Static-free Authenticity

There is SUCH a focus these days on being authentic and being yourself – on expressing your creative truth – in business, in creative pursuits, and in your relationships.

If I read another blog post that tells me to just “be myself,” I might have to yank myself bald.

“Being yourself,” “being authentic” is now the Holy Grail, the solution to all our challenges, whether you want to sell a book, get customers, or find your perfect partner.

As if it’s that easy to know who your “self” is, or to be authentic – let alone how to express that authenticity to the big ole’ world.

What makes you “you” can feel like a radio signal that comes and goes.

Sometimes it’s sharp and vibrant, and other times it’s lost in the static of comparisons, other people’s voices, exhaustion, and more.

You see a shade of palest yellow and your heart sings, then in the next moment you have no idea what you want to do with the rest of your life, let alone what you want for dinner.

If it were so easy to “be yourself,” you would have figured it out a long time ago. After all, you’ve probably been getting – and giving – this advice since grade school.

But Mom, what if they don’t like me?”

Oh honey, just be yourself.”

Even then we knew it wasn’t that easy – and even if we were “ourselves,” it didn’t mean the world would reward us.

So what’s a creative, aware soul to do?

How do you tune down the static of your mind and turn up the song of your soul, the boogie of your heart, the mojo of your mystery?

I have a few humble suggestions to share in this series of blog posts and, God willing and the creek don’t rise, a little e-book giveaway I’m working away on.

Let’s start with…

Humble suggestion number one: Turn off Everyone Else’s Broadcast

When it feels too hard to hear you among all the other yous out there, you aren’t suffering from multiple personality disorder, but you may need an Internet fish bowl break.

I say “fish bowl” because everyone’s voices and big plans and ideas can create a sort of invisible fish bowl that hems you in – without you necessarily noticing it.

The Internet’s intimacy and fecundity can make it hard to hear what is truly yours to say and express.

Consider this common scenario: You’re trying to express something – what’s bugging you about your marriage, what you need for a self-nurturing break, the images for a poem formulating in your mind – and having a hard time putting your thoughts and feelings into words.

The Self-Doubts start a-chattering:

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

You want too much.

You don’t deserve that.

You don’t have time.

You shouldn’t be wasting time on this.

You’ll never get it anyway

and suddenly, you feel an irresistible urge to check email or visit Twitter or surf the net “just for a minute.”

You can’t stand the discomfort of going within to find your own answers, or the fear of not knowing, so you distract yourself.

Before you know it, you’re reading a blog post that tells you what you must do to make your writing better or you’re watching a video about a business owner’s incredible success or you are being pitched THE system that will solve your relationship woes and without even knowing it, that becomes more real to you, more credible, than your nascent, tender soul yearnings.

You might think, “I’ll take that advice, and then I will be okay.”

Or “She’s said everything I wanted to say on the subject of tango knitting, what’s the point?”

Or “I could never make as much money as she did so I’m going to go eat a pan of brownies.”

It’s not the advice or the success stories or even the marketing messages that are the issue. It’s when and how they come into your awareness that can cause serious static.

Creating and expressing your “I” – your mysterious mojo that only you have – has always been a difficult, life-long birthing process.  That’s what it means to be human!

But before the Internet, when you were struggling, you might have called one friend to talk about it.  You didn’t have so many comparisons and other voices beaming straight into your head at all hours of the day or night.

It’s like a Greek chorus of disapproving, Martha Stewart perfectionists, all just waiting to tell you that you can never be good enough, smart enough, unique enough – so why try?

Here is some very good news:  Lots and lots of people are too afraid to listen, to go inside and find out who that “I” is.  You may be just as afraid, but you keep listening.  And that makes all the difference.

You keep listening to the itch in your heart. That’s the most important thing that has to keep happening.

It’s not about scratching the itch, it’s about itching. Because it’s the itching that will lead you right to yourself – your true, authentic, never-to-be-duplicated lovely self.

Okay, here is the practical suggestion part of the post:

Notice when you go to the Internet – is it when you are struggling to know what you think, want, or wish to express?   Do you go looking for information to tell you the “right way” or what so-and-so thinks?  If so, it doesn’t mean you’re an empty vessel without an original thought! Our brains always choose the easiest path.

