thoughts on authenticity

tumblr_maau08JuJW1qj0so2o1_500I went to a small housewarming party at my co-worker’s new home last night and had a great time with some great ladies.

One of my co-workers (and friend) and I have been bouncing around an idea for a while — half serious, half not — and I think yesterday we realized that it could actually be a reality. We put in place a 5-year-plan — hopefully 2-year — (contingent upon my graduation and then completion of grad school to become a registered dietician) for when we will have started our business. I also met another woman who is mutual friends with a lot of my co-workers and now I understand why she is spoken of so highly. She is an awesome, authentic person. She is a super speedy marathoner, but she has her head on straight and she is one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met.

She is not thin and wiry like most of the ones we hear of, nor is she obsessive about her diet — but she is fast. She’s real. She quickly offered her insight to our business plan and is on board as well.

Meeting authentic people is such an awesome experience because you know their responses are unrehearsed, they’re not looking you up and down, they’re not judging what you’re eating, talking about what they’re eating, and they just listen and offer genuine interest and advice.

I don’t want to say “upper-level functioning” because that may insinuate that there is a degree of separation between the intelligence levels of society, but I have begun to apply a lot what I have learned in my psychology classes into my understanding of society as a whole. Keeping in mind that I currently work in retail, communication and observation are two of my strengths. I encounter all sorts of people on a daily basis and it’s interesting to see how in the affluent suburban town I work in, how the forces of social influence and conformity come into play.

Case and point: I work in a women’s clothing store in a shopping plaza that is across the street from a luxury gym (I say luxury because the monthly rate is astronomical so only upper-middle class people really go there — there’s a less expensive gym a mile down the road) and there is a particular group of women who, almost as if in a regimented schedule, go to the gym every morning, then come over to the plaza and sit in Starbucks for 2-3 hours, then come shopping. I remember when I first started my job three years ago (and was young and naive), I envied these women. They dress in head to toe Lululemon and have ginormous Louis Vuitton shoulder bags with keychains donning Mercedes and Range Rover keys. They talk about running, juice cleanses, and living extravagantly. I honestly thought that there could not be anything more satisfying than having a perfect body because your only daily obligations were to work out, gossip in Starbucks, and shop. However, over the three years I’ve worked there, they haven’t changed — but my self-worth and aspirations have.

In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my core values. Primarily, authenticity. I can assert confidently that I never want to be pushing forty and have the highlight of my day be a 3-hour gossip session in Starbucks. I never want to lose sight of balance — work, fitness, play — and I never want to be exactly like anybody else.

I compare these women to a lot of other healthy living bloggers I see around. Reading their blogs makes me feel, quite frankly, like shit, because I’ll never have enough time to work out for three hours every day and then create perfect, low-carb low-cal meals.  Comparison is the thief of joy — It reminds me of that time when I was young and impressionable and I did sacrifice everything for the perfect body. I was a size 00 but I was empty inside and very, very sick. There’s a spectrum, and any sort of obsessive behavior is indicative of a lack of balance. I know that for my mental sanity, I need to be intellectually stimulated. That’s why I mentioned higher-level functioning. Maybe it’s just me — but I’m a smart girl, and when I stop learning and thinking and growing and sacrifice my mental health for the sake of vanity or conformity, I relapse.

Example: I was whining to my boyfriend the other day because I was in a bad mood after perusing the blogosphere. He compared my situation to a recovering alcoholic. If you’re a recovering addict, you don’t hang out with your junkie friends. If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, you don’t hang out with eating disordered people. It’s logical. It makes sense. I don’t think many people realize this. I see the blogs of girls who are “in recovery,” who are not yet weight-restored, and strict low-carb diets and crazy exercise plans. Then I see the blogs of women who claim to not have disordered eating yet meticulously count calories and macros. It made me feel badly about myself, but then I remembered how far I have come from when I too was that girl who thought I could “win” recovery as long as I was eating more than I was before. Recovery isn’t switching from one obsession to another. It isn’t switching from low-cal to low-carb, recovery is giving up control. Recovery is changing your preoccupation from your body to something else. It’s finding a new hobby or passion. It’s going back to school. It’s starting a new career. It’s hanging out with your friends and drinking wine and eating chocolate. It’s bowls of cereal at midnight because you’re hungry and cereal sounds good. It’s a long hard road. I struggle daily. But I know that I am strong enough and I do not quit.

My authenticity keeps me on the right road. I value my own autonomy over what anyone has to say about me. I’ve worked hard to build up my self-esteem and empower myself even on the days that I would rather stay in bed. I am me: not perfect, super quirky, educated, opinionated, compassionate, creative, disciplined, determined. Weird. Free-spirited.

Stay authentic.

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