Are you the most authentic you can be as a leader? Are you living a life of authenticity? “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” was the #1 regret of the dying as quoted in the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. I struggle with being fully authentic myself. It takes a lot of courage. That’s why I invited Tana Heminsley of Authentic Leadership Global to write about her purpose journey. I was inspired by her vulnerability in sharing all parts of who she is. In this write-up she shares publically for the first time some of the early childhood challenges that made her who she is today. Here’s Tana.
Tana’s Purpose Journey
When my first marriage blew up I was 26 and I lost my bearings about who I was and what was important to me. I was partying so much that the counselor I was working with at the time thought I was an alcoholic. “You need to go to a treatment centre”, she said on a Thursday and on the Monday I was in the heart of Napa Valley being driven up Sanitarium Road to an addiction centre in St. Helena.
I was lost personally and scared to death. I remember them searching my luggage for booze or drugs and then waking up to a pin prick in my arm at 6:00 am the next morning as they tested my blood for any unwanted substances. For 28 days I learned about alcoholism, addiction, dysfunctional family dynamics and how to calm the nervous system with biofeedback. I had a counselor, did group therapy, I worked out 2 times a day, ate vegetarian food and went to AA meetings, standing up saying “Hi, I’m Tana, I’m an alcoholic.”
Then 3 weeks in, my counselor said “Why are you here?” I said because my counselor says I’m an alcoholic. He said, we don’t think you are. I said I must be in denial. He said, when you are in denial, you don’t actually say you are…..
I stayed the full 4 weeks of the program anyway, and set up “aftercare” with a counselor back home for the next 6 months, which was a required part of the program.
The treatment centre probably saved my life, in lots of ways.
My journey began in small town B.C. where I struggled with self-esteem and confidence issues. I didn’t like myself for many of the early years and I made a lot of self-destructive choices. When the partying and unhealthy boyfriends stopped feeding my need for attention, I turned to being a successful businessperson for my externally based self-esteem.
“I was of value if I was valued by others” was what was going on in my mind – all in an attempt to cover up the empty black hole and deep self-loathing that was going on inside.
So I started a clothing store, worked in all kinds of corporate jobs and finally became an executive. And in parallel with the external look of success, was still unfulfilled personally and quite burned out.
At the same time as I quickly climbed the corporate ladder, I learned how to dig myself out of a metaphorical hole that I didn’t even know I was in, until I worked with the counselor as part of my aftercare.
I was recounting a recurring childhood nightmare I used to have and had some kind of memory or association with a traumatic childhood event. My mind shut down as quickly as it appeared and over time, I started getting signals in various ways that something had happened to me as a child.
I’ve worked with 12 coaches, counselors and therapists over the years to get myself out of the hole of child sexual abuse to a state where I am very healthy in lots of ways – mentally, physically and spiritually. All of their support was such a gift and has helped me to have the capacity to do the work I do.
What I have learned is that I am of value because I am on this earth.
As I began to make and keep promises to myself by living aligned with my values, I have been able to be my best or authentic self more of the time, and make positive choices. Shame and fear have faded, for the most part, into the background of my life.
I am now a person who wants to do her part for a peaceful and joy-filled world. I live in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. Canada and I am grateful each day for it. I have a wonderful husband and a cat named Buddy; and a supportive group of family and friends.
So why is authenticity important to me? Because it will bring you a more inner peace and a meaningful life as you connect deeply with who you are at your best and to what is important to you; and you live life, and lead others, aligned with this each day.
And because the way forward towards a peaceful orientation in the world is through each of us as individuals doing our personal work. If you and I heal old wounds and traumas, whatever they are, and connect with the magnificence of who we truly are – our authentic or best selves – then we can open up different possibilities for the course the world is taking.
And we need to make some course corrections – as quickly as possible. Like treating each other and our environment with mutual kindness and respect. How would the world look if every person was making, as Dr. David R. Hawkins said so eloquently in his ground-breaking book Power vs. Force, more life-affirming choices (rather than life-destructing) each day.
I’ve also learned that I can support many more people when I co-create with a community of others who have similar values and a vision for the world. This is why I founded Authentic Leadership Global™ – to support coaches and facilitators who want to support authenticity as well; and build sustainable businesses so they can keep doing their important work.
We have found that authenticity is helpful as a way of being for anyone – whether you are a teen or a parent, a person living with a chronic disease, if you have just been through a divorce, or if you are close to retirement and want to leave a legacy.
By reconnecting to your best self and your vision for your life, and learning to override the unhelpful aspects of how the mind works (I’ll leave that for a whole other blogpost), then you can help to create new and life-affirming possibilities in your organization and community.
Take a moment and let John Lennon remind you of the possibilities with my favorite song “Imagine….”
And if you need help on your journey to authenticity – feel free to call. I’M IN!
Tana is a thoughtleader, author of “Awaken Your Authentic Leadership”, speaker and facilitator in the area of Authentic Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. She has a passion for supporting coaches to build sustainable businesses through diversifying their offerings. She also loves building businesses and developing leaders. Tana has an MBA and more than 25 years of business and leadership experience. She was an Executive at BC Hydro – with annual net income of $400M and 1.7M Customers. She is the founder of Authentic Leadership Global™ – a growing community of experienced coaches, facilitators, and HR professionals – with programs focused on living and leading in line with your best self and passion.