Last week we covered “The Secure Attachment Style and Wholehearted Living”, and how living a wholehearted life can have an immense impact on our relationships. As previously mentioned last week, Brene Brown (a psychological researcher that I have tremendous respect and admiration for) outlines 10 Guideposts to wholehearted living, of which we are going to cover one guidepost a week over the next ten weeks. The first guidepost we are going to cover is authenticity; challenging us to let go of what people think.
Brene Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” (Brown, 2010, p 50). Authenticity is about letting go of who we think others want us to be and embracing who we are, our passions, gifts, talents, corks and even our weaknesses. Brene continues to describe that, “authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen” (Brown, 2010, p 49).
I have been familiar with the concept of authenticity for a number of years and I am assuming that it is not a new term for many of you. However, I, much like Brene Brown, was under the assumption that people are either authentic or they are not. I have recently learned that this assumption is not true. Brene has discovered that people actually choose to be authentic. As people, we can choose to be authentic in some situations but not in others, we can choose to be who others want us to be, or we can make the daily conscious choice to be authentic in our lives and relationships.
The choice to be authentic is a difficult one; it doesn’t always feel like the most comfortable or safe option. Many of us learn from a young age that it is easier to adapt to the situation we are in. We master the ability to be like a chameleon that blends into the crowd, and we don’t show people who we really are. To reveal our true self to the people around us means to open ourselves up to vulnerability and criticism, but it is also one of the only ways to experience satisfaction, joy, creativity and connection. Carl Jung, a major influence in psychology explained, “the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Another major influential voice E. E. Cummings wrote, “to be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight—and never stop fighting.” The fight to be yourself is important, not only because the world is missing out on getting the chance to truly know who you are, but more importantly because you are missing out on the joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and connection that comes with allowing others to truly see and know you.
Now that we understand the importance authenticity plays in cultivating true connection and know it is a daily choice, how can we choose on a daily basis to be authentic? Here are a couple of concrete ways you can move towards authenticity in your daily life:
Don’t make your decisions based on what others think.
There is a difference between being aware of how others will perceive and interpret what you say, and actually making decisions and choices based on what others will think. One implies awareness and wisdom in how we communicate with others, while the later is more driven by wanting to please others around us, often at the cost of our authenticity.
Become aware of your masks.
We all have a tendency to put our best foot forward when entering into new relationships and social situations, this is a fairly natural process because we want the other person to like or accept us. Issues can start to arise however, if we are putting on a different mask or persona all together in various social situations. For example, we put on an academic mask around our colleagues when we try to give off a very specific impression, and then with our parent group we try to adapt to who they expect us to be there. In every situation we have a different mask, or we change our colours like a chameleon to fit in and match what others expect of us in that situation. If we can learn to identify the situations that trigger us to change our colours or put on a mask, we can learn to slowly try to be ourselves in those situations.
Learn to tolerate and even embrace vulnerability.
Vulnerability will likely be a theme that weaves throughout all of the 10 guideposts. It takes vulnerability and courage to show up and be authentic. There are risks involved in being authentic. You could get criticized or worse rejected, and therefore being authentic could mean opening up yourself to getting hurt. The alternative is to live a life driven to please others, which is not very satisfying or fulfilling. Over the next several weeks we will talk more about resilience and the ability to embrace or at least tolerate vulnerability.
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying “honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” Being honest and authentic is an important hurdle on the journey to wholeheartedness and connection. It would be awesome for you to comment and share with the other readers and myself, the different ways that you have learned to cultivate authenticity in your own life.
Next week, join me for the second guidepost on cultivating compassion: letting go of perfectionism.
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are. Centre City: MN, Hazelden