So there I was, staring at a blank screen and searching for the perfect title of my first book. I had just left a corporate position and was a few weeks out from starting a new job back in the nonprofit sector where I was hoping to reconnect with my grassroots, entrepreneurial spirit. I had given myself three weeks to write the book that I had always dreamed of writing but never found (ok, made) the time to make it happen.  Inspired by my 96 year-old grandmother who had dreamed of being a journalist and had recently passed away, I was determined to put years of ideas, lessons learned and valuable advice into the book. I wanted to write a book that anyone could pick up and relate to.  I wanted to both inspire and challenge people to lead their life with greater purpose and with confidence in their potential. But despite all of these lofty aspirations, I was stuck on the title.

Days passed by as I routinely got up early, went to my favorite coffee shop, and opened my laptop with the determination that each day was going to be different.  I was going to have an epiphany and the title of the next New York Time’s best seller was going to surface. But it did not.  Instead, frustration with myself grew, and that voice inside of our heads that holds us back, that gives us every reason why we are not good enough or cannot accomplish something trumped every other thought running through my mind.

I looked around the coffee shop and there were students studying, friends catching up, book clubs meeting and entrepreneurs selling. They were living in the moment, breathing life into their dreams, nurturing their relationships and taking action.  And it clicked for me. It was not about finding the perfect words for the perfect title that mattered most. The most important part of writing the book was learning to control the voice inside of my head and intentionally making the time to introduce me to myself.

By reflecting on the value that I could bring others in each chapter, I unraveled and explored the context of my values, decisions, and actions.  In recalling the stories that I wanted to share, I relived impact moments in my life that shaped me and reflected on people that had influenced me. I asked myself hard questions that I either avoided in the past or failed to see the importance of answering.  I embraced it all…the good, the bad, the ugly.

It is the context of who we are as individuals that matters most in life.  Many of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to fit in with others. We often make the mistake that acceptance is gained by mimicking behaviors and replicating thoughts.  The façade that we hide behind may win us an Oscar on the stage of life in the moment.  This short term gratification comes at the cost of fulfillment. If we want to live a life with purpose, we need to take off the masks, breathe a sigh of relief, and move forward with authenticity.

When we are honest with ourselves, we find the direction that we are searching for in life.  By accepting who we are, we gain the confidence to take the first step in that direction.  And by embracing who we are, we build more authentic relationships and drive deeper impact.

So the next time you look in a mirror, ask yourself who is staring back at you?