The importance of being authentic never really dawned on me until I came into recovery in 2004 from grave alcohol and cocaine addiction and was consequently confronted with having to take a self-appraisal. Since then I have been going through a gradual process of letting go of childhood survival traits and masks that no longer serve me as an adult. Prior to getting sober I thought that in order to get on in this world I had to present an appearance of "having it all together". This was a result of feeling fundamentally flawed and unlovable due to my past toxic shame and guilt, emotional wounds and low self-worth.
I have since come to realise that being authentic means that I no longer have to waste energy trying to micro-manage my reality through "people pleasing" and "expecting perfection" from myself and others. Being authentic brings the freedom to let go and loosen my grip of control. I can appreciate the importance of self-care. For many people however, the notion of "being authentic" is a tall order because it requires us to expose our vulnerability during the early stages of retiring from our layers of masks. A new support network is often required to break free from the deep layers of the "false self".
Not so long ago I came across a clip of a woman being interviewed on CNN who had decided to retire from a glamorous child/adolescence acting career at twenty-two years of age in order to soul search. She described her acting career as "living someone else's dream". That immediately prompted me to continue watching. I soon realised that it was the Canadian-American actress, Lisa Jakub. Her major roles included Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire and Alicia Casse in Independence Day. I decided to contact her and see how she managed to access authenticity and overcome the fear of truly being herself. Today, Lisa Jakub spends her time travelling in the USA writing and public speaking with respect to the importance of mental health awareness and how being authentic is crucial to mental and emotional wellbeing. She is the author of "You Look Like That Girl: A Child Actor Stops Pretending and Finally Grows Up".
"I started working as an actor when I was four years old, so by the time I was twenty-two I had been working for eighteen years and I think like a lot of people who have been working for eighteen years, sometimes they just feel like they are ready for change."
She continued. "That is very much how I felt. I enjoyed a lot of time working in the film industry but at a certain point, I realised that it's not what I saw for myself long-term. It didn't feel like an authentic path for me. I wanted to see what was out there in the world. When I voluntarily removed my label as an actor, I wasn't very sure what was left of me. That was really an exciting and terrifying thing to explore."
"It was a massive change to leave Los Angeles, leave my career, leave my friends, leave the only life I had ever known but I really did not want to become one of those train wreck former stereotype actors that we're all sick of hearing about. I wanted to take that step to find myself a life that felt more rewarding to me." She said.
I asked Lisa Jakub if she feels like she is being more true to herself, as a result of retiring from acting and exploring her innermost thoughts and feelings. "I feel that authenticity is something that I need to work on every day. And I think it can be really easy to slip back into the mindset and momentum of routine or doing something because it looks impressive to other people. Today, I feel great about the work I am doing and the community around me and the relationships that I have with my family and my spiritual life."
She continued. "We get so much external input about what success looks like. Whether it is money or status or possessions -- I feel like it's very easy to get lost in that. When we step back and actually look at the things that make us feel fulfilled in our lives, it's not so much about the possessions or the status. It's really about the connections and creativity and doing the work that we think makes a real difference."
Lastly Lisa Jakub shared how choosing authenticity has given her more awareness and acceptance around her mental health. "I believe that acceptance is fundamental and so I have had to realise in some ways anxiety is just a part of who I am. There is research now that says anxiety, depression and mood disorders can be genetic. And so, I think that that point of acceptance is really important to me to realise that this is real."
Jakub continued. "It's not that 'I'm overly sensitive or just being dramatic'. From that point of acceptance, I work on cultivating those tools that make life a little bit easier for myself. Those tools really centre around meditation and yoga and anchor me in the present moment." Lisa Jakub can be found at www.lisajakub.net
Christopher Dines' new book, "The Kindness Habit: Transforming our Relationship to Addictive Behaviours," co-authored with Dr Barbara Mariposa is out now.