GUEST BLOG POST: Authentic Parenting and Living by Kathleen McIntire


52 Weeks of Authenticity: Practical Ways to Make 2012 the Year You Finally Get Real and Start Living the Best Life for YOU
 
Authenticity. It’s a word that gets tossed around quite a bit these days. (In fact, it’s in danger of becoming a bit of a cliché.) Sure, we all think we’re authentic in our words and actions. But are we really? I think that, consciously or not, most of us let the expectations of others drive the decisions we make every day—from the major we choose, to the kind of house we buy, to where we go on vacation, to whether we stay in and relax on Saturday night or go out and party.
So many of us live out our lives as slaves to the tyranny of should. Year after year we strive to become what others—parents, partners, experts, society—tell us we should be. And then, one day, we wake up and realize we never got to let go and just be our real selves.
The start of a fresh new year (okay…give or take a week or two) is the perfect time to resolve to live more authentically. Problem is, you may not be sure where to even begin. Heck, you may not be sure what an authentic life looks like! That’s why I have put together some practical tips—52 of them, in fact—for “getting real” in various areas of your life.
Each week, choose one suggestion from this list to focus on. No need to tackle them in the order they’re listed or to do all of them. They’re just meant to get you thinking—and to get you started down the path to a more authentic life.
YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF
We need to find the courage to say NO to the things and people that are not serving
us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.
Come to terms with what really matters to you. Get comfortable with it. Maybe you’re okay with a smaller income and more free time. Maybe you’re okay with an extra 20 pounds. Never apologize for not “fitting in.” The minute you find yourself worrying about how others perceive you is the minute you abandon authenticity.
Whatever you decide to do (or not to do), own your decision.  If you find you can’t own it—if you feel wracked with guilt or compelled to hide the truth from those around you—it’s time to rethink what you’re doing. 
If in your journey to authenticity you decide a lifestyle change is needed, be realistic in your goal-setting. Let’s say you decide your diet, heavy in fats and processed foods, isn’t serving you well. If you know you aren’t going to grow an organic garden in your backyard, set a goal to prepare a body- and soul-nourishing meal (heavy on the veggies and supplemented with organically raised meat) two days a week at first. It’s best to take “baby steps” and plan to make more dramatic changes when you’re ready. In this way you’ll build the confidence you need to succeed.
Break an unwritten “rule” made by others and reject any shame. Allowing others to shame us keeps us living on the treadmill and trying to fit in by doing it the “right way.” Authenticity is inner directed. Inauthenticity comes from caring what others think and letting the external dictate how you live.
Ask yourself, What am I hiding? Make the choice to reveal something you’ve been fiercely protecting. Chip away at the armor by sharing a secret with a partner or a friend or maybe just your cat or your journal.
It’s okay to do things for yourself. Honor your own needs. Sometimes we all need a massage or a new handbag or just a couple of hours alone while our spouse takes the kids to a movie.
Give yourself permission to have feelings that you think you “shouldn’t” have.  Should and shouldn’t have no place in an authentic life.
Get real about money. Spending what you can’t afford to spend is another way of pretending to be who we aren’t. It’s also a disaster in the making!
Take a break from the need to DO something. Simply BE. Simply show up as you are and love.
Know when you’re at your best and when you’re not. (When you’re not, it’s almost always the perfect time for a bath or a nap!)
Call a moratorium on victim talk. Authentic people don’t blame others. They recognize their own power and use it to create their own reality.
Own your emotions. If you can’t help crying in confrontational situations, let the tears flow. If you’re devastated when a pet dies, accept condolences without apologizing or minimizing. You feel what you feel…let go of the label of being “too sensitive.”
Each week, spend some time outside. When we disconnect from Nature, we disconnect from Source. We’re creatures of the Earth and it’s hard to thrive in an artificial world.
