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Who is the REAL you?

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.”– A Proverb*‬ ‭

Who are you?

Do you ever ask yourself that question?

Who is the REAL you?

I am not talking about the social media you, the work or school you, the church you, the you you display for the benefit of others, or the you you wish you could be.

I am talking about who you really are?

When you are alone.
When no one else is watching.
When it is just you and your thoughts.
When you do not have to pretend anymore.

I really do believe that a big part of contentment comes from knowing who you REALLY are and what you believe about life, and then having the courage and integrity to be that person in EVERY part and place of your life.

Duplicity is exhausting.
Authenticity is freeing.

Authentic integrity comes when your boundaries, ethics and morals are the same in EVERY context. There is no need for lying, acting or pretense. You are not different with different people.

Because you know who you really are!!

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. “– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Of course we need to learn what is required of us in different contexts. We will not be as relaxed with a group of strangers as we are with our families at home. And yet I believe that we can still be authentic in every situation, without telling people EVERYTHING! 

Authenticity is simply about being ‘REAL’ and genuine. It’s doing away with pretending. It’s linked to humility which is being honest about our reality – whether good OR bad.

You do not need to make yourself appear better or make yourself look worse. You are not trying to ‘impress people’ or trying to get them to like you. It’s just being honest in all you say and do …. however that makes you look, regardless of how others treat you!

from darkness

I have learnt a lot about humility since I started this blog! I really do believe some people think that people like me start writing publicly or similar, assuming they are good at it and that people will want to read what they have to say. Or out of pride – to get their ‘name’ out there in the world and share their opinions.

Of course that might be the motive of some!

But I have learnt how much humility and vulnerability it can take to write and launch it into the public realm. Particularly when you decide to write with brutal honesty about both the good and the bad times, the pain and the moments of celebration, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Writing has been a humbling journey for me. When I post my writing online the ‘insecure me’ whispers…. ‘why do you bother, is anyone actually going to read it, what if they don’t like it, will it really help someone else, are you actually achieving anything here or wasting your time?’ But the ‘courageous me’ tells my insecurity to keep quiet and says… ‘I am going to post it DESPITE all of the above. If it helps one person then it is worth it and if it helps me to work through my own thoughts, then it has purpose there too!’

You soon realise people who ‘put themselves out there’ to write, produce music, create artwork, go on TV or publish talks etc, ALWAYS do so facing the challenge of ‘public opinion.’ Sometimes it’s actually easier to stay quiet and hide in the background, than it is to put your name to something and post it for all to see. Particularly when you are revealing very real, and sometimes very raw, information about your life journey.

“To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s also vulnerability.”
– Brene Brown

But if we want to truly connect with others, we need to share our WHOLE story, even when it makes us feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. The story of the REAL us. And that will always be a challenge in a world of ‘opinions’. It is hard to share your heart when you are unsure of others reactions, or if you fear rejection.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E.E. Cummings

It certainly takes courage to be bold in who we really are!! Regardless of what others think. To be the same person whether alone at home with our family or writing publicly for anyone to read.

And yet,

Sooner or later our true hearts will begin to show and be reflected through our actions and words. People around us will begin to see who we truly are anyway.

So why try to hide it?

Why cover it over and try to present a ‘better version’ of me! It’s better they see the ‘real me’ early on so it doesn’t instead creep up on them when they least expect it. If I pretend to be someone I am not, people will just get disappointed in the end – when they discover I am still full of faults and weaknesses.

I want to be known as a person of integrity. Someone who is solid and unchanging in every context. A person who’s true heart is openly displayed for all to see.

The good AND the not so good.

So that there is no duplicity, there are no unwelcome surprises for those who are getting to know me. If I am being kind – I really do mean it! I am not then going to say ‘unkind things’ about you when you are not around to hear it.

It is only then that I can know a depth of relationship and human connection with others that comes from allowing myself to truly be KNOWN. A love that allows itself to be seen and shown, regardless of how it is received. A grace that accepts and opens it’s heart to who others really are – regardless of their weakness too.

A heart that is tender and open. And welcomes others to freely join with me on our challenging human adventure through life. An honest journey of…

Up’s AND downs.
Joys AND pain.
Failures AND victories.

So that we can learn, encourage, cheer one another on and grow together. Because it’s in the TOGETHER that we will find our true strength!

Especially when our together, allows us room to be our true ‘exposed’ selves as well – and chooses to love and be kind regardless….. Whether we always agree with one another or not!

