One of my favorite aspects of my job here at Livingly is running our Inspiring Women column. I love having the opportunity to chat with women of all ages, occupations, and lifestyles, and get an inside look at their approaches to life. I end almost all of my interviews the exact same way — by referring to our company's motto of "live life beautifully," and asking what living beautifully means to them. There is usually a shift in our conversation when I ask this question, typically a moment of silence, when I can tell they're really taking a moment to think. Each answer I've come across has been unique and telling of what truly matters in each of their lives. Considering I've asked this question so many times, naturally I've thought about how I would answer it myself. And after much thought, my answer is this: To me, living life beautifully means living authentically and true to your genuine self.
Close to three years ago I found myself at a crossroad. I was at a job I hated and it had seriously started taking a toll on my life. It wasn't so much that the job was horrible, it was more that I felt horrible being there. I spent my day doing busywork at a company where I didn't see a path for me to grow, nor did I really want to grow there. I felt stuck and like I wasn't doing anything with my life that brought me gratification. I wasn't proud of myself in any way, which if you've ever felt, is a pretty crappy feeling. Yes, I was young (and I still am young), but I've always been someone who thrives on feeling and passion. If I don't feel connected to whatever I'm doing, it's hard for me to fake it, let alone feel good about it. Yet, despite all the doom, gloom, and utter confusion, I was lucky enough to know one thing — I was passionate about writing. I knew that getting another non-writing job elsewhere, even though it would remove me from my current toxic situation, wouldn't solve the problem and I would eventually end up in the exact same position.
The thing is, other than being an English major who wrote poetry, I didn't have any real writing experience (nope, not even any writing-related internships). I was starting at square one, and in our high pressure society that teaches you that you can't get anywhere in your career without an impressive resume, my shot at scoring my dream job seemed pretty hopeless. Yet, in a mutual decision between me and my employer, I left my job and entered the world of unemployment. Luckily, I was in the financial position to afford this decision, and I know that's not always the case for everyone. I first took a little time to bask in the glory of having complete freedom and nothing to do, but then I got down to work — and realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Slowly but surely though, I became aware of what kind of writing jobs existed and what I would need to do to get one. I built my own portfolio by starting a bare-bones blog and applying to all the unpaid writing opportunities I could find. I then started applying to full-time jobs and had the same routine every day of checking the job boards, applying to what made sense for me, and waiting. And boy did I wait. The phrase patience is a virtue is an understatement, because I had some really depressing and disheartening days. There I was, yet again, questioning everything in my life, even myself. I wondered if this was worth it anymore, and I wondered why after months and months of applying nothing was working out. How could one of the only things I felt good about be causing me so much anguish and pain? But just as I was getting to the point of giving up — after a whopping eight months of unemployment — something clicked and here I am two years later with a job that I still love.
It's hard for me to even describe how amazing it feels when someone asks me what I do. Now I can't even imagine what my life would be like if I had given into the struggle and taken the easy way out — if I hadn't listened to my authentic self. The outcome of that whole experience outweighed the tough days (the tough months!) by a million. Those eight months not only strengthened my will and determination, but my connection to myself.
In fact, it's usually quite challenging because often it requires you to make some sort of change. Living authentically requires a certain amount of bravery, because beyond just being willing to be uncomfortable, you have to be willing to go for it — whatever it may be. Whether it's regarding something big or small, I feel confident in the fact that I've honored by authentic self and that I can, and will, be able to do it again.
Living authentically looks different for everyone — as it should! We are all our own unique beings and part of living your authentic self is not doing something just because others say you should. It's about listening to yourself and never settling for anything less. For one person it could mean being an entrepreneur and starting their own company, and for another it could be raising children and being a mom. You should never feel that your authentic self isn't good enough, or that your dreams aren't big enough.
Though it can be difficult to get there, at the root it's all quite simple — it's all just about you. Listen to yourself, pay attention to how you feel, and I can pretty much guarantee that you'll learn something. If you find yourself feeling anxious or angry every time you show up at the office in the morning, ask yourself why. If you keep daydreaming about a certain life, ask yourself why not. We are more powerful than we can imagine, we just have to learn to trust ourselves. If you go against or resist where your heart is leading you, you're going to be in a constant state of unrest — you must be brave enough to live your truth.
When you live authentically, your relationship with yourself and the world changes. It's not always rainbows and butterflies, but it's something a hell of a lot closer to it. Life is more enjoyable, more manageable, and more at ease. Living authentically also cultivates gratitude for yourself and all that you can accomplish. There is so much beauty in knowing you can flourish as your true self, and that you are fully capable of being all that you are meant to be. When you live like this, you feel more gratitude for the world, too, because it's rooting for you just as much as you are rooting for yourself. And that's a beautiful thing.