I was writing at a local beachside coffee shop when a young woman approached me. “You’re Marc, right?” she asked.
I looked up at her. She had piercing eyes, a pierced nose, an elegant smile… but nothing that rang a bell. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?” I inquired politely.
“No,” she replied. “But I know you.” She swiftly walked back to the table where she’d been sitting, picked up her iPad, and carried it over to me. On the screen was our blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life. “You look just like your photo,” she said in a chipper tone.
I smiled. “So you’re one of the three people in this town who read it.”
She blushed. “What I like about your writing is that it’s so real.”
I cleared my throat. “Real?” I asked.
“I mean . . . you don’t hide anything. You say it just like it is. And that gives me hope.”
“How do you know that I don’t hide anything?” I asked.
She paused, tilted her head slightly and squinted her eyes as if, maybe, to look for something inside me that she had missed before. “Well, your words seem so, so . . . honest.”
Her compliment was appreciated, but it didn’t feel fair. Perhaps because I’m not always good at accepting compliments, or perhaps because I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty lately . . . and how I sometimes fall short.
“There are some things you should probably know,” I said. “If I know a picture is being taken of me, I usually make a crooked half-smile because I think it’s sexy. If someone touches my arm, I flex a little bit because I think people are impressed with harder muscles. And if I know guests are coming over to my home, I run around like a mad man and make it spotless before they arrive, because I’d like them to think that I’m clean and organized all of the time.”
“But . . .”
“And that’s just the beginning,” I continued. “When I write a new blog post, I’m typically only writing about the people and experiences that inspire a single sentence that moves me. For instance, in today’s post that sentence is: “Honesty is a matter of awareness and intention.” The rest is just my attempt to bring that sentence to life—to show why it’s meaningful to me.”
“But can’t you see . . .”
“And when I want to impress someone I’ve just met for the first time, I pretend that I’m overly outgoing and fearless. And I try to say clever or profound things like, “Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.” But it usually doesn’t come out right because I don’t really want to be clever or fearless or profound. Not right then. I just want to break the ice and introduce myself. And I want to do it without stumbling over my words.”
“Marc, this is exactly the kind of honesty that inspires me!”
“You’re missing the point. These are revelations, and they’re revealing the ruse. The sexy, crooked smiles aren’t the smiles you see most often. And the blog posts rarely include the exact sentences that inspire them. And the folks I introduce myself to don’t always see the real me, and they don’t realize that I’m nervous because I’m trying to impress them . . . because I want them to like me, and because . . .”
“Who are you trying to impress?” she asked.
“That’s not the point,” I said.
“But I want to know,” she insisted.
“This is what I mean,” I continued. “An honest person would just tell it to you straight. But I write stories on a blog about a girl who wanders the streets, and nights of dancing naked, and a heartbroken Jamaican woman at an ice cream parlor . . . and who in their right mind knows what will come next.”
“But it was Angel and you who were naked and dancing that night, right?” she asked.
I grinned. “Shhh, don’t tell anyone.”
“But won’t the new people you want to impress and all of the important people in your life know how you feel . . . if they read your blog posts?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think they read the blog.”
We shared a long silence during which her gaze locked directly into the depths of my eyes. Finally, she said, “I think I understand better why you give me hope.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because at some point the world forgot—or perhaps never knew—that honesty isn’t about whether we make sexy smiles for the camera, mask autobiographical blog posts about ‘dancing naked,’ or try not to show our apprehension before meeting someone new. Rather, honesty—revelation—is a matter of awareness and intention. And somebody recognizes that. And it gives me hope and makes me think.”
I smiled. “And one other thing,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure that whoever you want to impress will appreciate you just the way you are. I know I do.”
Finding Inner Liberty . . . Just The Way You Are
Why did I just tell you that story?
Because it liberates me to do so.
