Something that I strive for in my life is showing up as my authentic self, my whole self. This is not as easy as it sounds. You might think that showing your authentic self to the world would be the challenge, but actually, revealing yourself to yourself is where you hit the roadblocks. And there are a lot of roadblocks. It’s like your ego will do everything possible to prevent you from seeing the truth about yourself. Revealing your authentic, whole self is like peeling back the layers of a very big onion…but if you are focused, determined and able to face the reality that the traits you find abhorrent in others are most likely traits you are reluctant to recognize in yourself, well, there might just be some hope…
Why am I convinced that you will find uncomfortable truths about yourself? Well, you’re human aren’t you? And humans are a mess of contradictions. We don’t teach children that it’s normal and acceptable to feel angry, selfish, jealous, hurt, and sad; we stifle these emotions in our children and distract them when these feelings naturally emerge. We force children to ‘share’ when they don’t feel like sharing, say “I”m sorry” when they aren’t sorry, and exchange their tears, anger, and hurts for a new toy or a scoop of ice cream. We’re programmed from a very young age to stifle the not-so-sociable aspects of ourselves and ‘play nice’, and we grow into adults who are still pretending that we don’t feel these feels. This brainwashing creates adults who hide their negative emotions to present a mask of only good qualities. Is that your whole self?
Let’s get real. You are not always honest. You are not always kind. You are not always helpful. Sometimes you feel jealous. Sometimes you feel envy. Sometimes you don’t want to share. Sometimes you gossip about your friends and family. Sometimes you lie. Sometimes you steal. Sometimes you take pleasure in hearing about someone’s misfortune. Sometimes you use other people to get what you want. Yes, you are racist. Yes, you think you are better than others. Yes, you are impatient. Yes, you make bad decisions. Yes, you always think you are right. But odds are, you are not right all the time. And odds are that you are not always honest or trustworthy or responsible.
I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad. Bad is what you’ve probably been feeling because of your refusal to accept and integrate all aspects of your personality. And this refusal to accept is one of the prime reasons that our interpersonal relationships are often shallow and short-lived. We present our ‘best self’ to others instead of our authentic self, especially when we first meet them and particularly if we are romantically attracted to them. Then we pull out all the stops to show how intelligent, attractive, clever, funny, and witty we are. Oh yes, we are quite the catch! But we can’t keep up that facade forever; sooner or later life happens and something not-so-pretty emerges. Maybe we act selfishly with our partner or tell a ‘little white lie’ or criticize them or diminish their feelings. And maybe the slip of this facade makes them question whether or not they should stay with us – or the slip of their facade makes us question whether or not we should stay with them, because we actually expect our partner to be patient, understanding, altruistic, honest, loving and giving 100% of the time. Do you see the problem here?
We live in a dualistic world. There is good because there is evil. There is light because there is dark. There is happy because there is sad (and vice versa). Logically it would follow that for all the good, kind, loving, and giving parts of us, there will be an equal amount of bad, unkind, indifferent and selfish parts of us! And it’s the sum of ALL our traits that make us whole. Why are we pretending that this is not so? I want a relationship where I can bring ALL of myself to the table and my partner will do the same. No more hiding from myself or from others. I want to know that when I’m not living up to my ideal version of myself, it’s okay and my partner can observe me, accept me, and forgive me (if necessary) – and also call me out on any bad behavior that I am not acknowledging. This is one of the ways that I grow and become a more aware and authentic me.
Getting to the point where I can observe my strengths and weaknesses without stifling or judging them and being able to observe the same in others without criticizing or demonizing is one of my personal goals. This doesn’t mean that I don’t improve upon or diminish some ‘bad’ qualities in myself. But I have to acknowledge that those qualities exist before I can take any action. If I hold myself up as someone who ‘never tells a lie’ then how will I ever be able to stop lying? First, I get honest with myself, all else flows from there.
Osho, the Indian spiritual teacher and philosophers said it like this: “…you have to put in front of him not only your flowers but your thorns as well. After all, what will you do with the thorns? The thorns are there….When you say that your trust is total, that there is no doubt in you at all….you are telling a lie. Maybe you don’t know that you are telling a lie, but a lie it is – for it is impossible in itself. The day you say…’Here is my trust and here is my doubt, I lay them both at your feet. These are my wounds and these are my joys, I bring them both to you. Now I keep nothing from you, I stand totally naked before you.’ This is authenticity, and this is what it means to be authentic. And only through this authenticity can something valuable happen.”
For more articles on your authentic self, check out last month’s post!