We’re given those messages and we think we agree. But what happens when we actually do come across someone different?
Here’s what we say:
“Oh my gosh, look what she’s wearing!”
“Did you see the color of that house? Ugh.”
“That idea will never work–we’ve always done it this way.”
I remember an incident in high school. We went outside for a science class and while walking through the teachers’ parking lot, we came across a car that stood out from the others.
It was older, beat up and painted funky.
Our teacher immediately was in a huff, mumbling that students weren’t allowed to park in the teachers’ lot. He took down the license and reported the car to the office.
It turns out that it was a teacher’s car. But our science teacher assumed it wasn’t because it didn’t conform to what the other teachers were driving.
I guess the real message is, “Be yourself…as long as you conform.”
So we continue the mantra of “Be yourself,” but we’re often too afraid to do so.
We’re afraid of…
being laughed at,
being yelled at,
being told our ideas, dreams or desires are too lofty, too unrealistic, too narcissistic, too dumb, too _____.
Thus our fear of authenticity grows.
And rightly so.
Remember taking a test that was graded on a curve? No one wants to find out they’re at the bottom of the group.
So we wear masks and are afraid to reveal who we truly are…because (gulp!) what if we’re at the bottom?
There’s risk in dropping our mask and conformist ways. Being authentic can be painful and it takes inner strength to begin growing authentically.
Becoming authentic is important to our well-being.
Psychology Today says, “It’s [authenticity] also a cornerstone of mental health. Authenticity is correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills. Acting in accordance with one’s core self—a trait called self-determination—is ranked by some experts as one of three basic psychological needs, along with competence and a sense of relatedness.”
Sounds kinda important.
Living An Authentic Life
So what’s it really mean to live authentically?
I think it’s an inner journey and not so much what we present on the outside.
Some people try awfully hard to be ‘different’ for the sake of being ‘different’. While there are others who put all their energy into being accepted and fitting into a certain social group.
The outer presentation is the focus. Sort of like those suburbs where all the houses are the same. Strict rules must be followed in order to keep up the proper appearance.
Self-awareness is key to living authentically.
Who am I?
What am I about?
Why am I here?
If we don’t learn to ask ourselves these questions and search for answers our lives will end up being lived with regret.
Becoming self aware is learning what our gifts, talents, skills and passions are. It’s knowing what you value and what your needs are.
There’s also the flip side. Self-awareness means acknowledging our shortcomings, failures and blunders. There’s pain in that.
No one wants to say the words, “I failed.” But it must be done if we are to live authentically.
Self-awareness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s part of our growth process as human beings.
But we have to be open to the process and be willing to see what really makes us tick.
What is your mission? Why are you here?