Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird

This photo will make sense when you read the post.

I know that authenticity is important to you. Truth. Clarity. Open-heartedness. Depth. Beauty. Integrity. Knowing who you are. Living the life you were born to live.

But how do you manage to be authentic when your natural intensity overwhelms others? When you are told to slow down and stop asking so many questions. When no one you know really cares about the holographic universe or the film Fantastic Fungi. When your family denies that there is an alcoholic in their midst. When your listeners get lost in your detailed nonlinear multi-layered explanations; your exciting expeditions down the never-ending supply of rabbit holes. When your imaginative ideas are seen as bordering on the bizarre. When your sensitivities are seen as annoying weirdnesses. When overly-needy people are clamoring for your empathy. When you are driven to find your purpose.

Is it possible to have a rainforest mind and be authentic at the same time?

You betcha.

And, yet.

It is a process. It takes strategizing. It takes expanding the definition. It takes risking failure and embarrassment. It takes finding your own self-understanding and accepting what it means to be gifted.

For example:

Strategizing: There will be times when you need to adapt your talking speed and content to your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, it will make sense to turn down your intensity. This does not mean you are being phony, condescending, manipulative, or insincere. Or that your intensity is wrong. It means that you want to communicate effectively. Of course, you will also need to be sure to find people who can keep up with you and who love your beautiful weirdnesses. But just know that strategizing is an authentic way to be seen and heard and possibly understood when you are with people who are not RFMs.

If there is dysfunction in your family of origin, strategizing might mean that you learn how to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members. How much do you share? Where do you set limits? When do you walk away? In this case, being authentic may mean being true to yourself.

Expanding the definition: See strategizing.

Risking failure and embarrassment: Some of the projects that you undertake as you explore your authenticity might be challenging in ways that you are not used to. You may need to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment and explore new horizons where you are not the smartest person in the room. You may have to lead, speak up, and step out onto an uncomfortable edge. You may have to take action where you are not guaranteed success. This will be particularly difficult if you are used to knowing all the answers and if you were praised since you were a little tyke for your smartness. Your identity may have been based on your early astonishing achievements so that now, a small mistake feels like a total failure. Becoming more authentic will require grappling with this and understanding the root and implications of both types of perfectionism. Give yourself time. This is a big deal.

Self-understanding and acceptance:

The journey to understand and express your authenticity can be long, complicated, fascinating, and at times, weird. It is not a clear cut proposition. It is a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Seeking authenticity, you will likely be letting go of old patterns and inaccurate beliefs. If you had to cope with family trauma or deep distress, much of your authenticity may have gone underground. You may need psychotherapy or another form of introspective work to find yourself. Even without early childhood family dysfunction, you may have had to hide your rainforest-y enthusiasm for all of those reasons I mentioned above. But there is no better time than now to be on this road.

So, why bother? What are the benefits of authenticity? Why not live an unexamined life? 

I don’t have to answer that because I know you. An unexamined life is not an option. Authenticity is a basic need of yours. You’ve seen the list?

Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity. Oh, and love! (thank you cmd1122)


(Note: For more on authenticity, check out this post for the great comments.)

To my bloggEEs: Speaking of living the life you are supposed to live, I have some news. Some of you may know that as part of my authenticity journey, I have been tapping into my spirituality through a kind of channeled singing. Well. A gifted musician friend recorded some of it and added music underneath. Here it is: Sound Memes for Your Rainforest Mind. This is me looking and sounding and feeling a little weird.

Let us know about your experiences with authenticity. Your comments make this blog so rich. And, tell us what my song conjures up for you. Thank you a million times for being here.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

24 responses to “Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird”

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  1. Are You Ready To Show More Of Who You Are? There is No Better Time to Be Your Gifted Self. – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

    […] have felt weird, freaky, and shy about this over the years but did mention it briefly here on the blog in 2019 when writing about authenticity. A musician on Instagram pointed out to me that it is not […]

  2. C.M. Wells Avatar
    C.M. Wells

    Beautiful, beautiful post! Living your authentic life is the most freeing journey you will ever decide to travel! It’s scary… But it is so worth it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, C.M. Wells. Good to have you here!

