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INSPIRATION HQ: What inspires you to…live an authentic life? (Prompt 1 #swinspires)
Written by
Inspiration HQ
December 2010
Written by
Inspiration HQ
December 2010

Giving the GIFT OF INSPIRATION at She Writes. Writing Prompt #1: "What inspires you to…live an authentic life?"

Writing Prompt Author: Lissa Rankin

Five years ago, I was a master at pretending to be the person I thought everybody wanted me to be, rather than the person I really am deep down at my essential core. On the outside, I was living many people’s dream life as a successful doctor pulling in a fancy six figure income which nicely paid for my ocean view home in San Diego, my boat, my vacation home, a cushy retirement account…you get the picture. I had a loving family, an adoring husband, and a baby on the way.

Sounds great, right?

But it just wasn’t me.

In spite of my seemingly dreamy life, I felt like some heeby-jeeby bug-like creature inside of me longed to shed the skin of me and unfurl her wings, like my skin was too tight and my wings were stuck together with the glue of my comfortable existence. On the outside, I appeared to be thriving, but my inner butterfly wings felt eternally clipped.

Not until I experienced what I came to call my “Perfect Storm,” when I gave birth to my daughter, my dog died, my healthy young brother ended up in liver failure, and my beloved father passed away from a brain tumor--all within two weeks--did I begin the journey back to myself.

One night when I was five weeks postpartum from a C-section, I found myself feeling royally pissed. My brother was still very ill, and I was mourning the loss of my father and my pup. I had to go back to working as an OB/GYN taking 72 hour call shifts less than a week after my father’s funeral, leaving my crying newborn home and motherless. I hadn’t had a single day to get used to the fact that my world has been tipped upside down. And nobody in the hospital gave a flying f*** that I needed to pump my milk-engorged breasts. I suddenly began to understand what makes seemingly sane people show up with an Uzi and start gunning down strangers.

It was the final straw.

Within the next year, I wound up quitting my job, selling my home, moving to the country, writing a book, and starting my blog, OwningPink.com, about getting my mojo back and being unapologetically ALL ME, ALL THE TIME. My personal crisis inspired me to stop living for the future and start letting my freak flag fly, to quit caring about what everybody else thinks, to start being authentic to who I really am, and to let the chips fall where they may.

It was the best thing that even happened to me, and slowly, with each leap of faith I take, I come to know and honor the individual I really am. As I shed the too-tight skin and let my wings unfurl, I discover the joy and peace of being me.

What about you? Will it take a crisis to inspire you to live an authentic life? Or are you doing it already? What inspires you to live more authentically? What impetus in your life has woken you up to the person you really are? Do you feel like you’re living your truth? Are you letting your freak flag fly?

If not, what’s holding you back? What next steps could you take to being more YOU?

Unapologetically me,

Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a “change catalyst” coach, the author of two books, a motivational speaker, an entrepreneur, founder of OwningPink.com, a professional artist, a wife and mother – and many other things. She now strives to be integrated and authentic, in all aspects of her life, and she inspires others to do the same. For more about Lissa, visit LissaRankin.com.


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  • Judy Edwards

    I need to comment on my comment from 1 day ago when I made the statement. "I can relate to not being true to myself. It can kill you."

    Ouch! that sounds pretty harsh. What I meant to say it can kill you on a 'spiritual, emotional, or mental level. Physical would be an extreme.

  • suzi banks baum

    Lissa, I love that you are asking this question just now. I read your blog on “Owning Pink” last night and fell asleep with the question of what I could ask for, what unspoken ache seeks fulfilling. Then, this morning, you appear here on SheWrites to jog me another time. Thank you Sister for flying your flag so high above the chaos of mothering, work and holidays to be seen by me.


    Gratitude to Owning Pink and SheWrites.

    I do both. Own Pink and write.