Reflecting on that raw, authentic conversation in the coffee shop is emotionally freeing. It reminds me that by allowing myself to be myself, I allow others to be themselves too. This creates a healthy, supportive environment in which to live and communicate. In a society where people love to point fingers and poke fun, most of the time you can only fight brazen judgments (including self-judgments) with naked honesty. When you put your whole self out there—when you speak up about your issues and open yourself to receiving care and support, you allow others to reciprocate and follow your lead. The truth is, we’re all in this together, undergoing the same learning processes and internal conflicts. We’re all equally perfect in our imperfections. There’s no reason not to admit it.
Too often, however, we try to show the world we are flawless in hopes that we’ll be liked and accepted by everyone. But we can’t please everyone and we shouldn’t try. The beauty of us lies in our vulnerability, our complex emotions, and our authentic imperfections. When we embrace who we are and decide to be authentic, instead of who we think the world wants us to be, we open ourselves up to real conversations, real relationships, and real peace of mind.
Keep this in mind.
Liberate yourself—let “honesty and authenticity” be your policy today.
Start by admitting what so many of us have refused to admit about ourselves for far too long…
1. We are more sensitive, vulnerable, and unsure of ourselves than we want others to know.
Every single one of us has a sensitive side, and yet so many of us try to hide it. Why? Because sensitive people are too often perceived as weak or broken. But to feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the characteristic of a truly alive and compassionate human being. It is not the sensitive person who is broken, it is our modern society’s understanding that has become dysfunctional and emotionally incapacitated. There is zero shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being “too emotional” or “complicated” are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more thoughtful, caring, and humane world.
Never be ashamed to let your feelings, smiles, and tears shine a light in this world.
And don’t be afraid to feel a bit awkward and unsure of yourself in the process.
In fact, if you feel unsure of yourself sometimes, I know exactly how you feel. I used to be incredibly unsure of myself too . . . sometimes I still am. And it’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, anxiety, fear of being judged, and feeling vulnerable and “different”—they’re really not all bad. Those inner battles—those insecurities—have been my angels at times. Without them I would never have disappeared into literature, language, the mind, passionate work, and all the wild intensities that made and unmade me, and shaped me into the person I am today.
But a harsh truth remains: The enemies we encounter in life, especially our own inner demons, use the things we’re insecure about against us.
Which means we can’t hide forever. We have to emerge. We have to grow through our insecurities.
At some point we have to free ourselves and take our power back by being secure in who we are . . . sensitives, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and all.
Instead of smiling to be polite, just cry when you need to. Instead of laughing when you are nervous or uncomfortable, just speak your truth. Instead of acting like everything is all right, proclaim it isn’t all right—talk about your feelings!
Admit your truth.
Take a bold step forward.
2. We give others far too much control over how we feel and live.
“Today I lost the respect of a few people I love, and the desire to kill myself, when I finally took your advice and told everyone the truth about who I really am and what I’ve decided to do with my life. In a nutshell, I’ve chosen to love and honor myself, instead of convincing others to do it for me every day.”
Those are lines right out of a live chat session I had recently with a longtime reader and new course student of ours. Although this person asked to remain anonymous, they gave me permission to share this with you, and I’m so glad they did. Because at some point we all have to look out into the world with an honest, open heart and say, “This is me. Take me or leave me.” Getting to that point, however, is a journey. It takes time to condition our minds to resist the lure of social validation.
Our desire to be socially validated by others is baked right into our DNA. It has been proven time and time again, for example, that babies’ emotions are often drawn directly from the behaviors of those around them. As we grow up, we learn to separate our thoughts and emotions from everyone else’s, but many of us continue to seek—and in many cases beg for—positive social validation from others. In a recent survey we did with 1,200 of our course students and coaching clients, 67% of them admitted that their self-worth is strongly tied to what other people think of them.
The biggest problem is we tend to forget that people judge us based on a pool of influences in their own life that have absolutely nothing to do with us. For example, a person might assume things about you based on a troubled past experience they had with someone else who looks like you, or someone else who shares your same name, etc. Therefore, basing your self-worth on what others think puts you in a perpetual state of vulnerability—you are literally at the mercy of their unreliable, bias perspectives. If they see you in the right light, and respond to you in a positive, affirming manner, then you feel good about yourself. And if not, you feel like you did something wrong.
