in this month's keynote presentation, we explore what it means to be authentic, the 3 things that are necessary for true authenticity, and how we may challenge ourselves to live a more authentic life... even when it feels risky! i share the story of why i don't use capitals when i write and the consequences of that decision... and how, in the end, it is simply about living my own message! (i thought the e. e. cummings quote was a fitting choice - from one lowercase lover to another!)
there is something you should know about me… (if you don’t already!)
my name is karen gunton and i don’t use capital letters.
i feel like this is a warning label that i now have to put on everything i do, especially as i just wrote, published, and launched my book #lighthouserevolution
proceed with caution. this book contains no capital letters.
the funny thing is that this didn’t start out as being a big “thing” that i had to warn people about.
i started blogging back in 2010 because i felt called to share what i was learning about building my little biz with other women who might be trying to do the same.
i was excited to write, i had all sorts of things spiralling in my head that i wanted to write about. but when i sat down to write – i couldn’t do it. i just felt so stuck.
and when i did write, i would try so hard to be all professional and proper. i was writing about business strategy, i felt like i had to be pro to be taken seriously. but i would read back what i wrote and it didn’t feel like me!
eventually i thought – fuck it. this is silly. it’s not like anyone is going to read this blog anyways – except maybe my mom. i should just be me. i should write like i talk, i should write like i would if i were sending a note to one of my friends. i should write because i have something to say, no because i care what anyone else thinks.
i gave myself permission to be me.
and that is a powerful thing.
authenticity has become a bit of a “buzz word” i find. people talk about authenticity like it’s something you need to DO or BE or STRIVE for.
but really it is something you just need to LIVE.
it’s about choosing to be real, to be you. simply because being YOU is just what you do.
being you is how you shine your light.
my weird quirk of writing with no caps has become a badge of authenticity in a way – i must keep giving myself permission to be me, even in the face of criticism, because that is my message to others and i choose to live my message.
but it didn’t start out as some big, brave thing i was setting out to do. i simply didn’t think anyone would read it anyways, so there were no consequences to my authenticity. there was no risk.
it was easy then. it’s harder now, especially now that i have written a book… that’s when the fear kicks in, and the temptation to change gets bigger.
our biggest fear, and the biggest barrier to true authenticity, is our fear of loss.
what if i lose friends, support, authority, credibility, money, work… what if people don’t like me when i am the real me?
but, honestly what is the alternative?
compromising yourself? hiding your true self? never feeling seen or heard or witnessed? swallowing your voice? pretending to be something you are not? diminishing yourself in some way?
when you feel like you can’t be you, it can manifest all sorts of darkness:: it can leave you feeling stuck, depressed, dejected, lost, no mojo, no spark.
not feeling fully, 100% YOU is soul destroying.
when i decided to be me and write like i talk, i found my voice again. the words flowed. and to my surprise, people did read my blog and it grew to be very popular.
and then one day my biggest fear happened. i received my very first hate mail… an email all about how annoying and unprofessional i was, how the reader liked my content but didn’t like my style… (which i read as: she didn’t like me.)
so it happened. someone didn’t like me.
(in fact, it turns out that lots of people don’t like me. after nearly 6 years of sharing my voice and my message i still get emails like that!)
but here’s the thing: i’m ok. it’s ok.
when it came down to it, i didn’t actually care that someone didn’t like me, because it just felt so good to be me… to be true to myself. i wouldn’t change that for anything now! and frankly, what other people think of me is not actually any of my business.
so my worst fear ended up being not really so bad after all. i survived!
and to my surprise, amazing things started happening.
my lack of capitals has become a signal… a beacon… to others… it gives others permission to be more authentic themselves. it lets others know that it is ok to be you…
when you shine your unique light in your own way, you give others permission to do the same.
what i discovered with the whole no caps thing, is that for every person who hates it there is someone else who loves it. so those are the people that i focus on --- those people are the boats looking for my lighthouse.
as one of my friends told me once: you’ve got to polarize to mesmerize.
if you play it safe, no one will hate you, but no one will really love you either. or maybe they will just never really KNOW you. lack of authenticity is the biggest barrier to connection that we have!
we don’t make a difference by being safe. (small. same. plain. unremarkable. proper.)
we make a difference by being different.
i recently saw a lighthouse image online that said: let your weird light shine so that all of the other weirdos know where to find you!
i love that. be weird. weird is good!!
so because of the no capitals thing, and the ultimate effects that that choice to be me has had on my work, i have spent quite a lot of time thinking about authenticity.
the way i see it, authenticity requires 3 things:
vulnerability – you’ve got to open yourself up, raw and real (and take that risk of loss)
integrity – you’ve got to walk the talk – mean what you say and do what you mean (even when that path is the difficult one)
humility – you’ve got to have a modest estimate of your own importance… you aren’t special!
because authenticity at the core is the act of being real, we are hardwired to notice when people are not being real, when authenticity is in fact the buzz word instead of the way you live your life.
i’m sure we can all imagine someone we know who has played the authenticity card yet it has come across as false in some way.
because true authenticity is humble. it’s not a flag that we wave. it is just who we are.
and true authenticity is without agenda or expectation. we do it because the alternative is soul destroying. not because we are hoping for some sort of outcome (attention, recognition, or connection).
authenticity is not saying – here i am, this is me, i am being me. this is what i believe. this is what i think. i don’t care if you don’t like it, i am so busy being me and convincing everyone of my me-ness that you can’t touch me. aren’t i awesome?
i feel like those people are missing the point. authenticity is not about convincing and insistence… attention and aggression. it’s about vulnerability, humility, and integrity.
it is simply just saying – this is me.
it is looking at the places in our life where we could be a little more true to ourselves, where we could stop dimming or hiding our light so as not to rock the boat, where we could do things not because we should but because they serve who we are…
it’s in all of the little things. the little steps we take. the times we show our true colours instead of hiding them away.
it’s simply, quietly, choosing to be you, choosing to be real, at any given moment, in every day life.
it’s clearing away that fear or worry or obligation or risk or lack of permission… so that you can show up and be the highest, brightest version of yourself.
what is one little thing you can do today to live a more authentic life?
share something you have been hiding inside.
give yourself permission to be more YOU in some way that you haven’t yet.
try to come from a place of integrity & humility, and catch yourself when you don’t.
be vulnerable – i bet you find the most amazing things happen just as i did!
break the rules. be weird. be different.
(find your own version of no capitals!!)
because, what makes you different is what allows you to make a difference.