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Have you ever had someone get in your face about something they perceived as a short-coming or failure on your part?
I mean, really get in your face (my mom would call it “giving you the business”) to the point that you were so uncomfortable you wanted to run, defend yourself, or punch them in the throat? Only to have that person end said “in-your-face-ness” with, “sorry, man, but I’m just telling you like it is. I’m just being myself and I’m not going to lie or be fake with anyone.”
I’ve had a number of these encounters throughout my life, and never once did I think, “gosh, this person’s opinion of me is so validating because they’re so authentic. I should really listen and take this to heart.”
Though I may have taken it to heart and decided to believe their lies in some cases (that’s my own issue), they were being anything but authentic or real or “themselves”.
Sometimes those who most fiercely protect “who they really are” and battle it out for acceptance, are truly the least likely to be themselves. They’ve created a story they tell themselves and tell the world, and that story is a lie they replay in their minds over and over and over again so that their true, authentic, real, raw, flawed, hurt, broken, damaged, abused, rejected, bruised, aching, tormented, anxious, imperfect, struggling self will never be exposed.
This is why it’s so much easier for them to stand in their carefully crafted version of themselves and lay blame or point fingers or pass judgment on everyone else, all under the guise of “being real.”
This article on Psych Central titled, Being Authentic, Not Obnoxious, takes a look at how many people claim their authenticity when the truth is that it’s an escape from themselves. That colleague who “just wanted to point out” something trivial “to help you”, needs to do these things so that we’re not paying attention to the fact that he feels completely inadequate and insecure every waking moment of his life.
Check out the top Google search results I came across while doing research for this article:
This might suggest there are at least a handful of people who don’t want us to know who they really are.
But, shouldn’t you be yourself?
Unless of course you’re really sure of who “you” are, and you’re sure that the story of yourself is in fact true.
Most of us have crafted a story surrounding the “who” that we are. Those stories include things that help us “fit in”, rather than be accepted.
More often they include what we “are not”.
We’re all familiar with those defining moments where we eliminated the “who I thought I really was” from our life stories. They’re so enmeshed with our past narratives we can pinpoint the year they happened.
Like that day in 7th grade when I was told by a classmate, “everyone thinks you’re so smart, but you’re not. You’re stupid.” And I believed him. It became a part of my story for a really long time. Or the time a well-meaning (I have to believe she was well-meaning because I choose to believe she wasn’t actually this cruel) college academic advisor explained to me that getting into the College of Education was very difficult and that I may want to consider a route other than teaching. I immediately let the fact that it would be too difficult become “true” for myself and changed my major immediately. I never became a teacher.
You have those stories too. I’d encourage you to read this post by Brene’ Brown, with excerpts taken from her new book Rising Strong (August 2015, Random House Publishing Group) about The Most Dangerous Stories We Make Up.
Rising Strong, by Brene Brown, available on Amazon
Seriously, shouldn’t we be our true, authentic selves?
Ask yourself what that really means, and then ask yourself if you’re ready.
Being our true, authentic selves can mean wrestling with vulnerability, with brave acts of courage, with feeling exposed.
Will you be rejected? Embarrassed? Afraid?
And quite possibly by those who mean the most to you. By those you’ve known and loved the longest. Or by those you think that you want to “fit in” with.
Being our authentic selves can mean making radical shifts in how you’ve lived your life thus far. Shifting the careful steps and measures you take to project a persona everyone has bought into.
This article on Tiny Buddha titled, What It Means to Just Be Yourself and 3 Ways to Do It has some excellent suggestions and insight. In it, the author suggests that it is a challenge, but in the end, “who I naturally am without anything else added is perfectly okay.”
I believe that is easier said than done. I know that for myself it’s a constant work in progress, but I wholeheartedly agree that it’s probably worth the effort.