There is such beauty in our unique human diversity anyway?

“Art finds its deepest value when it is the authentic expression of a deep human experience. Art becomes profound when it exposes us, explains us, or inspires us.” – Erwin McManus


*Proverbs ‭27:19 from the Bible. 

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Being Real Whilst Staying Positive

Authenticity is really important to me. I have learnt that it is where true freedom lies. It’s when you have realised that you do not have to maintain a certain image or pretend your life is better than it is.

It’s liberating to just be you.
The real you!
With your strengths AND weaknesses.
Your failures AND victories.
Your achievements AND embarrassments.

When you have nothing to hide, you do not need to fear others finding out about who you really are. There is no need to ‘impress’ anyone.

Pretending is just far too exhausting anyway!

“When people have integrity, their words and deeds match up. They are who they are, no matter where they are or who they’re with. People with integrity are not divided (that’s duplicity) or merely pretending (that’s hypocrisy). They are ‘whole’, and their lives are ‘put together’. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.” John Maxwell

However,

I sometimes wonder – How can we be ‘real’ without wearing our heart on our sleeves the whole time? Shouldn’t there be limits to our transparency? How honest should we be with people on a wider scale?

Is it better to sometimes stay silent?

Of course it sometimes is!

There are many occasions where it would not be helpful or wise to divulge EVERY little detail about our thoughts, feelings and lives. Personally, professionally and socially.

However, I believe we can stay authentic and yet still hold back, but it’s an attitude of the heart. We can keep information to ourselves and those close to us, without hiding or pretending. It’s all linked to having a humble heart. It’s all about our motive for sharing information or keeping it hidden. Having wisdom to be aware of the context we are in, and judging how appropriate our words might be.

“When we are humble, we are down to earth. No energy is wasted on pretension. A humble man can be taken at face value.” – Erwin McManus

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For me having a chronic illness means every day is a battle of sorts. It is the daily battle of positional (upright) unbearable headaches and other nasty neurological symptoms caused by a 2 year persistent spinal CSF Leak that we cannot yet find.

Most days I see people at my daughters school, in the street, at the shops or at church. And they often ask that daily question – “How are you?”

And every day I struggle to answer!

How can I be ‘real’ without launching into a long narrative about all the daily battles and challenges? How do I respond to the ‘how are you’s’ without sounding moany and negative?

And to be honest – do you really want to know anyway? Or should I just respond with the classic ‘fine thank you,’ because maybe I am actually ‘fine’ in a ‘but still battling a chronic illness’ way that day and maybe I don’t have the energy for a long conversation anyway.

But my desire to be authentic means I don’t want to lie either, I don’t want to cover over the reality. That is no good to anyone, because then I will just end up staying quiet and pretending and no one will realise how unwell I still am. (Which has happened before).

So I have had to find new responses ‘well at least I can be here today.’ Or these days I sometimes don’t say much and just smile at people with a ‘hmmm’ or I will say ‘I am not sure what to say – I am still not well, still waiting for new scans to try and find the leak, but I am very thankful that I am not stuck in bed as much as I used to be.’

Perhaps I should give out little cards that say…

“I feel unwell a lot of every day, but for now, I have had to accept it and live with it as best I can. I am better than I have been in the past. I have better moments and worse moments. I have days where I feel more positive and days that feel like more of an endurance test – than the normal daily endurance test of living with chronic illness and pain! But I also have so very much to be thankful for. Each day I have to learn how to live here and do the best I can to love others and help those around me.”

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I don’t want to moan.
I don’t want to only communicate the negatives.
I want to stay positive.
I need to stay thankful.

But I also do want to be ‘real’.

So for now I will try my best to be as authentic as I can. Without sounding like a broken record (because most people have heard all about it before). I will try not to hide so that people understand me and the condition better.

But how about instead of me telling you all about me – AGAIN. Please tell me about the real you too. Your victories AND your failures. Your celebrations AND your struggles. So that I am reminded that we are ALL human and all face our own unique daily battles. Yours might look very different to mine. But I am sure there is something that you are finding hard too.

Because if we always just tell each other we are fine. Then we will stay stuck with our own limited and potentially self focused perspective. Never really knowing what battles other people around us might be fighting too.

And that would be a shame, because then we will miss out on the beauty of true human connection. Connection that goes so much deeper, because we can be honest about our ‘whole’ selves. So we can listen and learn more understanding from one another too.

In the hope that it will help us to become better, kinder and more compassionate humans together.


To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.