By Ann Allen
“This other work you’re doing is just too unusual. People aren’t ready for it. Doctors aren’t ready. If they know you’re doing it, we’re worried they won’t refer patients to any of us. Unless you stop doing it, we’ll have to ask you to leave the group.” I stared back in disbelief at the woman who had just delivered that blow.
Only six months earlier, a member of this outstanding group of successful biofeedback professionals had personally reached out to invite me to join their small collective. They had banded together with an intention to market their work to the insurance companies and doctors in our area. Since I had joined their group, we had spent countless hours together in meetings and over the phone. We planned. We strategized. Now, just weeks before our marketing materials would go out, they were dropping a bombshell. I used a technique called “Neuro-Link” that seemed too weird for them. They didn’t want their names connected with it in any way. To be fair, I could understand their perspective.
At the time, biofeedback therapy seemed “out there” to most people I encountered. Even my own mother once asked, “Why would anyone pay you to get them relaxed?”
I simply replied, “You know those awful migraine headaches you get, Mom? What if my work could help you control them? Would it be worth it then? ”
Suddenly, she understood. She never questioned biofeedback again. Neuro-Link, however, made the practice of biofeedback look normal, even tame, to many. The system testified to the human brain’s adeptness and complexity. At a time when computers were becoming more popular than ever, I saw the brain as the greatest computer in the world, and I felt Neuro-Link was a way to tap into its incredible potential.
In the days following that fateful meeting in which the group informed me of their collective opinion regarding my work, my dilemma filled my mind. The practical part of me screamed that I should go along with the crowd and let go of Neuro-Link. After all, I was the sole financial support for my two young children. If I didn’t remain a part of their association, I could potentially find myself with no clients. On the other hand, I knew I had a skill that would help many in pain. I had already experienced my work helping people when I combined the two modalities so I knew I could personally accomplish more if I continued to use both of them together.
“Ann,” the group’s leader told me, “we think the technique probably works. We just can’t take the risk.”
Others agreed. Giving up this technique remained the only way they would allow me to market my services with them. Clearly, I would have to make a choice.
Many times during our earth-bound journey, life forces us to make choices like this one. Choices that might come unexpectedly and often seem unfair. We find ourselves confronted by the question, “Why has life pressed me between two seemingly undesirable options?” Rather than railing against this phenomenon, I prefer to see it as a natural part of the growing process we all must experience during our journey to be and become authentic.
My best definition of “authenticity” reflects balance: when your inner world remains congruent with your outer world. In other words, everything that I believe is true for me – my beliefs, my thoughts, my feelings – must agree with how I exhibit this truth in my actions in my outer world. I have found this version of authenticity to be far from understood. Many define authenticity as “being honest or telling the truth.” The kind of authenticity I’m talking about resides less in one particular kind of external expression and more in how well you live and express your own natural leanings.
In the end, my choice was to leave the group. I felt truly frightened that I might lose my practice and I wondered how we would survive without this support. I didn’t know. But staying in the group would force me to abandon myself as well as my own guidance. I knew I could not risk that. Then, the universe’s response to my decision amazed me. When I left the group, I was surprised that my phone began ringing off the hook. Several physicians who had referred clients to me loved what I did and even took the opportunity to experience the enjoyable resolution of pain for themselves.
Everyone is unique – your brainwaves, fingerprints, DNA, the sound of your voice – all of these patterns belong only to you. You and you alone have faced the unique challenges of your life, relying on a combination of talents and gifts solely your own. God designed each of us this way, as one-of-a-kind expressions of divinity.
Many talk about this uniqueness, yet we constantly get bombarded with messages about how to dress, how to think, how to behave, and how to feel. Someone who is labeled “different” frequently gets bullied or shut out. Places where uniqueness is actually nourished and encouraged can be hard to find. Because of this pressure to conform, you may decide to give up on your own uniqueness as a way to survive. How often do you forfeit the precious gift of your unique self in order to fit in or claim an identity that makes you feel safe? At what cost?
Author and Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield once said,
“I think the greatest wound we’ve all experienced is somehow being rejected for being our most authentic self. And as a result of that, we try to be what we are not to get approval, love, protection, safety, money, whatever.”
To understand the great need to be authentic, we can look at life as a great symphony. Only you can play your unique instrument. Without the music of your soul blending with all the others, something essential gets lost in life’s expression of itself. Being unique may mean you will sometimes have to go against the grain. Promptings from your own heart and mind don’t always match up with the messages of the outside world. Staying true to yourself, requires both stamina and faith in the process of being and becoming an authentic human being. For everyone, the central business of life is to be a real person. But you don’t arrive at this in one step. Rather, you continually engage in the ongoing process of becoming real.
Throughout my life, I have frequently explored and reinvented my own authentic connection with the world around me. Something that felt very authentic to me in my thirties no longer fits now that I am in my eighties. I can look back at the past versions of myself and laugh at how I’ve changed. But I also honor all of them because I know each has reflected my best expression in the outer world of my changing inner landscape at the time.
The same holds true for each of us. Authenticity does not require you to nail things down, once and for all. You do not need to get your beliefs “figured out” or “right.” Rather life calls you to get right with yourself, as you are right now. It beckons you to make decisions about your life not based in fear, as many do and I also have done from time to time, but from faith in your unique and essential expression of you.
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Ann Allen is an author, professional speaker, therapist, and spiritual mentor.
The title of her book is, AUTHENTICITY AT YOUR BEST: How to Discover and Uncover “Your True Self” (Aviva Publishing, 2020).
She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The image that leads this post is “Color, life, heaven, affection, truth” from Needpix.com