Diane Arbus once said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” Six months ago, my sister sent me an old photograph that contained a myriad of secrets.
The picture is shot in Hot Springs, California, where we were living in an Airstream trailer. I was 5-years-old, holding a white poodle puppy. My little sister, Wendy, is seated next to me. We were wearing matching red pants. My grandmother was smoking a cigarette in a housecoat. A woman with white hair, whom I don’t recognize, stands behind us with clenched fists.
At the time, my grandmother, like my mother was an alcoholic. My sister and I are terrified and hungry. Yet, despite our situation, I try to act happy for the camera. Later in business, I will use this survival skill to receive promotions and keep clients loyal. It will serve me well--until it doesn’t.
For years I hid these secrets. I pretended that my mother was dead. I wore the mask of someone who had it all together and held all the answers. I was desperate not to be like her. I didn’t want to carry the sins of my mother, so I covered them up with beautiful clothes and built a business based on cultivating an ideal brand image.
Eventually, I would come to view my past as a gift. I would reunite with my mother and see all the goodness in her that is in me. I would own that I am scared of things that feel out of my control and stop apologizing for my need to have everything in its place.
It took a long time, but I have learned that it’s OK not to agree with everyone. It hurt at first, but it got easier to say “no” when people were taking advantage of me. If I felt like being in a bitchy mood or crying like a child, I could do it without beating myself up. This was being me, authentically.
It’s not easy being certain about yourself in an uncertain world. But if you keep denying the truth about yourself and you don’t own the beauty of your uniqueness, you’ll never feel whole.
So… if museums bore you, don’t go. If you like to drink whiskey over wine, then ask for it. Stop camping if you hate it. If Christmas isn’t your thing, don’t celebrate it. If you have a friend that’s driving you crazy, don’t call her. Just be you, really you.
Consciously be aware of how things make you feel and gravitate toward what and who makes you feel good. You’ll find that some relationships are strengthened by your authenticity while others are weakened. Not everyone will love the real you. What matters is that you do.
I am the little girl in the picture--there’s no denying it. I survived my childhood and because of it (not in spite of it), I am thriving as an adult. People who are rising to the top in business tell their truth and live their lives with conviction. They own their past, let go of old patterns, exhibit faith, and show compassion for themselves and others.
Many of my friends who are tuned in to universal shifts say that there is a new paradigm happening. And as a result, those that exhibit fear, put on false personas, or hide behind masks of the martyr, worker bee, people pleaser, jerk, tough cookie, creep--fill in the blank--are finding themselves out of step with the transformation taking place.
In an Age of Transparency, authenticity is the only answer. It’s the fuel to forgive what was and move with grace into what’s next.
Robin Fisher Roffer is a leading brand strategist and reinvention specialist. Founder and CEO of Big Fish Marketing, she is the author of Make A Name For Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs To Create A Personal Brand Strategy For Success, The Fearless Fish Out Of Water: How To Succeed When You’re The Only One Like You, and Reinventing Yourself: 10 Steps To Shifting Your Career Into High Gear. Learn about her Reinvent Yourself! Workshops at http://relevanceinstitute.com/