The Internet gives you a very easy way to avoid doing the aching, soul-chafing work, so that’s where your brain goes first. It’s completely natural and understandable. Your brain says, Why hack your way through the thicket of hedges using a dull machete when you can take the path forged by someone else? It’s your job to notice when this is happening and take note.

Next, when you’re on the information hunt, especially from the Internet, ask yourself, “Why? What am I looking for? What am I hoping to learn?

Do you just “know” that there’s a particular blog or e-zine or forum where, if you don’t read it or comment, you will be “left out,” consider taking a break for one week.  Notice if you can hear yourself more clearly in the space you’ve created.

Notice how the blogs and e-zines and Yahoo lists and people you follow on Facebook or Twitter make you feel.  Drop the ones that make you feel static-filled or “less than.”

Here’s an idea for the very radical among us: Go offline for a weekend or, even better, a week. If you couple this unplugged time with a retreat focused on listening to your voice and honoring it, I guarantee you’ll experience a huge breakthrough in identifying your authentic voice.

How do you find  your authenticity? I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you try!

Next post: Tuning into your Essence

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Tweets that mention Static-free Authenticity » Comfort Queen -- - January 4, 2010

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Louden, Barbara Winter. Barbara Winter said: RT @jenlouden I've started a series of blog posts today i'm very passionate about. Pls check it out and RT if you agree. […]

Hayden Tompkins - January 4, 2010

Did you say “go offline”? I must have misread that! That would be…

Wait, huh? Oh, yeah, I should totally tweet this!

LOL, in all seriousness I love the idea of creating a quiet and personal space just to be and think. We definitely don’t do that enough.

Wulfie - January 4, 2010

Great sharing! Thanks.

To quiet myself and find my inner wandering minstral again I actually do go ‘off line’. I retreat from the noise (the internet is really, really noisy! as you’ve pointed out.) and I take walks, fool with my camera learning to take pictures, or read. And when I really want to get lost so I can then find myself I draw – I’m teaching myself how to draw manga style. I listen to loads of music and sometimes dance and I write stories.

It’s therapy My Way! lol And it usually works too.

martha hart - January 4, 2010

Distracting ourselves with shiny objects – look here! choose me! – is one way to guarantee we don’t/can’t have the space and time to learn our authenticity. Most of us do for others… do too much. Like the flight attendant says, “Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.”

Amazingly worthwhile. Harder than it sounds – I have to remind myself often.

Thanks – lovely post.

Catherine Caine - January 4, 2010

I’d like to add a 5-minute get-away from the media break at least once per day. I find if I write after a media dump I sound an awful lotlike the people I’ve been reading or listening to.

Especially if you’ve just caught up on six hours of Tweets and your brain is reeling with all the data you’ve just touched.

Speaking of…

jenniferlouden - January 4, 2010

@Emma – you said, “The authenticity starts around paragraph three of my draft blog posts (which rapidly becomes the first paragraph at the edit stage!). It’s like a gungy blockage has to be cleared out of the pipes before my voice comes back. It’s taken a year of blogging to get there. But oh boy, what bliss when I arrive!” Brilliant and so true. To be patient with that process is so important!

@Mark – thank you for this, “I’m not separate from the mix. Only the Divine is Unique… we’re all just copies of it.”

@Hiro – “’d like to establish a monthly rhythm of three weeks of work/connection/being out in the world, followed by a week of seclusion and inward focus.” I want this! With the Comfort Cafe, it is not possible but what if I limited by online time for a week a month? YES!

@Marc – I look forward to reading more of your writing and love what you said, “Authenticating myself? I just remember what I’m not and how my approach and style of writing opposes almost everything that is out there already.” That really woke me up.

@Hayden, yes, crazy of me, I know. Shakes head.

@Wulfie, the image of you nurturing your creativity was very calming and inspiring, thanks for taking the time to share it.

@Kelly, I bet your hearing your own voice can be doubly hard with working with clients and their voices. Which you do so well!

@Kelly S, I like the waves too but must have awareness of how i am using them. I find the wave between writing and art making, for example, more deepening than writing and answering emails. Just me!

@Martha – exactly, amazingly worthwhile. Exactly.

