Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Being Human Part 4 : Being Authentic - Is It Truly Possible?

Beautiful Peacock Feather
Is It Possible To Show Our True Colours At All Times?

This topic came up recently between my friend and me and it made me think. What is authenticity and can we always be truly authentic?

I think I mentioned in another blog post recently how some of my TV role models are the characters Phoebe from 'Friends' and Miranda from UK TV sitcom 'Miranda', both honest, authentic, always real, always themselves. But what does authentic mean? Does it mean we express all of who we are all of the time? Or does it mean we express our most wise, peaceful, open-hearted self, or is there a lot more to this being authentic malarkey?

Many spiritual and self-help teachers profess the need to be authentic and how important it is, but after a trip up north to see family I realise being authentic is not always a) welcome or b) easy. It made me wonder, perhaps we don't need to be outwardly authentic all of the time, but to be aware when we are not being a full version of ourselves?

Not everyone relates to us and who we really are. Let's be honest, how many of you have family who totally relate to you? Your inner thoughts, your deepest darkest secrets, your inspirations, your interests? They say we can choose our friends but not our relatives, but I feel we also choose our relatives to learn a lot about relating and relationships. I can probably be said to be a bit quirky (some would say a lot!), a bit strange sometimes; sometimes my imagination and the way I look at the world pretty much does not match with probably 99% of the world's population, so I have to make some changes in my relating to the world.

For example, when meeting family, you may want to tell them about your latest insight, your dream, your mind-boggling idea, but you know none of them understand what you talk about, and none of them are really that interested, but you are family, you want to keep in touch, you want to still connect with them. So to me it is all about being a shape-shifter, but being a conscious shape shifter - not a people pleaser.


Beautiful Rainbow Chameleon
The shape-shifting chameleon

Shape shifting and camouflage are great ways of fitting in, but knowing consciously that you don't fit in, you're not trying to be someone you're not, but you are also not trying to be something simply because others want you to be. You are simply mirroring the situation and environment, blending in, wearing a conscious mask for the sake of social lubrication. There is nothing wrong with this, but is it still being authentic? I would say yes. You know who you are, you're choosing to shift into that environment in a way that is comfortable for you, relaxing into what is. You are not resisting or trying to force your views, your daydreams onto people who are clearly not interested.

Now if I did something else; if I met family and spoke all about myself, all about my inner world, my insights, my ideas, my meditation practice, I know what would happen. Eyes would glaze over and I would feel a resistance to what I was putting out there. Most people are interested in their own lives, sad, but true, so instead I become a social chameleon for my own self preservation, for now anyhow.

We can make conscious decisions to connect with like-minds where our real authentic selves shine out. And I know that in time this will spill out into everywhere we go, much like Phoebe, our families will naturally experience who we really are, but this too takes time to adapt and shape shift into.


Communicating Personality/ Ego Or Wise Self?


I always felt being authentic meant being someone 'wise, loving, caring, peaceful' and so most of the time I was not my authentic self (in my 'perceived' view of authentic).  I was faking it till I made it. But now, little by little, day by day I feel being authentic is 'what is' going on within me in each moment.

This can mean making mistakes, being strong, being fiesty, kind, blunt, unkind. Yes, unkind. Sometimes my ego/personality communicates in an unkind way, but for such a long time I beat myself up for it and this regular beating simply amplified the outer unkindness because if I am being unkind to myself (aka thrashing myself inside), how can my outer communicative self possibly express consistent kindness to the outer world?

This does not mean I deliberately choose to be rude or angry when communicating with others. But sometimes we have an automatic flow of expression, not filtered, still having our old conditioning there, and so it just happens, but now there is no more beating myself up for this. If I chose to only communicate when I was feeling kind, caring and loving, I would pretty much be mute for most of my life, because to be frank I am not always kind, caring or loving to either myself or others. I can be mean, which reflects my inner meanness, but this is slowly changing as I evolve and grow.

As I come from the North East of England (Newcastle), I recently became aware that other than basic life conditioning and patterns from earlier life, we often have cultural conditioning and programming, and while I often don't feel that my communication is aggressive, it can seem that way to others who are not from the area I grew up in. We Geordies (people from Newcastle) can be bolshy, outspoken, strong and fierce in the way we communicate. This is not a flaw I now feel. I used to think it was, when my best friend who I share a home with would interpret my communication with him as rude or snappy. Inwardly I was not feeling that way but my verbal style was from my Geordie heritage. A lot of headstrong characters from a deep historic past have affected my communication style, and I soften it as I become more aware of it, but sometimes it is automatic and unconscious.

Embracing


Embrace Your Shadow Side
To accept who we are, we need to embrace our shadows and love our wholeness.


Once we are able to embrace our backgrounds, our heritage, and the reasons we communicate in a certain way,  then there is room for us to change and evolve. Peace and love come from allowing who we are. Acceptance is key. We can be authentically open-hearted once we embrace our shadow self, our 'perceived' dark side. 


"The curious paradox is that when I accept just as I am, then I can change."
~ Carl Rogers~

So to me authenticity is a bigger topic than simply 'be yourself' or be your best self. It begins first with awareness.




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photo credit: Bill Gracey via photopin cc

photo credit: DavGoss via photopin cc

photo credit: Copyright 2013 Kelly Martin

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