Declutter a little (people and “stuff”). When you’re too busy trying to manage chaos, you can’t relax enough to even know who you are and what you need and want. (Do you really love Grandma’s china? If you don’t, give it to someone who does. Are you really going to fit into those size 8 jeans ever again? If not, get rid of them!)
• Give yourself a makeover. Do you dress in a way that truly expresses who you are? This question has nothing to do with what’s hot or stylish or what label is attached to your garments. It has everything to do with feeling comfortable in your own skin (and what’s covering it) instead of vaguely ill at ease or like you’re playing an expected role.
Seize every opportunity to say, “I love you”—to yourself. Until we can fully love ourselves, we can’t fully love the others in our lives.
AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIPS
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible.
To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple,
obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.
Learn to say no. Sometimes it takes an authentic no (to something you don’t want to do) to say an authentic yes (to something you long to do). Unless you’re the clown or the balloon maker, does it really matter if you don’t go to the party? If you see it as an obligation, bow out lovingly and stay home and rest—ah, rest!—instead.
Also, learn to say yes when your heart guides you to. Be flexible and fun. So what if you “should” (there’s that word again!) stay home and clean? When a good friend invites you to dinner on the spur of the moment, drop everything and go. We rarely regret heart-inspired action!
Gently tell the truth. Of course you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but don’t withhold crucial insights to spare them, either. (“I think you have a drinking problem” may hurt her feelings, but if you believe the words are in her best interests, don’t you have to say them?)
Be vulnerable. Show your insecurities. Admit that your house is a wreck, or your marriage is struggling, or you don’t know how to roast the turkey. People will be more willing to open up and be authentic with you because they’ll see that you’re human.
Allow your friends to be vulnerable, too. Let them feel their feelings. When you argue with them or try to “fix” it for them, you deny the authenticity of their experience.
If it makes you uncomfortable, say so. If your friends never bring money to dinner and you always end up paying the tab, confront them (lovingly) with the truth.
Be sensitive to what is convenient to the other person. Sometimes what’s convenient for you doesn’t work so well for them. (If a busy working mother lets you borrow a hundred dollars in cash, pay her back in cash—don’t write a check. When is she going to have time to get to the bank?)
Practice and expect reciprocity. We’re all in different cycles at different times, so this should be measured in terms of years, not weeks or months. However, if you find that a friend seems to only take, limit the time you spend with her.
It’s okay not to be “nice.” Real friends would rather you speak your truth than pretend or deny or try to please and impress. Little girls are not sugar and spice and everything nice…and neither are grown women.
Surround yourself with authentic friends. If you don’t have any, set an intention to find your tribe. Join a reading circle or a knitting group or a hiking club or a food co-op. Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Be open to the people you meet. Likeminded people will find you as if by magic.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known each other. If the friendship isn’t meeting your needs, move on.
Lighten the load for someone else when you can. 
Seize every opportunity to say, “I love you.” One day it will be your last chance.
AUTHENTIC MARRIAGES/RELATIONSHIPS
Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full
acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood.
—Karen Casey
Ask yourself, Am I married to the right person…or am I just married?
State your intention. Do you intend to stay married and make it work? Then do what it takes to make it happen…or get a divorce.
End the blame game. If you’re blaming your partner for your unhappiness, you’re denying your own power. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how we respond to it and whether or not we’ll continue to live with it.
Tell the truth about something you’ve been stewing over. Tell it gently and lovingly, expressing what took place and how you feel: angry or sad or betrayed or conflicted. Make it an “I” statement versus a “You” statement. Own your feelings; they are yours. Then offer a suggestion on how to make the situation work for the both of you. This will turn the focus on a solution and keep you both from getting stuck on the problem.
Rock the boat. It can be good to upset the status quo in your relationship—especially if the status quo is causing seething resentment. Go where you want to go on vacation for a change…or plan an outing with girlfriends on his “golf day”…or paint your office the shade of green that he dislikes (but that you love). Let the chips fall where they may.
