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Daren Banarsë On How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally

An Interview With Maria Angelova

Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daren Banarsë.

Daren Banarsë is a psychotherapist, creativity coach and musician based in London, England. His compositions have been heard on hundreds of TV shows, including the BBC’s Apprentice, Top Gear and Horizon. He’s also written a live score for Rambert Dance, made sound sculptures for the Courtauld, and had his requiem performed by a choir of monks at Somerset House.

As a therapist, Daren helps his clients discover their values and follow their passions, so they can lead their most authentic and satisfying lives. He encourages us to embrace our creativity so we can break through personal restrictions, and discover who we really are.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

When I was five, my parents bought an old upright piano, and put it in the front room of our house in London. It didn’t play well, but as a tiny person, I was fascinated by this huge machine with hundreds of buttons. And I began spending most of my free time exploring the sounds that came from it.

Playing the piano, and composing music eventually became my career. But making music also opened up my other fascination — exploring the inner world. Throughout my life, one interest has fed the other, and I now work as a psychotherapist and creativity coach alongside making music.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One quote that comes to mind is from the 13th century Persian mystic, Rumi:

‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.’

I think we all start out with big ideas of how to fix the world, or manipulate it so it gives us what we think we need. But before heading out into the world to fix things, it can be wise to look inwards.

When we have personal issues that haven’t been resolved, we unknowingly reflect them outwards into the world. We’ll see something wrong with that person, or that political group or culture.

There might well be something wrong with them, but we need to be aware that we’re seeing things through our own particular lens. If we haven’t done the internal work first, there’s the danger of going round and round in circles trying to resolve our issues by changing the world.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Let’s stick with Rumi, I’ll tell you about a great poem called The Guest House.

It’s about welcoming every guest that comes knocking at your door. Of course, the guests he’s talking about aren’t real people, they’re emotions, thoughts, and whatever life presents to you.

Everyday, you encounter an assortment of feelings and thoughts that you have no control over. Some of them are welcome — a wave of joy or laughter, a satisfaction at achieving something. But there’s also less desirable feelings, depression, shame, maybe a wave of anger.

Do you lock the door and try to stop them from coming in? You can try, but they’ll always find a way in eventually. Even if it’s through brute force. And by the time they do get in, they might be in a much worse state than they were before.

To become authentic, you need to accept every part of yourself, and that includes the feelings and thoughts you don’t want. They’re all part of you, and if you try to exclude bits of yourself you don’t like, they’ll show up in the shadows as unconscious distortions of your personality.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?

For me, being authentic means knowing who you are, and acting in line with your true nature. It’s being honest — with yourself firstly, and then with the people around you. You’ll know you’re coming from an authentic place when you find yourself respecting other peoples views and opinions, but you’re not afraid to assert your own when you need to.

What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?

Being vulnerable is normally equated with being weak. For example you could be vulnerable to an attack if you’re on your own on a dark street. Or your work report could be vulnerable to criticism from your colleagues.

But the sort of vulnerability I’m talking about is emotional vulnerability.

The word vulnerable comes from the Latin noun vulna, which means wound, and it’s come to mean ‘open to being wounded’.

But being open to getting wounded is different to actually getting wounded.

Most of us are far too protected from the threat of emotional wounding. We need to open up a bit and let people in. It’s a risk we have to take to get close to other people. And it means being willing to get hurt sometimes.

What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

My first encounter with being vulnerable was unexpected — it started in my body. I had a car crash in my early twenties, and went to an Alexander Technique teacher to help with my recovery. The Alexander Technique is a body therapy which explores your personal movement style.

In the lessons, I realised I’d been holding my body stiffly, without knowing it. Letting go of physical tension was a revelation. My body opened, my spine lengthened, and I realised what it meant to be grounded as the soles of my feet gave up their fight with the ground.

This fed through into my piano playing as well — what I once only knew as hard work and labour, became quite effortless. The tone became resonant, and my friends were shocked at how I could now play passages of music which used to be well out of my grasp.

As a psychotherapist, I encourage clients to connect to their bodies as a way to access their vulnerability. It’s so common to hold traumas in the body, as pockets of tension. It’s like wincing at something that seems too much to take in, and not letting it go.

Exploring the body was my gateway into psychotherapy, and exploring the mind. Just like the body can be tense, the mind can also contract and harden to protect itself from being hurt.

Learning to be emotionally vulnerable brings a whole new dimension to your relationships. You’ll allow people to see more of you, including the bits that feel ugly or weak, but in reality just look authentic and human. You’ll seem more relatable, and you’ll feel freer too, because you don’t have to control how people see you.

As you grow in confidence, you’ll be able to be more authentic, speak with your own voice, and follow your own interests. Your life will take on a sense of wholeness as you give up the idea of who you think you should be and begin building your life from the inside out.

