I believe in being authentic. In feeling my feelings. In being honest with myself and with others about how I feel.

To be honest, though, this is only a recent development, as I’ve spent most of my life resisting or running from my feelings because they were often too intense to handle. And as a result, I would avoid uncomfortable conversations at all costs, to the detriment of many significant relationships over the years.

But this year, I challenged myself to face them head on, no matter how difficult or painful it may be. To sit with my truth and let the pain of certain events wash over me, and feel the full intensity of it all.

Some of them I had been suppressing for years.

And as they surfaced, I forced myself to deal with my demons one by one instead of running away by submerging myself in work or turning to other unhealthy modes of distraction, or simply numbing myself – my usual coping mechanisms of the past.

Instead, I consciously chose to allow myself to feel every single emotion, no matter how painful.

I’m not exaggerating or being dramatic when I say that some days, I thought I would die.

Because there were moments where it did indeed get so intense that as I lay a crumpled mess on the floor, I honestly feared that my heart would pass out from the pain and just give up for good. I craved relief from the agony so desperately that thoughts of ending my life would invade my head; an affliction, I think, more often borne by those who feel too much.

Thank God those moments of pure despair were fleeting and what kept saving me was that inner voice telling me that God has a plan and a higher purpose for me. And so I fought the temptation to terminate that mission even before I’ve properly embarked on it.

I had hit rock bottom and what happened next was incredible.

The whole process caused my heart to break so completely open and this allowed light to enter and reach corners of my soul that had been closed off for far too long. It reawakened both heart and soul.

I felt like I could really feel again, like I had re-established a connection with my soul.

Like I had come home to myself.

I was now completely open. All the doors to my heart, my soul, my being and whatever else, had re-opened for the first time in like forever.

This feeling of standing in my own truth was so powerful and amazing that I naturally wanted to connect on an equally authentic level with other individuals, especially the important people in my life.

But the reality is that it still isn’t easy. It takes an extraordinary amount of mindfulness and courage to choose to be authentic and speak your truth, to choose to operate and relate to others from an authentic heart. Because it requires opening your heart and sharing those precious parts of your soul with the other person, and then trusting that the person will receive your authenticity – your truth – with gentleness, kindness and compassion. There is always an underlying fear of not being received in totality, that excruciating fear of rejection especially when one is being so vulnerable with another.

In allowing myself to practice being authentic, I have since learnt that not everyone deserves my authenticity.

Okay, maybe ‘deserve’ is not quite the right word here. This is not a judgment on the other person and I don’t mean it in a mean-spirited or withholding sort of way.

It’s more about assessing the situation and its variables, and then determining whether a safe space exists for you to be truly authentic with the other person.

I’ve come to realise that we do need to be selective in whom we choose to reveal the innermost parts of ourselves. Not everyone has the will or capacity to handle our hearts and those precious parts of our souls with the delicate care that is needed.

It’s about recognising that some people may simply not want to, have the ability to, or be ready to engage with us on a similarly authentic level. They may not be in an emotional space that allows it. Or they may refrain due to a variety of other reasons. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make them bad people.

It’s also okay to keep a part of yourself for you.

I’m not saying that we should go into self-preservation mode by retreating, cutting off our feelings, and once again erecting those walls around our hearts. Neither do we need to withhold our love and affection from them. We can still remain open-hearted towards them. But, to save ourselves from disappointment and heartache, it may be wise to reserve our full authenticity for those who do desire to connect with us on an authentic level.

We should learn to distinguish and identify these kindred spirits, as they will be the ones to respond to our authenticity in kind.

As I’ve discovered, authentic-relating is a choice, and ought to be a carefully calibrated one.