@Sophie, I am so thankful you didn’t listen to big expert. Thank God! Don’t listen! Look at my friend Keri Smith – no listening, much art and book making, and certainly no gd niche.

@Randi – yes is such a good word.

@Crystal, So well said, “But when you already doubt yourself, you may not trust what you know or think you know — so it seems like a wiser choice to go listen to someone who’s supposedly proven they know what they’re doing.” And true in all areas of life. I want to trust my knowing AND get outside information, bring the two together to make good decisions / art work / etc

@Molly – yes to no more noise!

@Jennifer, how beautiful you said that!

Emma Newman - January 4, 2010

YES! Oh yes, this is why I have been hiding away from online things over the Xmas break and feeling resistance to come back. Thank you 🙂

As for your question, I write. If I don’t write something for myself regularly (be it fiction or a blog post) I turn into a grumpy ogre. Oh it’s ugly. Then I have to go and write and hang all else. The authenticity starts around paragraph three of my draft blog posts (which rapidly becomes the first paragraph at the edit stage!). It’s like a gungy blockage has to be cleared out of the pipes before my voice comes back. It’s taken a year of blogging to get there. But oh boy, what bliss when I arrive!

Mark Silver - January 4, 2010

Can I just say how much I love you, Jen? As for how I find my authenticity, I love what you wrote above.

One thing I do like to do is give myself permission to not be authentic- to learn and take in from others. Eventually, after I’ve done the “monkey see-monkey do” enough, it becomes myself.

I’m not separate from the mix. Only the Divine is Unique… we’re all just copies of it.

Hiro Boga - January 4, 2010

Jen, yes! One of my guiding images at the end of 2009 was of a bank of pay-phones, each one with the phone dangling from its cord. My job was to hang up the phones–to close those open lines. 🙂

When I did, I could hear my own voice clearly again.

This year, in addition to a weekly day of retreat, I’d like to establish a monthly rhythm of three weeks of work/connection/being out in the world, followed by a week of seclusion and inward focus. I’ve done this in the past, and it works well for me. The challenge is trusting that both my business and I will benefit from the ebb as well as the flow.

Love, Hiro

marc nash - January 4, 2010

You’re so right about this self-help malaise I think it’s a cultural thing more germane to Americans who are weighed down by differing cultural attitudes to healthcare (ie there’s money to be made), aspiration & bettering oneself (The American Dream), identity and their more ingrained acceptance of psychotherapy and associated doctrines.

The thing that bothers me about it all, is that self-help books with their buzzwords, along with psychoanalytical notions, seem to inform so many writers when constructing characters for their novels. Human beings are complex, our emotions non-linear and often simultaneously contradictory. Oh for a little complexity in literature and some believable characterisation.

Authenticating myself? I just remember what I’m not and how my approach and style of writing opposes almost everything that is out there already.

I’m not a fan of the artificial and false notion of community the internet is supposed to forge, but one can’t argue against its ability to reach out to new readers & customers. So I’m a bit more ambiguous on the pros and cons of the virtual life.

Thanks for your post. Spot on.

Kelly Parkinson - January 4, 2010

I love this! Love love love. I feel like I am constantly relearning the importance of, as Hiro put it, hanging up all those dangling receivers. How can we be ourselves if we don’t know ourselves, and how can we know ourselves if we’re constantly listening to everyone else? The voice inside is really quiet and really tiny. And sometimes it won’t even speak until I’ve shut down my computer for at least 2 days. Still working on that!

Kelly Salasin - January 4, 2010

Interesting. Tis an interesting balance seeking wisdom and making time to tune within. Recently I heard my guidance suggest: no more reading at bed. Earlier in the year I heard: take a walk every day at mid-day.

At a recent workshop, I heard the presenter say that he has to be careful of “horizontal moves”… shifting sideways from something difficult to something simple, like social media. I too get distracted in that way–cause look, here I am posting on this blog.

But I like the softness of that, the “play” of it. I like working on something, then shifting sideways for a reprieve, then coming back. It’s like being in the ocean–there’s swells, then nothing, then more waves.

You can get in, get out.

I guess the important part is listening to yourself. Lately, I’ve practiced doing that by imagining that I’m my own dear friend.