      1. C.M. Wells Avatar
        C.M. Wells

        It’s good to be here, Paula! <3

  3. Genealogy Jen Avatar
    Genealogy Jen

    You nailed it again Paula. I’ve repeatedly told people that I crave deep and meaningful connections.
    I’m enthusiastic, a stream of conciousness fast talker and feel burdened with adapting by trying to “tone it down” or “slow it down” . I’ve found segmenting my audience helps a lot. I’m in Facebook groups about topics that I want to learn more about, or am passionate about. People can read what I have to say at their own pace on my blog or in groups when I comment. Or they can scroll by and ignore me. I know that they’re not my target audience on that topic, and that’s okay. I collect a diverse crossection of people to nurture different aspects of my Rainforest Mind. One of the best compliments I’ve received is that I’m the “same online” as I am in person. That’s the authenticity I strive for.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing these ideas, Jen. Nice to see you here!

  4. treeguy1954 Avatar

    M. J. Cuthbertson, yes I have felt the same.

    When you spend some much time learning about yourself, you are not distracted by your own thoughts and really get to know the people you are around a lot.

    I have a very similar personal experience. I got a part time job recently and one of the employees was talking about 95 percent of the time. I, having been through a lot of difficult times, was not at all afraid to standup for myself. While the person was talking, I told them to stop talking and to listen to what I had to say- I had something important to say and to add to the conversation (or topic) and that when they are the only one talking, I am suppose to listen but when I talk, they are only thinking of what to say next and not at all listening to what I am actually saying. I will do a lot of things for money but that employee found out, don’t treat me or expect me work like an idiot. It is easier just being alone than around blatantly stupid or selfish (or have no selfawareness) people.

    Respectfully, I am 42 years old (I am not a dummy), owned and operated a tree company for 18 years (did most repairs and welding and maintenance), I got a patent on a combustion chamber and heat transfer design, have lived a fairly aware life when it comes to politics and religion and have done some other employment and business related activities. I have a story to tell and experiences I would like to share. And all of this on top of learning I have a rainforest mind and having no support system when it come to family.

    I can see why being in jail and being isolated is a punishment but people who have a rainforest mind are living in their homes.

    I said it once and I would like to repeat it because I really think everyone feels the same way, ” I have a story to tell and experiences I would like to share.” It is great to be a good listener but we need to find someone who will take the time to listen to us.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your examples, treeguy1954. It can be so wonderful to find a person who really knows how to listen deeply to what we’re saying.

  5. Solana Avatar

    Reminds me of when I’ve explained parts of my stories to people. One customer I was ringing out was asking, so I was telling him about a part when a faerie woman was making a sale to a fellow warrior for some weaponry while attacking the bad guys’ hideout. She needed a deposit, so he put a few coins in a bag, tied it to an arrow, and fired it to her. She wrote him a receipt, tied it to a throwing knife, and tossed it back. The customer asked me what I was on, so I added him to the scene as a crony that the faerie shoves out of the way to have a clear toss. As one does.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, I love this Solana. Thank you!

  6. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    I’m 2E, most studies consider that to be a very small percentage of the population. Which means I have a very uniquely wired brain. Recently, I’ve been asking people I know the following question.

    Why has no one ever tried to fit in with me?

    The majority of messages I’ve received my whole life are that in order to (fill in the blank) I need to accommodate and translate the way my brain works to ease other’s interaction with me. The implied, if not outright, message is I have to compel my uniquely wired brain to move toward a more socially normal behavior if I desire to fit in with others.

    No one I’ve asked has had an answer. Even when I reframe the question: “If I want to play with someone I always have to go to their house. Why has no one ever accepted my invitation to come and play at my house?”

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Being 2e definitely makes the relationship issues even more challenging. The good news is that more and more people are writing about neurodiversity and framing it that way so it’s not so pathologized. I don’t write much about it because I don’t have a lot of experience with 2e clients, especially if it’s someone on the autism spectrum but there are people online now who do. This person writes about it– Jenara Nerenberg. (I haven’t followed her so am not sure of her qualifications.) and is a degree program in cognitive diversity or 2e from what I understand. So there’s hope!

      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        As “luck?” would have it I just experienced a perfect example of why it’s so difficult to be authentic, again. I never know if these stories are comedies, or tragedies, or both. It is the perfect example of how it’s insufferably difficult to be authentic.

        Several weeks ago a friend, psychologist, phD, said she’d like to help me with some of the difficulties I have in understanding aspects of my 2E. I began describing various qualities when between us conflicts began.

        After going through that for a couple weeks I said it was clear she was not hearing what I was saying. I described how the experiences of my whole life have taught me to recognize when I’m being heard and when I’m not. She took issue. Insisting that she was hearing me, but I was not communicating clearly. I re-examined and was ready a couple days later, after hours of work, to communicate more clearly. Whereupon, before I got a word out she shut the entire conversation down and we’ve not returned to it.

