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#NewYearNewMe: Books that Help Me Own My Shit and Become My Authentic Self

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Last month I talked about figuring out how to uncover your authentic self vs. your brand, and this month I want to talk more specifically about struggling with, and bettering, your authentic self.

With the new year come and gone, everyone (myself included) is on a kick to improve habits, figure out how to be your best self, learn from the mistakes of last year and set goals and intentions for the new year. Personally, this is a process lasting a few weeks where I constantly add to a note on my phone about what went well last year and how I want to improve myself for the year to come. One thing I learned last year, something that was very difficult to swallow, is that I am not the cat’s pajamas that I pretend to be. I have a lot of growing to do to become a better person, and member of society, and I have turned to a few books to help with this self-discovery. I have to say that after diving into these books, I am feeling more focused and aligned with my career than I ever have before, even though these books have nothing to do with the entertainment industry. I truly believe that that is because as we become better people, kinder, more authentic people, we become better storytellers.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
At the surface this book is about how our energy, not our time, is a finite resource. It is about how to better manage your energy and build breaks into our lives to give ourselves time to recover. At a deeper level, this book is truly about finding balance in our lives. Balance not only between our work and recovery, but balance between the different strengths and weaknesses in our personalities and livelihood.

I want to share a quote from this book that, to me, is the central takeaway.

“We may overvalue toughness and undervalue tenderness, for example, or do just the reverse, when in fact both represent important emotional muscles in our lives. The same is true of many other opposites: self-control and spontaneity, honesty and compassion, generosity and thriftiness, openness and discretion, passion and detachment, patience and urgency, caution and boldness, confidence and humility (…) To be fully engaged emotionally requires celebrating what the Stoic philosophers called anacoluthia – the mutual entailment of the virtues (…) no virtues is a virtue by itself (…) We are, in effect, the sum of our complexities and contradictions.”

Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me by Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson
Coming to terms with our own faults is one of the hardest things to do. One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with last year was my faults and negative actions and how they hurt people that I love. This book is an incredible examination of society and how we will go to the grave fighting for our point of view, even when we know we are wrong. Why is it so difficult to admit when we are wrong? This book examines this phenomenon in an insightful and psychological way and gives tools to help us rewire our brain and admit when we are just plain wrong.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
This book, although first published in 1990, is still extremely relevant and important today. This book examines the correlation between finding a balance between your personal and professional life and the ways we can shift our thinking to help us manage time, build better relationships, and achieve success in our personal and professional lives. Like the other two books, it discusses the importance of self-discovery, confronting your faults, celebrating your successes, and figuring out how to be a better human being and therefore a more sustaining member of society.

The three books above all take very different approaches, but all focus on one key thing: owning and understanding your shit. We all have weaknesses in our personal selves and in order to strive towards greatness, we need to own those weaknesses and figure out how we can learn and grow from them. I, for one, am excited about the things I have learned, and continue to learn, from these books and am eager to see the positive impact they will have on my life, and career. #NewYearNewMe indeed.

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!