Would I make my dear friend keep typing when she has to pee? No.

So, ciao for now…
and thanks for the question!

Sophie Lumen - January 4, 2010

When I was working out ideas for integrating my artwork with what I was begining to sense was a book, an ‘expert’ told me to go to a big book store and look at the self-help section, because that would be its ‘niche’.

This was after a couple of years of focused studio time; no tv, healthy food and exercise, lots of good old fashioned self- discipline. So I felt pretty clear-to-myself going in.

Ewwwie thick, fat books promising spiritual ‘stuff’ — all the things Jen nails above—called out from their niches. Smugly. From that I learned what I didn’t want to do.

For me authenticity comes with effort and believing in my ‘heart bogie’ no matter what. That and staying away from niche noogs which can take many forms; internet, people, stuff.

Jen I am glad to come out of the studio and find your voice. Thank you for your clear gift of naming the sublime and the sneakie with such creativity and humor.

Randi - January 4, 2010

I will simply say, YES, YES, YES!

Crystal (Silver) - January 4, 2010

Thanks for making note of the static-of-the-self problem; I think a lot of us suffer from it and even know something’s not quite right, but it seems to help people come to terms with things when they can confirm the problem exists with someone else (which is why we have the static problem to begin with ;)).

I also think it’s easy to fall into the trap of listening to what others are saying rather than listening to yourself, not necessarily because it’s easy, but because we think it’s “smart.” Sometimes, it’s harder to find the answers you want on the Internet than to sit down and brainstorm them yourself — or at least it’s that way for me, sometimes.

But when you already doubt yourself, you may not trust what you know or think you know — so it seems like a wiser choice to go listen to someone who’s supposedly proven they know what they’re doing.

Molly Gordon - January 4, 2010

Another winning post, Jen. I especially like the advice about dropping the channels (tweets, feeds, ezines) that trigger negative inner chatter.

Duff - January 4, 2010

I find my authenticity by reading what other people have to say about authenticity and then doing either what they recommend or what they are doing…as long as it maximizes positive recognition.

Humor aside, “authenticity” means nothing and everything. How we express ourselves is always part of a culture of similar kinds of expression. Perhaps all that is meant by “being yourself” is to be congruent. Where is the “Real” that is really you?

Jennifer Hofmann - January 4, 2010

Love this, Jen.

The person reading my blog comes because they’re in pain and in need of relief.

I could spend hours/days/years fretting about whether I’m being me or not. But in the end, all that worrying prevents the visitor from receiving what they came for.

Serve first. Authenticity will come in its own time.

Diane Hunter - January 4, 2010

Thank you, exactly what I was meant to read today.

Gina - January 5, 2010

Jennifer, Thank you so much for this!
It hit home in a couple different ways and made me realize a few things.

One thing I know is if I start my day first paying attention to my ‘Self’, then all flows with ease like a crystal clear lake glowing from the sun’s rays with smooth cascading rippling waves.

If I don’t pay attention, my day is more like a whirling storm, waves crashing and swirling in all different patterns, like they don’t know where they’re headed.

Funny thing is though, I can learn from both scenarios :).


Tuning into Your Essence » Comfort Queen - January 5, 2010

[…] Missed part one of this series? Get your Static Free Authenticity here. […]

Elise - January 5, 2010

Thank you. I needed to hear this today. I feel so scattered all the time, and I have so many interests that I sometimes don’t think I’ll EVER find the one I’m meant to pursue!

Kimberly - January 5, 2010

How true, how true. I often go with the saying “Let your life speak.” I step outside of myself and observe what I see happening with me and around me. Am I making time for yoga and exercise? Are we eating wholesome foods? Am I sleeping enough. Do I hear laughter?

My life changed forever 4 years ago when my 3rd child was born with a severe, chronic medical condition. Interestingly enough, I am much more comfortable sitting with myself today than I was then. I guess you could say my life was shifted into focus, a very clear urgent focus.

It is so very important to consciously “unplug.” Turn off the cell, the computer, the cable and observe. Without all of the external noise, we focus on each other. It is in these moments that I realize my life is speaking volumes. Facebook can wait. Instead of checking e-mail, check life. That is where you will find authenticity.