Bottom line: When you’re doing everything for other people, and basing your happiness and self-worth on their opinions, you’ve lost your moral center. If you catch yourself doing this—as you inevitably will at some point—remind yourself of the truth: What most people think of you doesn’t matter.
Refocus your attention on the right relationships. Spend time with people who see you the way you are, and not as they wish to think you are. Spend even more time with those who truly know about you, and who love and respect you anyway. And if someone expects you to be someone you’re not, take a step back. It’s wiser to lose relationships over being who you are, than to keep them intact by acting like someone you’re not. It’s easier to nurse a little heartache and meet someone new, than it is to piece together your own shattered identity. It’s easier to fill an empty space within your life where someone else used to be, than it is to fill the empty space within yourself where YOU used to be. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of our book.)
3. We often measure our own worth on a material-based scale.
If the conditions are right, it’s easy to grow horizontally by acquiring more money, newer cars, bigger homes, and various external accolades. Vertical growth, on the other hand, is when you stay in the same place with the same things for the most part, but grow deeper and deeper into yourself. It’s when you can say, “Five years ago I would have lost my mind over this situation, but now I don’t take it personally.” This kind of growth is far more rare, but it’s the only true growth there is. Sadly, many of us feel stuck, and we age much faster than we grow, because we focus almost entirely on horizontal achievements. We spend so much of our lives going through the external—material—motions of what society tells us “worth” is—earning more money, buying more stuff, working our way up the corporate ladder, etc.—that we fail to concentrate on what matters most.
Let this be your wake-up call.
No matter where life takes you—big cities or tiny towns, online encounters or in-person exchanges—you will inevitably come across situations that make you second-guess yourself . . . situations where everyone seems to have more than you . . . situations that leave you feeling utterly inferior. And you’ll subconsciously measure your own worth based on what you have on the outside, instead of who you are inside. But you know better! Chasing external, societal accolades to your own psychological detriment makes no sense. So do your best to catch yourself in the act . . . and then catch up to the ideas and activities that make you feel whole again. Go for the things of greater value—the things material wealth and status can’t buy. What matters most is having strength of character, peace of mind, and a grateful heart. If you’re lucky enough to have any of these things, never sell them. Never sell yourself short.
4. We rarely give ourselves the credit we deserve.
It’s easy to look at the past and regret things . . .
It’s easy to wish you had learned a lesson sooner.
But doing so doesn’t serve you.
What does serve you is giving yourself due credit.
Remember that time you thought you couldn’t make it through? You did, and you’ll do it again. Don’t let your challenges get the best of you. Appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too.
You deserve self-acknowledgment for your strength and resilience. We all do.
From time to time people ask Angel and me how we hold our heads up so high after all we’ve been through, and we always tell them the same thing: “It’s because no matter what, we are survivors, not a victims.” And the same is true of you. You are a survivor! Never forget it. Remember what you deserve and keep pushing forward.
Every step and experience is necessary.
In the end, all the small things you do make a big difference. Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment. It’s about the trials and errors that slowly get you there—the blood, the sweat, the tears, and the small, inconsequential things you do on a day-to-day basis. It all matters in the end—every step, every regret, every decision, every minor setback and minuscule win.
The seemingly insignificant happenings add up to something. The minimum-wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent socializing with coworkers you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing thoughts on a personal blog that no one reads. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and social media posts, questioning your own principles on life and sex and politics and religion, and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are.
All of this has strengthened you. All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today. And all of this proves that you have the strength and resilience to deal with the challenges in front of you.
Give yourself credit, right now, and step forward again with grace.
Your turn . . .
Before you go, let me ask you a quick question:
- Which point above resonated the most with you?
And how might admitting this to yourself more often, change your life?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.