Are you letting your partner live an authentic life? If you’re doing something to manipulate or control him or her, it’s time to stop. When people are allowed to be who they are, they often blossom.
It’s usually a mistake to expect people to change lifelong habits that you don’t like. They won’t. And anyway, who are you to insist they change to please you?
It’s not about winning. As the old saying goes, Would you rather be right or be happy?
Have you ever heard it said, “Don’t fight force with force”? It’s a MARTIAL arts principle that can also be a MARITAL arts principle! Sometimes yielding or flowing around the barrier like a river is the best way to get what you need.
Seize every opportunity to say, “I love you.” One day it will be your last chance.
AUTHENTIC PARENTING

A lot of mothers will do anything for their children, except let them be themselves.
Banksy
Be as honest with your kids as you possibly can be without upsetting them with information too advanced for their ages. They can handle the truth when it’s expressed lovingly and in an age-appropriate way. Yes, Dad lost his job (but we won’t end up homeless). Yes, the shot will hurt a little (but only for a minute and it will be over).
Are you perpetuating the myth of parental perfection? When you screw up, admit that you screwed up. Kids will respect and respond to your honesty.
Pay attention to your child when he talks. Really listen. Tuning him out or humoring/half-listening sends the message that what he has to say is not important. Believe me, that’s a message he will hear loud and clear.
Every day, make a sincere effort to truly engage your child. Turn off the TV, walk away from the computer, set aside the bills—and talk. When you don’t make it a priority, days and weeks can go by without a genuine connection…and you wake up one morning to realize you don’t know your own child.
• Every so often ask your child “What would you like to do today?” Then just do it. While you’re throwing the football or having the tea party, don’t zone out and worry about the bills you need to pay or the report you need to write. Be in the moment. Enjoy your child. These days will not last forever.
Parent from the heart. If it doesn’t feel good to you, it doesn’t matter if it’s what the “experts” swear by. You are you and your child is your child…your intuition will tell you what’s right for both of you.
Pushing kids to be something they’re not hurts them and you. They need to live their dreams, not yours.
Look for ways to honor your child’s gifts. Post the short story she wrote on your Facebook account. Or proudly show guests the Lego fort he built in his room. Tell friends (in her presence), “Meghan taught our dog how to sit, stay, and fetch…she has a real gift for connecting with animals!” Acknowledging what makes your child unique helps her shape a strong sense of self.
Be truthful about your child’s shortcomings. Everyone has different strengths. If your child isn’t an academic superstar or a natural athlete, it’s okay. Focus on her strengths rather than trying to hide the truth about what you see as a weakness.
With everything you do, narrate the “why.” You’re helping your kids understand that you make the choices you make based on a set of beliefs and values that make you you.
You’re not Parent of the Year (whatever that means!) and you never will be. Let yourself off the hook. You might not make it to every school event but there is plenty you do right. Focus on those things instead.
Let the housework go. The struggle to maintain perfect order at all times is the ultimate denial of who we are: beautifully flawed human beings! Spend the time you would have spent mopping playing with your kids instead.
Seize every opportunity to say, “I love you.” One day it will be your last chance.
Kathleen McIntire is a transformational teacher, speaker, and healer who is dedicated to bringing forth truth, liberation, and awakening. She is the author and creator of Guiding Signs 101, a set of divination cards and guidebook using everyday road signs to tap into your intuition and own inner guidance.  
She is the steward of MoonBear Sanctuary, located on 28 acres in Northern California. The retreat center located there provides cutting-edge workshops as well as ceremonies, study groups, and symposiums. Kathleen, whose focus is on restoring the feminine power, also leads sacred journeys with women.
Kathleen is the producer of two upcoming Mayan films. The first, Mayan Renaissance, is being made by PeaceJam, an international education program for youth built around leading Nobel Peace Laureates. The other film is The Unification of Wisdom and 2012.  Visit www.soaringinlight.com and www.guidingsigns101.com.