    Yet, over and over again, I trip as if there are logs rolling in my path and I am not a born burler. Simple things like snow on the steps barring the way of the longed for mail man or laundry, which I love to do, pull me from my studio and all the sudden it is 5 pm and I have not taken a bath- which I started out to do at 9 am. I make lists, all very well intentioned, but, the pile that stands before me captures a few hours, then time to fetch kids, make dinner, wade through homework assistance and evening things, then, I am tired…but not tired enough to be on Facebook which led me to Owning Pink last night, which leads me here.

    Right now.

    And so, I guess, the next move is to gratitude because without all of that, I would not be here. Would I?


    The person I really am is one who lives the lush life of a fortunate woman, whatever the conditions are- the woman I really am is happy. I am the generator of all those logs in my path- whether it is my overflowing knitting basket, emails for committees I will not sit on, phone calls, writing ideas on chits of paper strewn from apron pockets to my purse, art art art everywhere- in stages of creation, glue, sparkles and postcards just waiting for that mailman…. the work of a domestic woman, full time Mom and full time Artist- where each role shortens the hours for the other- I created this and I am grateful.


    I could be without inspiration or passion.

    I could be apathetic about the house, the kids, or our community.

    I could be at a job where I am torn away from these rhythms, but I am not. I am here, at home, studio and kitchen, poised for the logs and the love.



    My freak flag is the flag of a fortunate woman. I have chosen to be a stay at home Mom and in this role; I have unfurled the wonder of my artwork and writing. It started when I had small pockets of time to create, then spread in to everything I do. Gardening led to a backyard orchard led to preserving the harvest led to seed saving and being the volunteer garden teacher at my kids’ school. Needlework led me to knitting and a circle I have met with weekly for 13 years and a web of community I could not otherwise have created. The journal writing I started at 14 has led me to a daily practice for 38 years and to my first book, a blog and dreams of much more. Sustaining and nurturing my inner world through yoga and relational work has led me to being a certified TriYoga teacher and a 3 time graduate of the School of the Womanly Arts and to The Seven Sacred Steps. Collaging begun in scrapbooks when I was 4 years old has led me to a passion for image and texture, a 4-year mail art collaboration and the beginnings of a career as an exhibiting artist and teacher of transformation through art. Hunger to grow my marriage of 17 years has led to many, many wonderful days of adventure with my husband, in daily life and our morning check-ins to travels abroad alone or with the kids, swing dance classes, ice skating on black ice together in the winter wind and swimming in the Great Lakes. There are many facets of my life I have not mentioned here but I hope you see the pattern, like ripples on water, one thing leads to another and I choose to consider them blessings.


    I am a fortunate woman. I have turned challenges in to gifts because of my appetite for joy. A terrifying prospect of uterine imbalance led to a hysterectomy that I called my Sacred Release. The weeks before the surgery were shifted from panic to celebration because I knew if I had to make it through, I had to lean in to the things that bring me joy- and the way through was gratitude. Same for my Mother’s dying, just 2 months gone now. Gratitude. My husband and I sat with her for her last breathes.

    Gratitude. Sorrow, surely, but gratitude allowed us to celebrate her to her very last moment of life and fueled the days after as we gathered family to remember Mom.


    So, in answer to your question Lissa, it is gratitude that has woken me up. The things I once thought hindered me, actually fuel me. I learned this practice first in Al-Anon, as I recovered my ability for healthy relationships with people who have alcohol issues. Then, at the School of the Womanly Arts, I learned to give thanks for every small and big thing and to party where I am. I make gratitude lists when I feel low or not enough. I write thank you notes, sincerely felt and carefully composed. I teach my kids to write them to, because I think it is important to acknowledge what we have been given. We say a grace of thanks before each meal, no matter how many eyes are rolling. We say thank you.


    And, I suffer pangs of doubt, oceans of grief, tangles of sorrow that my book will never come in to being, that my kids will become slackers, or that my work will dissolve in to passing wind.


    But, I go on. I am pulled by love. An insatiable appetite for beauty and joy pulls me forward. I am pulled on and out because I want to share my stories in hopes that someone else will find their candle lit and burning brightly.


    Thank you for asking Lissa.

