Are you feeling overwhelmed, unable to comfortably navigate your own stress, overcome obstacles, accept change gracefully, and just generally feel unrewarded, resentful, unable to enjoy all that you are, and will become? If so, the cause may be that you’re not manifesting your authentic self.

Dr. Norma Hollis, lately of Los Angeles, offers her uniquely insightful method of authenticity coaching to individuals and organizations as the path to greater productivity and satisfaction, both personal and professional.

And she loves the color orange, and wears it well. Authenticity, she says, is our real self that often gets lost along the way as we succumb to the social and cultural pressure to conform. Her burst of juicy tangerine tones, from her citrusy sneakers to her marmalade manicure, is a dynamic and refreshing departure from the resigned gray disguise of the suppressed, inauthentic life.

Life, she says, is always sending us clear messages; the problem is that we forget how to listen. “If you’re not happy, in a chronic, long-term way, this is your heart, gut and spirit telling you that you’re in the wrong place. In a person, clear evidence of this may be a number of repeated health issues that don’t resolve in spite of treatment. Other signals are feeling unhappy all the time in your job, and in your relationships. For instance, if you’re surrounded by people who just seem to tolerate you rather than celebrate you, that’s a clear message that it’s time to move on.”

Dr. Hollis, known as The Godmother of Authenticity, humbly shares that she herself is not entirely immune to the distractions that prevent us all from staying aligned with our own authenticity. “We all get reminders,” she says, noting a series of mishaps — a cut finger, broken foot, broken shoulder, and three falls on her right rib — that served as a needed wakeup call. “Ignoring these reminders can be serious trouble down the line. If we don’t pay attention to the accidents and illnesses, death will be next.”

For Black people, and especially for Black women who are typically raised to nurture others, retrieving authenticity may be a particularly painful process of unearthing. She says, “It’s in our DNA to hide our feelings. We had to, or we’d be raped, whipped, lynched by the Massa. Even when we suppressed our feelings as best we could, we were still abused, and as Black women, we’re still carrying around all of that fear, pain and rage in our DNA.” She references a friend’s practice examining the “family constellation,” tracing current life-conditions, including the presence of persistent illness or disease, to ancestral traumas endured generations earlier. The journey of unpacking your buried past will inevitably be triggering, “…and this is necessary,” she says. “It’s like kids who grew up believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. We’ve been lied to. Confronting these societal lies hurts, but it is the beginning of liberation.”

“Sometimes people ask me how it feels to be authentic. The first few times I heard this, it seemed like such a strange question,” she adds. A specific answer is the releasing of anxiety and depression, seemingly universal conditions which clinicians may find impossible to source. “At one point, I lost 30 pounds,” she recalls, “and I found a St. John’s knit suit in my new size, size 8, and I’d never been a size 8 before. It was orange. And you know, I still wear the jacket, even though there’s some wear on it. It always gives me that joy, and that’s what authenticity feels like. Not the fact of purchasing the suit, but the joy of accomplishment, of achieving a personal goal that took a lot of effort and how it made me feel when I got back to my true self. As my authentic self, I feel this way all the time, not just when a great event happens. It’s an everyday feeling.”

Simply stopping and paying attention to what gives us joy may be a life-changing step, says Dr. Hollis. Recognizing what gives us authentic joy is part of transitioning from just what you think about into how you think, and perceive your experience. “Being authentic also frees you to speak your mind, and in fact compels you to speak the truth. This may ruffle other people’s feathers, so use your best judgment. But when you are aligned with your sixth sense, your inner voice which is understanding that God is the master architect, your belief system and life purpose come into alignment. This is something that I really enjoy about reaching my mature age. When we’re in our 30s and 40s, we’re all about gotta do this, gotta do that. Society brainwashes us to believe that we must achieve certain things, acquire certain things. Then after 50, you pause, and you start to get a different perspective. And at 60 and beyond, well, I just don’t care at all about what other people say I should do anymore. I just want to be my authentic self!”

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