I am not quite there yet.
Living by my values is very important to me. Every day, I see how this transpires in my work, naturally. I see this in the choices I make, the products I purchase and in how I spend my time.
Being authentic requires some measure of self-regulation also. I cannot claim to be perfect. Authenticity has many meanings at many levels. It is about seeking to act with respect toward others; not playing games. It requires a lot of honesty and the courage to express who we are truthfully. This last concept is the most difficult.
The reason it is so difficult, at least for me, is a latent fear of rejection. For some reason, this became most apparent to me through my artwork. It is fear of rejection, or fear of judgement (same thing), that lead me to accept projects that did not actually inspire me at all. I had trouble saying no. A good, caring, capable person does not say no. This is a lie, of course, and I found out the hard way.
I started getting special orders the moment I began selling my artwork in shops. This was very rewarding, of course, except when I was commissioned to make Santa Clauses for Christmas, Witches for Halloween and so on. I hated it. These were simply not images that flow from my personal well of creativity.
It did not take long before I chose to say no to this and it was because of a unique special order that I was able to do so. Someone wanted to pay me to reproduce Disney characters on blank t-shirts they would provide. I refused. “They’ll never know!” was the argument. “Irrelevant. The answer is no.” I felt good. I stood my grounds. I was not about to plagiarize a copyrighted design and I was not interested, period. The customer was upset. Attitudes and creativity do not mix. End of story.
Today, I am discovering that authenticity is about a lot more than this. I think the last three years, since Roderick, my husband, passed away, was the first period of time in my life when I’ve actually begun to ask myself who I am and who I want to be. Today, I can say no, easily, but I am still not fully authentic.
My struggle with authenticity as shifted to how I feel about my self-image. If I were not afraid to make drastic changes that might lead people to wonder what’s “wrong” with me all of a sudden, I would change my style completely. But how to justify the choices I would have to make to feel like I am wearing the attire that truly represents me? If I had the guts, if I were completely authentic, I’d dress like I come straight out of Medieval times, or at the very least like a gypsy of sorts. How can I feel like such a free spirit and still fear being marginal?
I’ve known this is me all along, but never dared. Maybe it is harder to be eccentric in a country setting. Would I dare if I still lived in the big city? (Would I want to live there?). I’ve known this is me, especially, since I attended my first Highland Games with Roderick. Ha, yes. This is the point where you’ll question my sanity. As long as it makes you smile, that’s OK.
After three days of immersion in Celtic music, surrounded by hundreds of people dressed in 13th century garb, it was never those scenes that seemed out-of-place in the current century for me, but returning home to our modern-day fashions. The center-piece of my most comfortable outfit (one I dare to wear in public) is a Medieval-cut blouse. When I wear this (maybe twice a year on special occasions), I feel like myself, I feel empowered, I feel confident. I feel right. I feel like the real Paschal’Simon MacMurray. Incidentally, getting that name was a big step toward authenticity, but that’s a story for another time, maybe.
I’ve toyed with the idea of taking money out of the bank to splurge on a new wardrobe. I have not had the guts yet, and I don’t like shopping. But lately I am keenly aware that this has a lot to do with my quest for authenticity. It is merely an outer shell, these clothes that we wear, but is not this outer shell a physical expression of the truth?
I cut my hair really short a few months ago. On the spur of the moment. Because it felt like “me.” No one freaked out. Maybe that was a first step.