On Being “Authentic” –cringe.

by

How many selves can one girl have?

I’m afraid to post this. If you’re reading this, please give me a high-five next time you see me (no one actually sees me IRL *slaps knee*) Anyway, here goes…

I want to introduce you fine people of the interwebs, to me.

All of me… all of the Shaunas…

No, I don’t have multiple personality disorder –my psychologist assures me of this– but I am an ADD, Gemini. Sharing isn’t easy for me. Revealing who I am isn’t easy for me. Once upon a time, it was.. I was a notorious oversharer, in fact –both on social media and IRL (in real life). Then, suddenly, a couple of years ago, I overloaded on it all, and as all things that I do it must be extreme, I retreated completely from social media.

I had overdosed on the insincerity..the comparing…the judging…the oversharing…the politics…the toxicity… The caring about what other photographers thought more than what my clients thought. The constant need for validation. It became too noisy for me. And so, I backed away and in doing so made it easier to hide from people. I love being alone because, hell, I’m great company! Also, I can’t disappoint anyone that way. It makes it easier to keep my walls up; my life in neat boxes and feelings safe and tucked away.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about it all and I may be reconsidering. I’m noticing that I’m isolating myself more than normal. You see, the problem is, I have all of these ideas and things I want to share with you.. and the more I’m dying to share my story, the more I retreat into my shell. Funny how that works. I have communities I’ve built but they’re completely separate from one another. So many aliases. There’s “photographer Shauna”.. “gamer girl Shauna”.. “ADHD Shauna”.. “style junky Shauna”.. “political Shauna”…the list goes on. I have multiple websites and projects that I’ve started, but I never seem to follow through with, and, beyond the ADD, I think a big reason I haven’t finished any of them, is that I haven’t been brave enough to be fully me. To share myself and my name, fully and wholly.  I think, oh God, my gaming friends don’t want to hear about my fashion obsessions… my fashion friends have no interest in my gaming fetishes and do I really want other Moms or people in my personal life to know that that I lived on streets with a terrible addiction once upon a time?

Even knowing my story could help others… I retreat…  I keep myself small and I hide.

Maybe I’m afraid of the judgement.

Fuck it, let’s be honest, I am afraid of the judgement. But Brene Brown tells us we need to move through the fear to lead a truly wholehearted life. There is strength in vulnerability. Right? What I’m sure of is that fear keeps me silent. Fear keeps us silent. I use the excuse that I don’t share anymore because I don’t care what others think. That I don’t need validation. I take a holier than thou attitude and brush off social media as soulless fluff. And sometimes it is. But what if that’s just an excuse? What if we could change that? In a world that expects perfection, I want to see more mess. I love mess. It’s what I admire in others. And so, I’m going to show mine. I’m going to try and be more vulnerable. Authentic even.

Did I just write all of that? I feel like I’m turning into Deepak Chopra when, if I’m honest, I’m more of a Sam Harris girl… wtf is happening to me? Authenticity… cringe. That word has become so cliche that hearing it often has my cynical brain assuming the opposite of whoever utters it. Like the word “woke” –also triggering for me. I have a deep-seated mistrust of anything that sounds too woo-woo. Maybe because I was raised by a crystal-wielding, vegetarian, “you create your own reality” Mother.. but as I get older (and possibly hormonally imbalanced) I see that my cold, cynical, sarcastic way of approaching the world, while funny in my own head, is limiting me. What if I could find a way to share my politically incorrect, dark sense of humour AND the empathetic, caring person that I also happen to be? What if I could integrate it all and let the inner monologue out sometimes? What if I could get my story out?

It’s not friends and family I’m worried about… maybe I worry a little about my son.. but he loves me and gets me and I know that by learning to do this work and be myself, I’m only going to be a better mom —but, what about my clients?

In the past, I’ve worried what my clients would think if they saw the real me, or heard my past story.. but then, that’s just another excuse, because my clients are amazing. My clients are the few that actually do get to meet the real me —when I’m working for them I connect on a level that is so real I feel emotional once I’ve delivered the photos and I know they’ll be gone from my life… I fall in love with them a little bit through sharing in those intimate moments with them. They get me, and in turn, I get them. My favourite thing about the work I do for my clients isn’t the photography at all. It doesn’t excite me. It’s the connection. I get excited about connecting with them and sharing in the joy and emotion of their day and then delivering something that will make them cry. That’s why I keep doing what I do. I like making people feel something.

The ironic thing is, while connecting quickly and easily is my biggest strength —it’s also my weakness and where my biggest fear sits. You would think someone that is so good at connecting would be a social butterfly.. connected to everyone with a strong community around her.. but, no. The opposite is true, in fact. I think because of this sensitive, empathetic side, that has been hurt many times, I’ve walled myself off from any true relationship save for my immediate family and partner. I’m a hermit. I defend my wall with a rapier wit and a cool judgement on the rest of the world. I limit myself to one on one interactions with those closest and I leave it at that. But this isn’t serving anyone. And I have a story to share.

And so, here I am.

A 44-year-old ADD woman going on 16 that happens to have a bit of a street style obsession. I have a photography business that pays the mortgage and allows me to connect with some truly amazing people and in my free time I like to hang out with my son, listen to a bazillion podcasts a day and play video games. Nice to meet you! 🙂

Oh and about that dark past… I’m going to start sharing my story, in pieces, on this blog, if for no other reason than it might be therapy for me, and at the same time may help someone else along the way. I’m going to dare to be authentic and let the chips fall where they may.

Thanks for listening, Shauna xo

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