Have you ever heard the word ‘authentic(ity)’ and thought, what does it really even mean!? Am I authentic? Why is it such a buzzword these days?
As someone who lives and breathes the pursuit of authenticity both personally as a genderqueer woman and professionally as a Life & Business Coach, I’m thrilled to be here today discussing this incredibly powerful topic with you! Thank you, Pride & Joy Foundation, for having me!!
In this post, I’ll use the term Queer+ to address all of us on the non-conforming gender and sexuality spectrum.
Let me know how it lands! DM me on instagram @naomi_authentically.
-XO Naomi (she/they) Mendes-Pouget
First, it’s important to explore authenticity as a verb, rather than as an adjective. Authenticity is an active CHOICE to BE visible, transparent, and truthful as we move through our lives.
IMO, authenticity is the act of choosing yourself and your truth, above anything else. Above societal norms, expectations, and perceived ‘protocols’.
Authenticity is honesty. Living an honest life lights the way to authenticity. While I wasn’t really taught about authenticity growing up, or celebrated for it, I was taught to be honest. Despite being frequently shamed for my truth, the tool I WAS taught helped me find my way to living in my authentic truth as I got older.
Authenticity and vulnerability go hand in hand, because we are choosing to share our truth and our experience of the world with others, whilst dropping the protective barriers. It exposes us, but also can set us free.
As an example, I think of caged birds. While they’re in the cage, they are safe from the world. But they’re also caged. When someone opens the cage, it does mean someone may try to pick up the bird, but it also means the bird has a choice to fly out and be free. The choice to live authentically feels a lot like this— to me. It can be a little scary (similar to vulnerability), but it’s incredibly powerful when we are free. Mainly because we have to choose to open our own cage and fly out.
Shame and fear are the biggest culprits that get in the way of folks choosing authentic living. Especially for Queer+ folks in patriarchal society. It’s incredibly valid.
Shame keeps us in the dark. Shame breeds shame. It keeps our power away from us. It keeps us hidden, and robs others of real life examples that show what is possible. It maintains conformity and order, and keeps people feeling small.
Shame and fear, and the succumbing to it which obstructs authenticity, is a major cause of pain amongst our community!
Some of the MOST beautiful examples of authentic living have been shown to me by fellow Queers. Seeing other Queer+ folks living in their truth—and cultivating their joy, has helped me release shame and fear and allowed me to come back to prioritizing self love. And now I get to hold that torch for others, in return.
It’s no surprise that the relationships I enjoy most are the ones that highly value authenticity and self-love.
For many of us Queer+ folks, and neurodivergent folks, amongst other marginalized identities in patriarchal society— we deeply know the pain of prioritizing those other things (ie. relationship dynamics, societal norms, expectations, and perceived ‘protocols’) above our own truth.
What comes next is the regretful sting we feel in our heart; the sting of self-betrayal. The silencing that steals the air from our throats. The tears flowing behind closed bathroom or bedroom doors.
But some of us aren’t even so lucky. For a long time, we may not be aware of our body giving us these signs and clues. We may believe wholeheartedly that we are living authentically, when really we are operating in accordance with the instructions we’ve been handed. We are being ‘good’.
But to actively choose to live authentically is an act of reclaiming our power from oppressive systems. It’s the choice of living in our own truth and joy, and prioritizing it above obeying— that sets us free.
Queer joy can only exist after making this choice. Seeking relationships, activities, actions, and decisions— that feel most true to us— is freedom.
That old sting is then replaced with euphoric fluttering. The air flowing freely from our throats in the form of belly laughter. The tears of joy falling from our eyes and wiped away by a friend.
This is the choice.
It’s not always easy or celebrated to…
…Be the only person you see that presents as femme but embraces their ample body hair;
…Wear clothes that ‘clash’ because that’s your favourite style;
…Wear glittery colourful makeup as a man;
…Assertively disagree with someone;
…Be the only one in the room who snorts when they laugh (and without apologizing for it after);
…Reject the gender binary;
…Be the only one in the room with noise-canceling headphones.
…Be asked ‘what you are’.
It’s often uncomfortable. It makes sense, because we are living in a society that wasn’t set up for our truth, freedom, and authenticity. A society that tries to keep us caged.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Each day, I seek to be more authentic than yesterday. Each day, feeling a little more free.
And what is authentic for you today, might not be authentic for you tomorrow. Like I mentioned earlier, authenticity is a verb; it very much lives in the present moment. It is a constant seeking of truth and alignment with such.
We’ve discussed authentic living, and the alternative. The cage closed, and the cage opened.
Both truths are challenging in different ways. So which one to choose? And why?
Think of your role models. Revolutionaries. Icons. I’m willing to bet at some point or another, they chose their authentic truth over what was expected of them. They chose to share their truth with others.
And yes, it doesn’t always go un-scolded or unpunished.
But we all have the choice to ponder this thought: What is the point of living?
Is it to get through un-scathed?
Or is it to revel in the battle scars we accumulated until our last breath?
Because at least the latter means we were active participants. We showed up and bore our soul. We dropped our guard long enough to see what could happen. By showing up as our beautiful and brilliant selves, we give people hope.
And yes, it doesn’t always have to be a battle. Sometimes what is authentic goes with the current, and there is no resistance. Especially when we are with people who truly are for us. This is an excellent litmus test! Relationships should be safe havens where your authenticity is not only celebrated but expected! And if you’re not your authentic self, your people notice and ask what’s going on.
If you choose the pursuit of an authentic life, there will be lots of different days. And that’s the beauty of it.
There are lots of unknowns, which is beautiful when you can learn to surrender and trust and believe in YOUR truth above all else.
It’s important to remember that we are inherently social creatures. We learn by watching others. By sharing stories. By dropping the mask and truly connecting.
So give yourself an opportunity (or multiple!) to think about who or what YOU wished you could have seen growing up? What did you need? What could have changed for you had you had that?
And then ponder how you can be that for yourself, and for someone else.
Because by embodying your authentic truth visibly and out loud, has the power to change your life for the better, AND, someone else’s too. And that may inspire THEM to live more authentically, which may impact yet another person. And on and on it goes, around the world. It’s the how of “love wins”.
And trust that the more unabashedly and unapologetically you embrace and live your authentic truth, the less people will judge, and the more we will celebrate with you. What you put into the world, gets reflected back. If you can’t yet see it, keep looking for the people who reflect your greatness back to you. Harness the beautiful self-love within you, live your most authentic life, and see how the world changes.
“Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
So, my dear, go forth and pursue your truth fervently. The world needs you!!! And please, practice with me? Connect with me on instagram @naomi_authentically. I can’t wait to witness what is true for you.
Queerly & Authentically yours ,
Naomi (she/they) Mendes-Pouget
About the Author
Naomi Mendes-Pouget (she/they) is raw unfiltered energy as she inspires, motivates, and coaches parents of historically marginalized communities to stop settling for scraps and to bravely activate their powerful life as a leader for their family and communities. They’ve been featured in CBC, VoyageMIA, and on several podcasts.
A founder/CEO, life fulfillment and freedom coach, business coach, preschooler ‘pandemic’ parent, genderqueer woman, and public motivational speaker are only some of the ways Naomi shows up every day.