    Love, Suzi


  • Jennifer Hazard

    The topic of authenticity seems to be cropping up all over the place. Granted I do a lot of reading and research on areas where authenticity would be likely to be a frequent topic and a desirable goal. For many of us in those circles, it’s not a novel idea. I am noticing, however, that the concept seems to be making its appearance in the collective consciousness; as things tend to do when their time is due-when humanity needs them and is ready to accept them.
    I’m not certain why the “divine timing’ but I can think of several good arguments for the development and nurturance of authentic living. If we are authentic true to ourselves and our inner being, our values become clear; we begin to realize and prioritize what it is that really matter to us. As our true “heart’s desire” becomes clearer we are less inclined to be persuaded by others that may attempt to manipulate us, convincing us that they know what’s best for us. I can’t help but relate this to the “economic crisis” and the role of advertising and the American trends of consumerism. When we don’t know who we are, what we really value, it’s easy to look outside ourselves to fill the emptiness of uncertainty and doubt we harbor. We are at risk of filling the void with seemingly easy, quick fixes; drugs, alcohol, spending beyond our means. Our country’s current economic problems are the result of both individuals reaching beyond their means to acquire things, belongings, vacations, homes, etc that they believed they needed and the greed and lack of morality of those who were willing to capitalize on those “needs”. A friend and I recently discussed the gift of having been raised in a household with limited income. You learned what was essential and what luxury was. You learned that people are more important than things. You learned how to entertain yourself and have fun with whatever you had available to you. My kids remember very few of their Christmas or Birthday presents. One of their most fond holiday memories is in creating a house from a large cardboard box that a Fischer Price play set was packaged in. They kept that box house for months. They drew on it. They taped up curtains from old fabric scraps, cut out windows and even a mail slot and played for hours creating a world of pretend around their “home”
    I’m not implying that poverty is essential to the discovery of one’s authenticity, but I believe there is a connection between living simply and living authentically. Given our current times with not only the financial problems our country has faced, but the increasingly obvious need to create sustainable sources of energy and food, the real need for community and cooperation, it makes sense that there is a mass appeal for authenticity. If we are to create strong communities, work cooperatively and be open to lifestyle change, it is important that we have a sound foundation of self understanding and self respect. Once we have achieved this foundation, we are less threatened by change, by sacrifice and by new ideas and world views. As individuals we are all part of the larger community of humankind, links in a chain, with the strengthening of each link the chain becomes stronger, more flexible and more functional.
    May your authentic self thrive as a strong link in our healing community.


  • Barbara Fischkin

     I think I would feel more authentic if I was a newspaper reporter again. At least for a little while to see if it' still works for me. What I knew as a kid was that a newsroom was where I felt most like myself. I don't think newsrooms are dying, just the delivery system. Alternately I feel authentic when I can tell a good story. With a good beginning, middle and end. I think that works in any realm.  I have mushy stuff to tell too. My husband makes me feel authentic because he doesn't let me get away with anything that lacks authenticity. Fortunately he's not on She Writes, or it could be a long evening.


  • Debby Carroll

    I feel lucky just not to be you! :) And I mean that in the nicest way. Truly, I feel lucky to have discovered my need to be true to myself without a cataclysmic event. Don't even know how I got this way. Maybe it was back in high school with bad acne and no boys I wanted wanting me back that made me more determined to be who I was in order to be happy. Or, maybe it was discovering a few years ago that writing was as valid a form of expression as the musical and artistic talents I never had. Or maybe it was the births of my three daughters and their constant eyes on me that inspires me to live my life with integrity and grace because some day they might want to be like me. If you think about the mirror that is motherhood, well, it motivates! Thanks for a wonderful prompt, though. It got me thinking.

  • Lanita Andrews

    A day late, but here is is my response to the prompt: Inspiringly Uninspired

    Lissa, like probably most Moms, I too found that having a baby forced me to re-prioritize, and it seems that it is a weekly if not daily process.


