The Path (Back) to Being Authentic

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Being authentic is only difficult when we believe we need the love, approval and acceptance of others. When we fail to give this to ourselves, we find it difficult to remember we are worthy and ok being our authentic self.

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.

 — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Many people are born into families where they feel a deep incompatibility with their parents and with society as a whole. They think, feel or believe differently but in order to feel safe and loved and a sense of belonging and significance, they choose to give up at least some of their authenticity and feel shame about both the adaptation and who they are in reality. They then repeat this pattern from a deep internal desire for healing and wholeness. This is a tough thing to understand and unravel. But doing so is key to finding and living a life you love and relationships in which you find significant compatibility and joy. This requires previously unprecedented levels of curiosity and compassion.

In my work, we use a temperament tool to help people understand their key values and priorities so they can embrace these. In this process, everyone discovers core differences and comes to understand why with some people we find instant compatibility and with others it feels harder. When this happens in a healthy community, these differences become gifts to one another and are considered when specific tasks and roles are needed. In this example, I discovered my temperament happens to be somewhat uncommon. It was a relief for me to learn and own this.

We should all be so lucky to seek to understand each other in families and in our community settings. It would be amazing if we could commit to be curious about one another from birth, rather than set up a dogmatic set of rules for which people are measured against and molded into. The conviction to create conformity and the masks that come from this, makes it very scary to be authentic. Without curiosity and appreciation, people naturally think, speak, feel and act to fix, convert, heal and change one another and chaos, blaming and disharmony result.

An example in my life was when was growing up, I was expected to be Catholic and a conservative Republican. This was not always compatible within me or not fully, but there were scary messages that if I didn’t conform to this, my very soul was at risk of annihilation as was my esteem in my family. It is often in our original families where our authenticity takes significant hits and for which we often adapt to survive. This causes wounding in us; a disowning of who we really are and confusion about love and partnership. Then adapting to please others can become both our expectation and our modus operandi. It can even seem as if we are not meant for this world because we have imprinted within us who we are supposed to be, even if it’s not who we actually are.

The path to authenticity is to become curious about yourself and become honest about who you are and express it openly. This may be frightening because in doing so, you will find who you are truly compatible with and who you are not. You may discover incompatibilities with one or more of your children, parents or siblings. It might be with your faith community, political party, or your sexual orientation. To be curious about who you really are and to honor it is not a path for the faint of heart. And… it is the only path to true happiness and becoming your best for the world. It is only when you seek and choose what is true for you in your thinking and feeling that you can find your place in life and realistically navigate relationships without enmeshing or rejecting yourself and others. Loving people does not mean you must be compatible with them. Loving people means that in authenticity, you find ways to create harmony or lovingly accept when you cannot and honor and love some infrequently or from afar.

For me, all of this led me to the creation of systems for safety, openness, and appreciation for differences, which help people onto the path of becoming authentic and knowing it is good. Let me know if I can help you with this in your life or work. We need the real YOU!

This article was published in the column Emotional Intelligence in The Women’s Journal, Jan/Feb 2020.

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