I shaped my life from my head rather than my heart.
Living From the Head and Not the Heart
I threw myself fully and completely into any endeavor that I believed would count toward something at the end of the day. I pushed my agenda like a freight train. My philosophy in life was ‘show me a mountain and I’ll either climb it or blow it up.’ I amassed seven divergent, yet very successful careers; there was education, public relations, advertising, investment banking, television, and public speaking. I dabbled in real estate development and tackled community fundraising. I entertained like Martha Stewart. I raised kids, pets, gardens, and the American flag on every holiday that rolled around.
Yet no matter how many successes I achieved – and there were some big ones – there was no lasting fulfillment. I did feel the momentary head rush of triumph when a deal closed or at the end of a monumental charity campaign. Any time that I received recognition for my contributions brought validation and happiness. But these feelings of happiness evaporated like the dew on a hot August morning. No matter the accolades, no matter the success, there was no lasting joy, no deep satisfaction, and no inner sense of peace. The emptiness always came home to roost.