  • Judy Edwards

    I can relate to not being true to myself. It can kill you.  I wanted to be an artist ever since I was a child but it wasn't to be. I was told I wasn't good enough, so I first became a speech therapist,  then  a teacher of the blind, and finally a Montessori teacher. Along came the two babies and a successful, busy professional husband and  art was given up. Then I hit 40! and the old adage,' **** or get off the pot' grabbed a hold of me. I joined a painting group and worked at it every day but it wasn't enough. A moment of inspiration occurred when I was 45.  I split up the family,  took my 13 year old daughter out of school, and traveled for one year around the world, painting!

    Life has never been the same in a good way for all of us. It was a transformative experience for my daughter and I and what could have split the family up permanently, made us stronger. After my time in Egypt seeing the encaustic mummy paintings I changed mediums. More to this story is at my website: www.judyedwards.com 



  • Katherine Harms

    I was cruising along toward my various goals when I got sick. I don't get sick, but I did get sick. For more than a week, the finest doctors in the world could not figure out what to do about it. They fussed because I had no medical history to guide their analysis. They threw everything they had at the mysterious infection, but nothing helped. It took really major surgery and two months of recovery to get back where I had started.

    My faith was severely challenged. Why would God let this happen to me? I had a book to write and canvas to sew for the boat. I needed to provision and supply and store for a six-month cruise away from civilization, and here I was taking medicine day and night, too weary to do anything useful for two whole months.

    One day I realized that my situation was a test of my convictions. I don't have any notion that God sat down and wrote this test. He doesn't micromanage. Instead, he goes with us through the trials that come our way in normal ups and downs of life. I found that my real challenge was to feel assured that everything I believed about God was actually true. Could I really trust him in such a frightening situation? What if I died? Was that his sovereign will? Could I trust all my friends and relatives who prayed to God on my behalf? Was I simply a victim of an impersonal but somehow vindictive universe?

    As the days progressed, I felt too ill to think deeply. My only prayer was guided by the words of the Psalmist who said, "When I feel afraid, I will trust in God." I couldn't understand why I was so sick, and I worried that my doctors didn't understand, either. I finally prayed for them, not myself, asking God's wisdom to guide their skill. I remember dissolving in tears as the surgical team continued to ask me questions and to ask me to authorize this or that or something else. When they left, telling me that I would be delivered to the operating room within the hours, my husband and I were left alone.

    My husband is God's greatest earthly gift to me. We turned toward each other and clung together, both of us in tears. We were worried, and we really did not know what to think. Then I remembered something. When we are unable to attend church, because we have traveled to some place where there isn't one, we have worship by ourselves. At the end of our worship, instead of the pastor blessing the congregation, we bless each other. Standing there in the hospital room, we blessed each other as the time for my surgery came nearer. "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine on you and give you peace. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

    That was the moment when I knew that no matter what the outcome, God was truly everything I had believed him to be. I could trust him. I could accept his sovereignty. I was not a victim. I was his beloved child.

    I have had a lot of time to reflect on that day. It wasn't actually a turning point. It was more like the opening of a door for which I had previously lacked the key. My life before was a life of faith, but untested faith. My life after is much more authentic, because I have been through the fire. The fire burned away all the suppositions and the confusion and fear. What is left is truth. The truth is that I can trust God every day. Now my book will be worth reading, because I am not talking about my analysis; I am talking about my experience.

    Faith seems like an imaginary thing to many people, but I know that I am who I am today, because God is who he is. I can count on him, and that means that I am most authentic when I trust him.

  • Marcy Gray Rubin

    Imagine being in a room at the most ungodliest of hours.  The arctic temperature is meant keep you awake.  The endless procession of food served in styrofoam -- not to mention huge bowls of candy, ice cream sundae deliveries and coffee in countless flavors -- is to maintain energy.  What to order in for lunch takes up 45% of your day, arguing with higher ups is 30%, with only 25% allocated for your actual job.  Which if you haven't figured out, is a writer/producer for a half hour sitcom where the majority of your colleagues are male, twenties, horny as hell and about as mature as a roomful of toddlers fighting over a shiny object only in this case the shiny object is the actresses on the show.    


