There is a lot of talk out there about be authentic, leading authentically, living a life that is authentic and so on. What does that even mean? What does it mean to be authentic? I have read books and articles on being authentic. I have talked to people about what being authentic means to them. Through all of this, I think the best teacher about being authentic is my dog Chalupa. To those that know me you are not surprised that somehow I was able to make Chalupa the focus of this post but I ask you to bare with me and see where I am going with this.
To me, being authentic is knowing who you are and making no excuses. It is about living a life that is true to your soul and your heart. Being authentic is being the person that you were put on this earth to be and not trying to be someone else. It is about understanding your strengths, using them for the powers of good and understanding that you have shortcomings but not letting that stand in your way. In short, being authentic is being the person that you were born to be with no exception.
Now let me tell you about Chalupa. I found Chalupa on a cold October morning in 2010. I was running with a wonderful organization called “Back on My Feet” which helps homeless men and women achieve success and hope through running. It was 5:45am and I was running down MLK Blvd in SE Washington DC and I happen to see, what I thought was a rat, about to get hit by a car. I soon realized that the rat was not a rat at all but a small dog who was shivering by the stopped car for warmth. I called the dog over to me and she jumped in my arms and curled into my neck. I tried and tried (and let’s be truthful here I didn’t try that hard) to put her down but I kept finding her in my arms. I continued to run with this little love nugget in my arms. When I returned to the group, my friend Kristin, who was running with the group as well, was not surprised in the slightest that I picked up this dog and was now putting her in my car. She had no dog collar or tags on her and she had what appeared to be a broken back leg. I took her to my vet to see if she was micro-chipped, see what we could do to fix her leg and I called the local animal control office that services that area of DC and was told not to bring the dog back as she may be used in dog fighting. Great news, I now have a new dog.
It has been five years since Chalupa has been brought into my life and besides bringing me much happiness, she has brought me insight in to what it means to be authentic. Let me explain how.
- Knowing who you are without excuses – Chalupa is a mutt that looks like a Chihuahua and is 100% badass and cuteness wrapped into one small 10 pound package. I cannot read her mind but I can tell you what I believe she knows. She knows that she is loved because we take care of her needs, we cuddle her and we treat her like the princess that she is. She knows she is part of the Mooney family as she can pick us (my husband and I) out in a crowd. She knows where she lives and knows how to find her way back home. All of these small things play a part in knowing who she is. She knows where she belongs and where she chooses to be. She knows she is a Mooney family member who lives in a home full of love and she is a major part of that. She knows she is a dog and she knows her role in the family unit. She guards the house when we are not home from the evil FedEx and UPS trucks, she protects me (the best she can) when my husband is not home or when we are walking, and she knows her main function in the family unit is to bring happiness. Knowing who you are not is just as important as knowing who you are. She knows she is not a cat or a human. She has a very clear sense of who she is and who she is in our family unit. She is a dog, who protects and loves her family. That is who she is.
- Being true to your heart and soul– I have had several animals growing up and as an adult. Each animal brings their own unique individual personality that represents their heart and soul. Chalupa is a happy dog. She is not tied to a humans emotions like some dogs. I have had dogs in the past that understood when I was unhappy or not feeling well and would lay by my feet and feel the pain that I was feeling. Chalupa is different. She is happy all the time. Her outlook is one of “there is so much to happy about stop being sad.” Believe it or not it works. I can be in a bad mood and I come home to her little body jumping up and down in excitement to see me and I can’t help but be in a better mood. She does not allow the feelings of others effect her mood and her happiness. Her heart and soul were meant to be happy and she will be happy.
- Doing what you were put on this earth to do – Chalupa was put on this earth for one purpose, to make someone happy. I have been truly blessed to be that someone. To all my pet owners out there you understand this. Animals were God’s gift to us to bring us companionship and unconditional love. Their job is to teach humans to be kind, to love unconditionally and to learn to just enjoy life. Chalupa is doing just that, teaching me how to be happy with who I am, love myself and others unconditionally and sit back and enjoy the life we have together. She is teaching me when you act in love you will receive in love. She is a wise little teacher who practices what she teaches.
- Not trying to be someone else– Chalupa is Chalupa. She is a dog. She is a mutt. She is a spunky little 10 pounds of attitude and sass. But that is who she is. She never tries to be a cat or human. She never tries to be bigger or smaller than she is. She never tries to change her personality and she never tries to change to please others. She knows that she is a dog and to her that is the best thing to be. She doesn’t want to be anything or anyone else (really who would with her sweet life).
- Knowing your strengths – Chalupa’s strengths are that she is fast and agile. She runs so fast that big dogs can’t catch her. If she is playing at the dog park and there are a lot of dogs, she moves around them like an obstacle course. She is able to get into spots that other dogs can’t. She never apologizes for her strengths and uses them to stand out from other dogs.
- Understanding your weakness– Her weaknesses are her back leg, her size and her lack of fur. Her back leg was broken and healed but it healed in a way that does not permit her foot to touch the ground. Instead of babying this leg she uses this leg for balancing when we go hiking up rocks or over logs. She is small but she uses this to her advantage and made it a strength. She rarely gets boarded and travels with me often because she is small enough to fit under the seat in front of me on planes. And her lack of fur, though she maybe cold when going outside in the winter, she is not hot in the summer. Also her lack of fur makes her want to cuddle more for warmth which means she gets more love. She is able to turn all of her weaknesses into strengths so in her eyes, she has no weakness. This is what makes her a badass.
- Knowing what you want and not being afraid to ask for it – Chalupa knows what she wants, when she wants it and makes no qualms about asking for it. She wants love, she wants attention and she wants it now. Though she can be pushy at times, she asks for what she wants without the fear of rejection. If she gets rejected, she asks again, if she gets rejected again she will find ways to get what she wants and needs. She is asking for things that matter to her. She is asking for things that make her happy and fulfill her needs. She is not demanding superficial needs and wants. She is asking for what is her right as an animal to have and what she deserves. Again, this comes back to knowing who you are and part of that is knowing what you want, need, and deserve.
These lessons are important ones when it comes to living an authentic life. Finding out the reason you were placed on this earth is a hard task. We have so much interference that it is hard to hear the calling of our heart and soul. That is the beauty of animals, that’s all they hear. Animals don’t look to others for purpose. They are not influenced by others and how they are perceived. Animals love and live with their heart and soul being their compass and for this they are highly rewarded. I encourage you to start listening to your heart and soul and hear where it is guiding you. Don’t fill your mind with “can’t” and “won’t”. Don’t think about “should” or “could”. Listen without interference. What makes your heart sing when you do it? What fulfills you? When it comes to identifying strengths, we are sometimes hard on ourselves and don’t see how truly strong we are. Look to people who care about you and ask them to identify your strengths. This is not looking to others for purpose but instead looking to them as a reflection. Sometimes we can only see who we truly are through the eyes of those who love us.
You are your most important investment. Finding out your purpose in life is a life long journey. That is part of your purpose, to understand why you are here so you can be the best at being you. Enjoy this journey and getting to know who you are and why you are here. Enjoy revealing your strengths and learning to overcome your weaknesses. Life is about two very important things; love and service. Love who you are, love life, love the journey, love the people who you choose to surround yourself with, love the challenges, and love the reward. Service is the act of helping or doing for someone else. If our purpose in life was only to serve ourselves we would be put on this earth alone. We are put on this earth to serve others using our strengths fueled with love. That is the purpose now find your path.