Suzie - January 5, 2010

Before I sat down at the computer this morning, I thought ‘The computer is not my friend.’ I’m going to take your advice, which articulates my own random musings…and stop listening as much as possible to the I-net messages, and listen as much as possible to my own I-messages!!!

Nathalie Lussier - January 5, 2010

The fact that I couldn’t stop nodding and wanted to click “back” on my browser really signals to me that… this applies! Must pay attention, and do some of that soul chafing inner work.

Yeeeeps! I better figure this out before it turns into internet addiction… is that reversible?

crescent - January 5, 2010

As always, my dear, we are SO very much on the same page. I read you and I go, yes, yes, yes, yes…

“Even then we knew it wasn’t that easy – and even if we were “ourselves,” it didn’t mean the world would reward us.” This is why I view the qualities & practices of self-soothing & self-validation (which, really you talk about throughout latter part of post) as essential. One has to be able to hold onto oneself, bc there are always times when no one is standing up and applauding.

“You can’t stand the discomfort of going within to find your own answers, or the fear of not knowing, so you distract yourself.”

I think this is the essence of all addictions, both ‘hard’ (heroin) and ‘soft’ (playing Bedazzled online or checking FB compulsively).

Part of the core, central nucleus of Fearless Writing, the workshop I teach, is that one must “learn to tolerate anxiety for growth.” — that it’s the ticket by which we enter self-knowledge and creativity. (And yes, authenticity, tho I haven’t succumbed to the allure of that word too much!)

By doing this, one doesn’t exactly become “fearless” in the usual sense of the word (without fear). But, by seeing, over and over, how it works, one “fears less.”

Jen — I think we should swap workshops!

xxxoooo and respect, and cornbread, and even a sloce of collard-mockingbird pie!


Kelly Salasin - January 5, 2010

ooh, thanks Jen, i like the follow up distinction between “kinds” of waves…

ARG - January 5, 2010

Very rich, insightful piece. Thanks Jen! I’ve thought a lot about this question of how we distinguish our inner voice from the introjected voices of others. Kripalu teacher Stephen Cope, who I once asked about this, suggested paying attention to what sticks around and to how it feels in the body. This advice has helped me.

Also, I liked Hiro’s suggestion-life online is such a challenge. It definitely enriches my life offline but that line dividing “fun & life affirming” from “soft addiction” can be a tough one to locate.

Nathalie - January 5, 2010

I think the entire problem is this whole notion of trying to look within for “self awareness.” Pooh. We must pray and listen to what God says, not what our “inner selves” say. I don’t care one iota what Oprah or Dr. Phil say. I try to listen to what God says. When I make mistakes, I know it’s because I’ve listened to myself or to others instead of going to the Source of Truth.

Janet Bailey - January 5, 2010

Once again, you have climbed inside my head! I love your suggestion to use fear-based motivation (“If I don’t read and comment, I’ll be left out”) as a cue to do the opposite, and UNPLUG. Also wanting to work with your question “Why? What am I looking for? What am I hoping to learn?”

Shannon - January 5, 2010

Being a yoga teacher I’ve practiced going “inside” for years. It’s hard with all the distractions of life, and I so agree with you. We need to find quiet space so we can even begin to listen to that voice within. This is exactly why I created my first ecourse “inside out”. Because I’m tired of us trying to find quick, external fixes. We have all the answers on how to ” be ourselves” but first we must learn how to discover, to go deeper, to explore, to listen and to reconnect. Great writing! Thanks.

moo - January 5, 2010

Thank you for this most enlightening blog. Its funny how reading or speaking of something helps to make it real…. i say that because like everyone i am on my own journey of self discovery.

At age 39 i am struggling to find myself after the recent death of my father and in that struggle realising how much of my identity was wrapped up in my family and what they wanted and expected of me.

I am now starting to see the real me emerge ever so slowly like a timid mouse out of a hole in the wall. I guess it will be a long journey but i look forward to the little gifts and challenges along the way and thank you for your inspirational and real blogs which for me help me to process my journey and to realise that we are all following our own path, be it a similar one. Thanks :o)

Wormy - January 5, 2010

YES! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

That is all. 🙂

What a wonderful post – thank you.