    You are in early forties.  Pretending to be in your early thirties because your agent and Industry ageism has dictated this "is the way it must be."   Although you look younger --thanks to good genes, a fierce devotion to Night of Olay and a ban on tanning -- you are yearning to act older.  To do something that actually means something, to stop relying on a laugh track, the pinhead studio executives and their even more creatively soulless nephews to validate that you are funny and interesting.  

    And so you decide to finally stop shoveling after the elephant act and give up show business.

    Its time to go back to school.

    You welcome the homework, the intriguing discussions during class, the brillance of your professors.

    You are relieved there are no sororities and you don't have to worry about being popular.

    You are thrilled there are computers instead of typewriters, and there is no need to pay someone to type  term papers. 

    Mostly you are over the moon with all this new stuff -- the knowledge that makes your brain hum and challenges your Borsht Belt sensibility.  

    Six years later and you are sitting in another room.  The hours are by appointment only, and when you work on evenings and weekends it's fine.  The temperature is pleasing and changes seasonally, while the dish of candy in the waiting room it is meant to be a small welcoming gesture, as is the dispenser of water and the various packets of tea.   

    Your day is focused entirely on the work, with a small percentage allocated to paperwork.   There are no colleagues -- it's just you and clients who come in and out of your door every 50 minutes or so.  The men and women, individuals and couples who feel safe enough to talk about their life stories.  You're there to listen and help them make sense of those parts that are confusing or painful or just don't feel right. 

    In other words you've gone from being inauthentic to helping people find their authentic selves.


  • Jan Nerenberg

    My faith leads me from day to day.  After a fall at work led to a worker's comp claim, I found myself w/o a job.  My husband encouraged me to return to school.  Hard work and scholarships followed, among which was a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation award.  Disaster waited in the wings as I lost my mother - '07, mother-in-law - '08, my younger brother - '09, my home to a flood- also '09, and then cardiac arrest/surgery this year.  But faith remains and grows, as I write my way through a MFA and into a PhD in Research and Creative Writing.  One is never too old.  It is never too late.  I'll graduate and begin my career the same year I can apply for Social Security.  Life is challenging.  Be grateful for the small things.  I can flip a switch and light appears.  Life is good.

  • Lissa Rankin, MD

    Bless you all for your sweet words and support!

    Much love


  • JoAnne Braley

    Lissa, you are lucky your found out in time how to live an authentic life. My best friend became a doctor when it was difficult for a woman to get into medical school.  She was a psychiatrist. She got tired of hearing rich people's problems, so her authentic life was helping girls in reform schools, for much lower pay.  Unfortunately, she died of cancer.  I often wonder why I'm alive and she's not, as we were such close friends in school, but she did more with her life, as I was considered the beauty queen, and ended up with three husbands, all wrong.  And, two girls, who are not close to each other or to the family.  As for myself, I can live an authentic life now in my retirement age, because I made enough money after being dumped to do what the hell I want to do.  When, I was young, I, also, did what society asked of me.  I just want any other women who might read this to make these changes when you are young enough.  But,  prepare yourself, as Lissa did, with a good education and job, even if you have to do what the world wants for a spell...because you can't just wave your "freak flag," if you need a paycheck!  I am being inspired to write, and now this is giving me an idea.  I can write to tell younger women how to not make my mistakes.  Another tip.  Never go back to work after having a baby until that baby can talk.  I know this from experience.  They need you at home!  You would be surprised what happens when you are not there to protect them..   

  • Stacy Jill Calvert

    Lissa, that was fantastic. I too, had a few life changing moments that has led me to where I am now. Thank  you for sharing!

  • RYCJ Revising

    "...letting my freak flag fly..." I LOVE IT! There are some phrases just too precious to forget, and that one Lissa, is one of them.

    I really felt your story, remembering the comment of one person who told me how they would trade what they had for what I had. I thought they were crazy, until I started to see some of pain people experienced living behind what I'll call 'the mask'. Many of these people (I frankly must admit) are some truly humble souls. 

    For me however, I think I kind of have always been this person, and pretty much satisfied about being me, even while respecting those who live to 'fit in'. I guess, whatever gives a person this inner peace is what's most important. 

    Thanks for that,