by Wendy Wood, PhD, CPS Partnership Community
This simple invitation to inquire into our true nature is at the heart of understanding what it means to be an authentic human being–– and doing so “with respect for the full complexity of one another’s identities, experiences, histories and perspectives.” Being authentic allows women to make sense of their experiences and create a coherent life story so that we may fully comprehend the world in which we, as women, live. As we gain self-awareness and understanding, our capacity to take action courageously opens the possibilities for a more meaningful and rich life.
Women’s dignity and worth are under assault, yet we must not lose sight of our uniqueness and value as individuals and in our families and communities. If we are going to take action in the world, then we need to know our own story and how it guides the choices we make. A well-integrated coherent life story is a significant positive mediator on psychological well-being and an important factor in developing an authentic self. Although our stories change as we change, it is this important ability to connect those stories in such a way that our sense of historical continuity and purpose is illuminated, clearing the path toward healthy and authentic human interactions.
Our belief systems about ourselves are constructed by labels we carry and how we think others see us—I am a doctor, writer, kayaker, poet, rich, poor, famous, anonymous, a name that everyone recognizes, a name that means nothing to anyone, a name that I’d like everyone to worship and admire, a name that must be hidden. Identities become merged with the illusions of respective abilities and social roles. While women practice becoming more authentic human beings, we are reminded of our interconnectedness and deepening awareness of self and others that arises from our stories. From the unique place and time in which we were born, stories become a unifying source of confidence, grace, and power––without domination or divisiveness.
There is a point in time where our story takes form and the notion of self in relationship to the world emerges. As we reconstruct our past, perceive our present and imagine our future, our place in the world takes on a new meaning. Creating a basis for understanding our origins transforms our assumptions and identity into experiences enriched with insight and altruism. We begin to ask what it is that has influenced our relationships to family and friends, our sense of place, and our connection to something other than ourselves. How might understanding our story, and becoming more authentic, shift the narrative? We can shine a light on our voices, fill in the ‘authenticity gap’, and contribute to a transformative collaborative model of women and leadership.
Wendy Wood, PhD is a co-founder of The Karuna Center for Mindful Engagement & co-author, What We Must Do: A Guide for Perilous Times 2018. Wendy has dedicated her career to directing and participating in international peace building, education, and projects serving traumatized and marginalized populations.