Erika - January 5, 2010

It feels a little funny to be writing on a blog about taking a break from blogging but I so know what you are talking about.

My way is to meditate each morning-I was really slacking off once the days started getting so short and cold, because I meditate in the morning and it was so hard to get out of bed, but as of this week, I am back at it. This is the way I tune in to that voice and into the background emotions that will probably be with me for that day, so I can know what to look for during the day.

I listen inside during the day, and today when I did that, I really didn’t like what I heard, but had the revelation that, you may not like it but that is what is coming up today.

I took a suggestion from Martha Beck’s recent blog and welcomed the feelings that were getting in the way of my being able to hear the voice of my desire. I imagined those fears and worries as a bunch of grumpy old men and let them all come in, have a seat before the fire and drink some hot chocolate. This really helped.

It made me see how, just as you said, I do so often want to pick and choose what I am going to hear from inside.

Sorry to go so long. Thanks for this idea and reminder.


Suzy Oge - January 6, 2010

This is why we still get our best ideas in the shower,not while reading or viewing someone else’s work.

Thanks for the simple tip to ask myself why before going online. I am more likely to realize that I will not find what I am looking for before I go there!

Susan - January 5, 2010

Wow……my head is spinning! I can’t even remotely grasp all you just gave me. HELP!!! It feels worse than ever! I am trying to find my true, authentic self. I’m a widow out there…trying to find a life without the man I spent my whole life (age 15 to 63) with…..who am I????????? What do I want? Most days I have not clue. I am panic stricken….don’t know which way to turn. How do I get the peace to go forward and claim her? This does not feel good and yet I know it is in my best interest. I think I may have to quit!

Char Brooks - January 6, 2010

I love the image of hanging up all the dangling receivers that Hiro mentioned – beautiful way to look at how to hear my own voice.

Mark Silver introduced me to the idea that only the Divine is unique and that we’re just faces of it.

When I think of that, I just go ahhhh – and know I don’t have to “try” to do anything.

When I really trust that concept, I hear my voice as well as the voices of others around me much more clearly.

Beautifully done once again Jen – thank you for using words that help me hear myself think so clearly.

The Signal-Magnifying Power of Permission » Comfort Queen - January 6, 2010

[…] Part One: Static Free Authenticity […]

jenniferlouden - January 6, 2010

Susan, grieving makes everything impossible. I would say, if you wanted my opinion, to stop looking for who you are and trust that the next incarnation of you will emerge, in time. You are feeling lost for a good reason! Please let yourself take it easy. Keep in touch!

gena - January 7, 2010

i appreciate what you are saying but coming from someone who is all over the net via Twitter Facebook & Blog postings etc. it sounds ironic. You are all over the wild Web & thank goodness others have Not followed this advice otherwise you would not have your customer – don’t u kind of sort of slightly make your living from us lost souls? It’s easy to “be myself” – noone can “make” me feel lost w/out my own consent said Eleanor so stop assuming we are all lost little sheep.

Melanie - January 8, 2010

Jen, ya know what? If I was offline right now … I wouldn’t be reading this!!
However, I absolutely love your style of writing and your message. I’m grateful to Nancy Marmolejo for posting a link to your wonderful words on Facebook.

jenniferlouden - January 8, 2010

Gena, I would never assume anyone is a lost soul. I can’t even imagine seeing someone that way. This is clearly not a blog post for you – you know who are you – not everybody does all the time. I don’t. And in the contemplative tradition, getting quiet is one way to touch into your deep truth again. I didn’t suggest one needs become a hermit or give up being on line. I love my on line community and I’m mindful of the noise the internet can create in my – and others – heads. Thanks for the chance to clarify.

Dr. Jennifer Howard - January 8, 2010

Thank you Jennifer. Much of the marketing speak, online or offline for that matter, can oversimplify in order to sell. Yes, knowing oneself takes time, energy and focus. Then just as you think, “aaaah there it is, my core,” another layer reveals itself for exploring. I think it is best we all settle in, be as “authentic” as we can in any given moment and enjoy the rhythm of our own unfolding.

It’s a pleasure to connect to with you, I was referred to your link by Nancy Marmalejo.

Dr. Jennifer Howard

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