For me, that’s led to an unconventional, yet successful career as a psychotherapist, instrument maker, lecturer, composer and creativity coach. I give my creative impulses free reign. It’s a letting go, and trusting that if you let things take their natural course, they’ll find their own way.

Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

Being authentic and allowing yourself to be vulnerable takes practice. It’s not something to jump right into. Watch out you’re not being too open too soon, or revealing too much of yourself at inappropriate times.

While it’s always good to have a degree of vulnerability, you should take it easy with intimate relationships at the beginning. Let things progress gradually, and allow the trust to build, so you both get to know each other over time.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?

As children we’re naturally vulnerable, and a careless remark, or just plain selfish parenting can feel unbearable when you’re so young and open. To protect ourselves from the pain, we pack on pieces of armour, numbing ourselves, so we don’t have to feel it again. It’s a very effective short term strategy, but over the years, the armour can become part of you, and you’ll have no idea you’re wearing it.

As an adult, even the thought of taking off the armour can bring up immense fear — you’re suddenly faced with being back in the world of a helpless little person.

But if you want to live a more joyful life, you have to connect to the softness under the armour. Once you work through any residual fear and pain, you’ll be able to discard that armour piece by piece, and your life will feel a whole lot lighter and freer.

You can still protect yourself when you need to. Pick up a shield if you’re heading into a dangerous situation, but know you’re carrying it. And leave it by the door when you come back to your safe place and the people you trust.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?

1) Power and confidence

There’s a strength which comes from knowing your values, and what’s important to you.

Take some time to think about the values that really resonate with you. Don’t worry if they go against the accepted values of your culture, or if they conflict with the unspoken values of the family you grew up in.

If they’re your true values, align with them, and express them in everything that you do. Tell the truth about what you feel and think, and you’ll gain respect from your peers. Your authentic message will come across with confidence and clarity.

2) Create the relationships you need

Show people who you really are, and how you’re feeling. You’ll be seen as approachable and people will feel they can relate to you. When you’re being real, and emotionally vulnerable, it gives other people permission to be themselves too. It’s the basis for creating the intimate and rewarding relationships that will really nurture and support you.

3) A calm state of mind

It takes a great deal of energy to maintain and project an idealised image of yourself. There’s also an underlying stress and worry about being found out, of letting your vulnerability show. If you’ve been living behind a facade for a long time, it probably feels completely normal and natural.

But when you let go of the image, you’ll also let go of the effort. This results in an inner calmness which can only come from allowing expression of your authentic self. There’s nothing you need to hide, nothing to get right, you’re just being you.

4) Happiness and contentment

To be vulnerable and authentic you have to develop an attitude of acceptance. It’s about accepting who you are, rather than who you think you should be, or what your parents needed you to be. We don’t get to choose who we are, and it can take a bit of investigation to discover parts of ourselves which have been repressed.

When you come to a place of acceptance, you’ll find it easier to accept other people and the world around you. Allowing things to be as they are, without trying to change them, is key to a content state of mind. Start with yourself, accepting your own vulnerability, and watch your world change around you.

5) Be the inspiration

Being vulnerable and authentic will set you apart from the crowd as someone who’s not afraid to be themselves. You’ll find yourself inspiring people to also be themselves. You’ll give them permission to create unique lives based on their values and principles.

When you’re not afraid to express yourself, with words, emotions, or artistic creations, you’ll touch people, and move them with your authenticity.

Put yourself out there, and show people that it’s okay to be vulnerable, so they’re inspired to do the same for themselves.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d like to inspire people to look inwards to get in touch with who they really are. And I’d like to see them embrace whatever they find, so they can bring their real selves to the world.

We’re too used to constructing our personas from the outside in. It’s a form of self-control which we don’t actually need. At some point we have to stop and listen. What’s waiting to be heard? What’s waiting to express itself through you?

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Someone I’d love to meet who embodies both authenticity and vulnerability is the Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes. I’m half Irish, and I love playing traditional Irish music for TV recordings and with friends at the pub.

When I first heard Martin’s fiddle playing, I could hear it was different to the traditional style I was used to. He plays in his own unique way. Not to try and be different, but because it’s how he feels it — it really comes from the heart.

He’s a musician who’s learnt to be vulnerable on stage, baring his soul for the audience. He’s an authentic music maker who trusts his own creative impulse, and it moves and inspires his listeners with every note.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find out more about me and what I’m up to here: https://darenbanarse.com

And if you’re looking for a therapist and creativity coach to get you through a difficult patch or to explore your own authenticity and vulnerability: https://intherapy.london

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at angelova@rebellious-intl.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.

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Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.