Letters of Encouragement

Shine on Sailors: Musings on Authenticity

“Care Bear Stare!” Sunshine Bear onsie is my most authentic sailing attire. Warm, cozy, and ridiculously, unapologetically fun and adorable. I love docking in it.

A note of encouragement for all the brave people out there plotting their own course and navigating to their own stars.

Authenticity is shiny. Being shiny can be scary. Allowing yourself to glow in your full brilliance is vulnerable. It’s also painful to cover it up and hide. This is one of the more common human dilemmas, to shine or not.

Here is the thing, you are inherently shiny. The core of you is brilliant, healthy and whole. Your uniqueness, weirdness, your innermost self is really amazing. I believe this is true of every single person in their own way, even the assholes. What happens to all of us over time are wounds. These hurts start to create a tarnish, then a mucky cover around our shiny-ness. The tarnish starts the first time we are shamed for being too loud, for being not enough, for having a bad idea, for not fitting in, for failing, for a million little reasons. Slowly but surely we turn down our glow, we dim to cope and belong.

Tragically, some of us cover up through trauma for safety. We build an iron box around it and forget it’s there. Predators love shiny, they are attracted to it, and through no fault of our own the shiniest of us are often hurt by people trying to steal it for themselves. Predators, haters and assholes have buried their shiny so deep that they want to spray their mucky shit all over everyone else, covering the planet.  This a mis-guided attempt to steal shiny or make everything so dark they feel like they can belong. Misery does indeed love company. I feel immense sadness for these folks because it means they are in pain and have been hurt a lot. I also try to stay far, far, far away from them. Boundaries are good.

Everyone has a mix of shadow and shiny; we’ve all been through some shit, we all have shiny. Sometimes the more shit, the more shiny, because the largest blossoms come from the rankest soil. It is not easy to reach for the sun and let your shiny glow when you’ve been down in the dark for so long. Some of us discover we’ve been down there so long we have forgotten we can grow or shine at all. It is a badass endeavor filled with courage and resiliency to be truly authentic and seen. It also takes intention and nurturance.

The question always is, how do we nurture these seeds of health and sanity to grow and bloom? Look for the evidence of the shine. Start to notice when you feel alive. When your body is vibrating with enthusiasm and excitement, with generativity and creativity, when you feel the flow. Look for the moments in time that seem to stretch on and on without effort as you lose yourself in your bliss. Notice the times of love and acceptance, where the doubt slips away and you effortlessly are kind and generous to everyone including yourself. Look for where you are wild and free, open and unemcumbered. The truth is, you don’t have to do anything to be shiny, you just have to ALLOW yourself to shine.

It is equally important to notice when you shut down, when you contract or hide, when your shoulders curl and you become tense. You have to see the dark parts in contrast to the shine so you can work with them. You learn talk to them like you would a friend and soothe them. You reassure and resource for those parts of you that feed you the insecurity and criticism to shut you down and hide that shiny. These layers think it’s their job to protect you, because if they see all the bad stuff first you won’t be hurt when others eventually find out you are lame. They need to know you are not lame, but scared.

Interestingly, many people are more comfortable with these shadowy parts than the shiny because they are familiar. Being shiny can be terrifying because it’s new. People worry about coming off as conceited, too much, a fraud, weird, or an outcast, just for being confidently themselves. They worry about the predators, assholes and haters when they put themselves out there. This is a real risk in the world to be acknowledged. As we grow and shine, we can also learn how to be vulnerable in a way that is fierce. We can cultivate a softness that is strong as steel.

Look, you live with you 24-7 of this whole human ride. What other people think of you is of way less importance to what you think of yourself. Confidence is not just about what you do well, but being okay with all the parts of you that struggle and fail. Those parts that fail are the ones teaching you. Confidence is in your ability to engage it with compassion and curiosity to grow. If you work with them, that’s how you get shinier.

Take Brene Brown’s advice and have a short list of people whose opionions really matter to you. People who will be honest and loving with you no matter what. People who understand your weird shine and that’s why they like you. Make sure YOU are on that list, because if you are not on your own team that’s a recipe for hurt. Look at that list carefully: those are the people whose opinions matter. Everyone elses opinion is background noise. Sometimes there are songs you like or love, songs you can jam out to for feel good and encouragement. Some of those background songs: fuck that noise, change the station, no one wants to hear bullshit. Either way, if they aren’t on your short list team, don’t let it change the way you dance.

Sail on shiny sailors, sail on.

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