        Spool forward to last evening, she was describing to me a personal problem she was having, which was fairly significant. I listened and offered a couple questions. At the end of the conversation she said, “Thanks for therapy. You have a gift.” I have a suspicion it’s because of my long experience in understanding what it feels like to not be heard. I know how to listen to other people.

        So, when no one is actually listening to you being authentic becomes irrelevant. That’s why it’s often so difficult. Surrounded by people there’s still no one there. Fundamentally, there’s nothing significant about this particular incident, other than it just happened. In every other way it’s exactly like all the others I’ve experienced multiple times before. To sum it up, sigh …

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          <3 Sending you love, M.J.

  7. veroniqz Avatar

    For me, my authentic behaviour leads to irritating of people, and chasing them away from me. Maybe that means they are not the right people for me, but it keeps me in search of that love. And, also, everyone needs a job, I guess. It would be great to know how to survive and help the world survive, without needing any other people. Or at least, need them to like you…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Relationships can be difficult for many RFMs often because of the traits that I write about. It can be very lonely but people can find mates and satisfying relationships, so don’t give up!! And about saving the world, sometimes stopping an abuse cycle in your family of origin is a significant contribution. Or raising compassionate humans who are generous to others. There are many ways to make a difference in the world. Thank you for sharing veroniqz. <3

      1. veroniqz Avatar

        Yes… making a difference… that would be nice! Helping out someone, like you do… Thank you, Paula!

  8. cmd1122 Avatar

    First of all, I love that in the photo you are standing in front of a cedar tree, known as the Tree of Life in many indigenous cultures 🙂 Secondly, yaaaaay…music!!! 🙂 Thank you for being a role model and sharing something that sounds like it puts you out of your comfort zone. It is a beautiful track–it takes my mind to many places, to ancient cultures. I hear words and instruments that evoke thoughts of many peoples and places and maternal wisdom…it is quite a mixture and worth listening to again as I think I’ll hear different things in the next listens.

    I appreciate your additions to the basic human rights, but may I kindly suggest some more that tie in with authenticity.
    1) Affordable and safe housing.
    2) Love (ability to share and feel love with other humans and living beings, including animals and plants, though why not ‘non-living’ beings?…Why do we classify a mountain as ‘not living’ in Western society? To give and receive respect is part of this.).
    3) Feeling useful in society (for the RFM in November 2019 I think this would especially include the ability to help create systemic changes that lead to a more just and peaceful human existence, one in which we live in ways that are sustainable on this incredible planet of finite resources. Who else is having a hard time with politics these days? There are so many injustices and so much violence locally and around the world and who am I to be able to make a difference? How do I follow what is going on without letting it get me down other than by taking action? Yet there are still only 24 hours in a day, so how do I choose what to dedicate myself to when all the issues are interconnected, when the solutions need to be holistic and see across (human-created) borders and between species and require systems that hardly exist? (Other than intellectual stimulation) what is the point of being able to access and read the news to understand diverse perspectives from around the world in 5 languages if I am still just one person? So, yes, join with others who care who are taking action, but even then…24 hours in a day: finite hours for infinite problems and systemically-designed injustices, many of which are 500 years old. How do we undo damage that has been done and prevent more damage fast enough? Reconciliation in society takes time, but we also need some immediate solutions. (All why balancing the introvert and perfectionism issues, and ensuring self-care and creating community).
    So that brings me 4) Ability to create beauty, especially as an antidote to the above-mentioned issues (for me playing/creating music is the all-around best way and I am so grateful that I was introduced to music in elementary school), though it partially falls under intellectual stimulation and authenticity.
    And that brings me back to 2): Love. Because without that, what is the point of anything?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes, cmd1122. So much here to relate to. Thank you. Oh, and how did I leave off love? I think I will add it now, with an acknowledgement to you. Appreciate your sharing this for all of our bloggEEs to think about.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        And thank you for your feedback on the song. It is definitely me out of my comfort zone.

      2. cmd1122 Avatar

        Awwwww… sending much love your way!! 🙂

    2. veroniqz Avatar

      Yes 2, YESYES 3, and YESSSS 4!! My little escape, after making music for many years: I discovered the joy of drawing… But I’m still not changing or saving the world, unfortunately.

  9. Craig C Avatar
    Craig C

    Not sure about the order here: “Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity.” With the right pursuit, food is easily forgotten. Even water is sometimes forgotten with the right intellectual pursuit. For me, Air, water, intellectual stimulation, food, and authenticity. But if you know me, some of my authenticity is tied around food.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Craig, for personalizing the list!

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