In recent years, I’ve felt an increasing importance to live authentically. I am who I am. In the past I cared (too much) about what people thought of me and made some choices based on whether or not I thought they might judge me harshly. And I’m talking about silly things: the music I enjoy, my sometimes dark and overly silly sense of humor, my love of wildly dancing in the kitchen to the Bee Gees.

I thought perhaps some people would think me less spiritual if they knew that in the same hour, I’d meditated and then posted a crazy photo of a cat licking his behind on Facebook. I finally stopped and said, “What am I so worried about? I’m a joyful, compassionate person who loves to have fun. What in the world is wrong with that? And if someone judges me for any part of what sparks my heart, it’s a reflection of them, not me.

All of this might sound silly to some, but for me, who’d experienced years and years and years and years (you get the picture) of being a top-rate people-pleaser, this was a revelation. Hey! I can openly be who I am without any fear of what others might think! Once that realization finally sunk in, my joy felt an unbridled intensity; I felt like a prisoner finally released from a sentence. I love every part of me, twisted humor and all. Not everyone has to like what I like, but I certainly don’t have to change myself to appease others. It wouldn’t even be possible to meet every single person’s expectation…plus, how completely exhausting!

Cats are pure joy. Whether stretched in a sun puddle, playing with a ping pong ball, stealing a piece of lunch meat from the kitchen counter, or cleaning himself in front of company…during dinner, they embrace every bit of it with pure gusto. And ask a cat if he cares what we think about any of it. Go ahead, ask him. He’ll respond with a giant NO and then flick his tail and proceed to knead your full bladder. Cats love life — living authentically is just what they do. And they do it exceedingly well.

And on top of it all, they don’t judge us for being our true selves. They couldn’t care less when I want to take crazy photos of myself doing cat-things for my blog. As I posed lying on a pile of clean laundry or with my “paws” pressed against the heat vent, they continued doing their day-to-day whatnot.

My kids on the other hand…well, they ran for the hills, completely embarrassed one of their friends might happen across my blog and see their crazy mom in action. The only feelings my cats may have felt were jealousy for my jacking some of their favorite spots!

I’m not 100 percent there yet, but every day I feel more and more confident in my ability to live openly and authentically, even in small ways. Writing this article is another step in that direction. We are each unique and shining lights of joy and love. To hide any part of that for fear of someone else’s opinion simply blocks our own ability to fully embrace life and all its pleasures.

Cats get this and, as usual, we can look to them as models for living a happy and balanced life. I would not, however, suggest cleaning oneself in front of dinner guests. That might not go over especially well.

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