“She hasn’t got it,” the audition panel member says. “The other girl, however, has — and unfortunately it can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.”
Honestly, how many times have you heard about this mysterious, God-given, unreachable “it”?
The it that has the potential to determine your life opportunities in seconds, yet that at the same time, no one can define.
I’ll tell you what “it” is. It’s the unashamed, full you. It’s who you are without tension and fear. It’s authenticity. And it is your superpower.
You’ve Got “It”: It’s Authenticity, and It’s Your Superpower
Today, you are You. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
– Dr. Seuss
Whoever tells you only some are born with it — perhaps the audition panel member, or the slam poetry contest judge, or the doubtful singing teacher — most likely does so out of pure ego, because someone, once upon a time, told them they had “it,” and it made them feel special and superior.
You may be sceptical about this. “Why is it, then,” you may ask, “that some people just seem to exude a natural charisma, while others cower away from the spotlight?”
One of two things: either the charismatic ones were born into privilege, or their charisma was hard-won. Perhaps both.
Playing the cards we’re dealt
So many privilege-born people are famous worldwide not solely because they had the money to get where they wanted to go, but because their level of “it” has consistently soared through the roof.
Well, one reason is because as children they were showered with love.
Think about this without judgement for a moment. Because this is not to say that unprivileged families do not love their children. But rather, as someone who comes from an extremely unprivileged family, I know it is because unprivileged children’s thoughts, aside from all the love and hope our families may offer, are often clouded with the deep-seated financial worry that money and/or success are scarce resources only destined for a small few in society. This fear is rarely present in the mind of a privileged child.
While all parents love to tell their children early on in life, “You can do anything!”, a lot of working-class families feel obliged to add, “but be realistic.” And this act of being realistic really is critical to the possibility of ever having “it”.
Oprah Winfrey didn’t just wake up one day with it. Growing up, she was the opposite of privileged. Mountainous setbacks, failures, doubts and uncertainties had to be overcome before “it” could become synonymous with her way of being in the world. “It,” for me, is exemplified by Winfrey’s unshakeable stage presence -– and it was not lightly won.
The inner you: the “it” in authenticity
Let’s face the facts: your highest, most authentic self is not a realist. He or she is an optimist beyond belief. You can deny this all you want. But underneath all of that cynical armor is a hopeful child with the most utterly cosmic dreams for yourself.
What would happen if you let that child out, into your daily life, into every moment, every opportunity? You would suddenly have it. The “it” in au-then-tic-IT-y. The type of unforgettable presence that lights up a room for a moment and warms people’s hearts for years.
It comes from copying no one. It comes from doing what only you do best. It comes from being wholly you.
Voice coach and author Patsy Rodenburg, in her book Presence, calls this being in “the Second Circle.” The state of being alive and present and fully connected to oneself and one’s surroundings; offering generously and receiving generously. She believes it is where all of the great athletes, actors, musicians, politicians and entrepreneurs, in their finest moments, live.
What is important to remember is that not only can you have it, but you are entitled to it. Authenticity is your birthright. The ability to shine is your birthright. The ability to be seen and heard and talked about with awe is your birthright.
So how do we unravel this version of you? How do we eliminate all of those years of useless worry, tension, unease, anxiety and fear?
By encouraging you to effortlessly be your authentic self in every situation.
Authenticity is your superpower
I wish there were some hidden, cryptic secret, but it truly is as simple as that. When you are authentically you, you are unstoppable. You are unbreakable. Flash back to every time you have laughed so hard your stomach hurt, cried tears of empathy watching a moving piece of cinema, or experienced the kind of joy that makes the world brighter and more colorful for a while. Undoubtedly, you had no time to wear your layers: you were your authentic self.
This is the person you are without a second thought, the person you are with your favorite people or practicing your favorite hobby. This is the person you are without mental, physical or emotional clutter getting in the way.
It is your job to own this part of you and become it more fully and relentlessly than you ever have before. It is your job to rekindle it and let it blaze brightly in the face of every rejection, every loss and every setback.
Don’t be disconcerted by others’ discomfort
But, remember this: on your journey towards retrieving “it,” some people, especially those who’ve known you longest, won’t like the changes they see. It will make them uncomfortable to know that you are shedding the old habits they associate you with because they no longer serve you; a sense of abandonment could lead them to try to curse your path.
They’ll call you a fraud; they’ll magnify your failures; they’ll gossip about you and tell everyone how “phony” you’ve become (when you’ve actually just become your true self) and perhaps now and then their voices will win and the self-doubt will start.
When this happens, return to the words of Erin Elizabeth: “Being unapologetically yourself comes with a price. Always pay it.”
This small fee will send you further in life than you can imagine in the present moment. Every successful person has had to pay it. And there’s a hard truth about why so few people have “it,” and it’s not that some are born with it and the rest are not: it is that most are raised enclosed in a space of fear while a successful few, albeit for some with aid from their circumstances, are able to break through and beyond by choosing to trust their own power.
To close, just as we opened, on a quote by Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where you’ll go.