Authenticity: Are You Comfortable in Your Own Skin?

Published November 5, 2019

As humans we have a strong need to belong.

This sense of belonging does not discriminate against what career, religious belief or financial status we hold. We buy into the lie that someone could not accept us as we are.

In the midst of the fury of taking on the persona we believe others want from us, we miss the opportunity to step into the skin that God has given us. When we mask our identity, it widens the gap of others being able to connect with our authentic being.

I recently received the unexpected gift of authenticity.

What’s your word? Were you asked this question upon the start of the New Year?

As that question was posed to me, I sat back and pondered. The word that came to mind was authenticity.

When we mask our identity, it widens the gap of others being able to connect with our authentic being.

The ability to be comfortable in my own skin was something that I craved. A craving that I desperately wanted to fill. A craving that I knew in my heart was a missing link to create the connection with others in order to become the leader I wanted to be. In a world of knock-off versions of the most expensive brands, most people can spot a fake when they see one. Ironically, the person I was most trying to fool was myself.

It took me decades to begin the courageous journey of stepping into my own skin.

 

THE MASK

For many of us, each morning we get up and go to our closets to pick out our outfit for the day. For some, that includes the perfect shoes, the belt, and perhaps just the right jacket to tie it all together. For me, there was one accessory I would not leave the house without—my trusty mask. You know, the “I’ve got it all together mask.”

On occasion, the mask would come off and my authenticity would be revealed. These moments were strategically planned for a private time that were within my control, such as driving down the road or perhaps in the bathroom when I was alone.

I had sold myself on the story that no one would want to be led by a person who showed weakness. No one would want to be led by the girl who carried the invisible weight of doubt, fear and shame deep within her soul.

 

THE UNEXPECTED GIFT

Have you ever received a gift and opened it to realize it was one you’d prefer not to keep?

My journey to authenticity started with a painful public admission that didn’t feel like a gift—but in hindsight it was exactly what I needed. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if God designed this gift to arrive at the exact moment it did.

The gift? Well, it was the literal ripping off of my well-designed, “I’ve got it all together mask.”

It was the gift of refinement.

I had proudly been accepted into a prestigious program called Leadership Tomorrow in our local community. This journey of learning and serving next to other young leaders provided another check to a box of accomplishments I desired.

One afternoon, during an innocent activity, everything changed.

The activity led participants to answer personal questions in order to gain a better understanding of one another. If your response was positive, participants stepped forward. If your response was negative, they stepped backward. With each question I felt my mask peeling off like a band-aid on a wound of someone with hairy legs.

“If you were raised in a middle class or affluent family, step forward. If your family received governmental assistance, step back.” I felt the hot burn of the shame slowly moving from my toes all the way up to my face.

“If you ever feared for your safety growing up, step back.”

“If both your parents graduated from college, step forward. If one or more of your parents did not finish high school, step back.”

“If one of your parents struggled with addiction, take a step back.”

The gift of refinement is a gift that not only keeps giving, but a gift that we must continually be willing to receive—the gift of courage and freedom to be comfortable in our own skin.

Back, back, back I went. Now here’s the kicker. The leader said, “Turn around and look at your peers.” I looked forward. Many eyes looking back at me. I looked behind, no one. Just me and one other lucky classmate. We were in last place. The part of me I wanted no one to know, was suddenly exposed and I felt completely out of control. My game was over. 

 

THE FREEDOM

There it was. My mask. Laying on the floor next to me.

Have you ever been exposed unexpectedly? I looked up and saw the “I feel sorry for you smiles.” Exactly what I never wanted anyone to do. I didn’t need pity. Pity screamed weakness.

Behind those empathetic smiles was a connection, an understanding that there was an actual human element to me.

This girl with the perfectly placed mask had a crack in the armor. The mask that was meant for protection ultimately led to isolation. It was through this gift that I learned the first act of building trust can be as simple as admitting you don’t have it all together. This unexpected gift gave the little girl inside of me freedom and grace to step into a place that perhaps had been created for me all along. A space that was designed for me to lead others by having the courage not only to own my story, but to share my story.

The trusty mask? I wish I could say the trusty mask never made it out of the closet again, but the truth is that it does from time to time.

The gift of refinement is a gift that not only keeps giving, but a gift that we must continually be willing to receive—the gift of courage and freedom to be comfortable in our own skin.

About the Author
This is the author headshot of Venus King.

Venus King

Business Faculty

Central Community College

Venus King is a business faculty member at Central Community College in Grand Island, Nebraska. She also serves as the Promotional Strategist for Global Leadership Summit and marketing lead for Third City Christian Church Annual Women's Retreat. She is currently a leadership coach in training with Who You Are Coaching.

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