What does it mean to speak authentically? How do you stand in your own light? Have you ever hidden behind the veil, not allowing others see who you really are? I know that I have in the past – many times. Have you been in a discussion and wanted to say something, but for some reason you didn’t? Perhaps it was because you thought to speak may have seemed disrespectful in some way as your ideas were different; or the other person was more ‘important’ than you or cleverer than you. Perhaps they were in a position of more power than you so in some way, an authority. I guess it can feel pretty safe when you do this, but whichever way you look at it, it is disempowering.
What gets in the way of speaking our truth? Do we hide behind the veil or do we put on masks to cover up who we truly are? There is a great story in a book called Tales for Jung Folk by Richard Roberts. The story is about a man who puts on a mask each day and then eventually forgets that this is a mask that he is wearing, and the Mask begins to wear him – losing the sense of who he really is.
I remember growing up with the notion that children should be seen and not heard. At school during News time in first class I was told that what I had to say was not really relevant, or of no value to anyone. News in class didn’t mean real news, it was more about small talk and gossip. Because this had come from my teacher, I began to hide behind the veil. She had more ‘power’ than me or at least that was how my 6 year old self perceived it. She was an adult, and a teacher and teachers knew everything, didn’t they? That’s why they were teachers. I really started to live this myth.
It certainly affected me in my teens and 20’s and even into my 30’s. I wondered how it was possible to speak about something that was important to me without fear.
Initially I thought it was about confidence – I needed to build my confidence. Yes, surely that was the answer. I even attended workshops on assertiveness. Well it helped a bit, but it was more than this.
In 2001 while overseas I attended a storytelling evening. There were about 5 tellers that night sharing stories with the audience. I do not remember much else about the stories or storytellers, except one. This storyteller told a story about her nephew. It was so profound; I was moved to tears. Here on stage this woman opened up to her own vulnerability and shared something deeply personal with the audience.
There was no doubt that this woman had taken an aspect from her life that held great meaning for her and she tended and crafted her story. It was beautiful; it was perfect. She was not hiding behind the veil. I went in search of what it was that she had, what it was that enabled her to get up on stage and share this poignant, exquisite story. Her story had such power.
It took some time to figure it out. The story had moved from the intellect into the heart. It wasn’t a matter of it being rehearsed well, but that she was deeply connected to her story, and the emotions that the story had evoked in her. Her story was embodied.
So how do we embody our stories?
Firstly, find a story that you love or are passionate about whether it is a true tale or a metaphoric story such as a fairytale. What is it about this story that you love; or looking at it in a different way – what in the story speaks to you? Work out what is the most important aspect of the story for you. You have to take complete ownership of the story, allowing this story to live inside you; to be your story.
When it comes time to tell your story its important to not over rehearse and not learn it off by rote. If you do this, you can move back into your intellect and there can be a disconnect from the story. You want your gestures to be a natural extension to the story.
And when the time comes for telling your story to your audience, take a moment to centre yourself through your breath. Allow your breath to support you in speaking your authentic story. And then take some time to check in and acknowledge what is happening for you; what feelings and felt sense you are experiencing in the moment. If you don’t, this will get in the way of your telling. Finally, step forward, drop the veil and open up to who you really are. Connect to your audience and be yourself.
Confidence without authenticity creates incongruence and the words become empty. Show people who you are instead of hiding behind the veil. This is true empowerment!