Today, I want you to know that you already possess the inner wisdom, strength and confidence you need to make your dreams come true. This truth is hard for most of us to realize because our default setting is to present ourselves not as we are, but as we like to be seen.

We all crave admiration, recognition and validation and since we can’t tap into our inner reservoirs to satisfy our desires, we come to the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only from external validation. But we don’t have to do that any longer. We can learn to be the catalyst for our own change.

Not long ago, I read an inspiring article about a phenomenal lady called Lizzie Velasquez. Born with a rare skin disease that prevents her from gaining weight, Lizzie is now 27 years old and has never weighed more than 64 pounds. When she was 17, she stumbled upon a YouTube video labeling her “The world’s ugliest woman”. It had over 4 million views and thousands of cruel comments: “Do every one a favor and just kill yourself”, and “Kill it with fire.” Lizzie was crushed and thought she would never pick herself up again.

This particular article profiled Lizzie’s journey towards overcoming her fears, and recounted how she walked on stage for her TEDxAustinWomen talk and boldly told the producer, “Don’t freak out but I’m going to throw my whole plan out and speak from the heart.” Lizzie’s talk went viral, with over 10 million views. She is now a successful motivational speaker, actress, author and YouTuber.

For me, those were the most relatable words in the article. Most situations call for us to show up and be real, something I call “showing up as our authentic-selves.” Our authentic-selves are exactly what we were designed to be: embarrassing situations, hearty laughs, naïveté, good intentions, awkwardness, bad timings, failed attempts, and trivial victories. We were not designed to be perfect. When we try to conform to something we are not, we become unreal and distant from human experience.

In retrospect, the article made me realize how unhappy, frustrated, resentful, and envious I was because I wasn’t living the life for which I was created. An authentic life. I wanted so much – money, success, recognition – and I wanted them at any cost. My deepest desires turned me into a workaholic and perfectionist. I cared too much about the badges society pinned on me. I was an angry, envious woman, constantly comparing myself to others and feeling resentful because of what seemed to be missing from my life.

All this time, I was wrong. I was trying to live a perfect life. I realized that we must first be who we really are, then do what we need to do, in order to have what we want. Therein lies the secret: progress, not perfection.

Now that we have embraced the Digital Age, I’m particularly concerned with the way everyone on social media has a “beautiful life”, or so it seems.

Truth is, you can control your social media account but not your reality. There are real people behind those posts, with real stuff going on. Their lives are not perfect and they only post what they want you to see and know. Don’t get caught up in scrolling, viewing, and admiring other people’s illusion of a perfect life. Even the most successful and affluent have dark episodes and personal struggles.

In writing this, I hope my message strikes a chord with anyone who wants to live by their own lights, as I do. That you find authenticity in your daily life. That you may confidently show up for your office meetings, coffee dates, school, and occasions as your authentic-selves.

Today, I challenge you to take off your mask, face the world and show up as your authentic-self. The world needs your originality, and you need it, too. They won’t call you mad; they’ll call you authentic! Thank me later.