“When there are no enemies within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
- African Proverb
Being authentic or honest can refer to relationships with others or how honest we are in interpreting our own feelings and emotions.
Authentic people are not afraid to be themselves in front of others.
Inauthentic people tend to behave the way they presume others expect them to behave.
Authentic people are approachable. Our inner compass tells us we can trust them and that they are people of integrity.
Inauthentic people are less open and approachable. Since they don’t seem to trust themselves our radar goes off and tells us not to trust them either.
Authentic people are interested in others. Really interested. They make great conversationalists or students as they are truly excited by what you have to say.
Inauthentic people are planning the next brilliant thing they are going to say when you stop talking. They interrupt regularly and tend to hijack the conversation in order to seem clever or funny.
“Today you are you that is truer than true. There is nobody else who is you-er than you.” Dr. Seuss
But surely there are times to be less authentic. Those little white lies we tell like “yes I can tell that you lost 10 lbs” or “I think your new haircut is lovely” are really in a grey zone. Is it more correct to tell the truth or to spare someone’s feelings?
This is where we need to come back to our intention as well as the intention of the person asking. If I ask my husband “does this outfit look okay?” I really want to know. He knows me well and knows that I value his honest opinion. Some women ask the same question looking for a confidence booster when they think they look pretty good but want some reassurance.
When we are not authentic we are really sending the message YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. We are taking others power away by trying to protect them from something we assume they can’t handle or don’t need to hear. Who are you to judge anyone as too weak to handle the truth?
You control your feelings and reactions. In trying to control the feelings and reactions of others, you become a control freak.
And what about lack of disclosure. Where does that fall in the whole truth spectrum? Is it okay to not tell your kids the fish died and replace it with an identical one?
There are no simple black and white answers however here’s a quick list of questions to ponder when deciding how truthful your reply will be.
o what are your values?
o what is important about this to you and why?
o what are your needs and the needs of others involved?
o what are your wants and the wants of others involved?
o what are your interests in this and why?
o what level of intimacy does this relationship have
o what level of intimacy do you want this relationship to have
The second part of the authenticity dilemma, is what happens when our own barometer is so off that we no longer recognize our own likes and dislike? A client I had was the first born daughter of a high achieving family. She was always a people pleaser and liked to smooth things over. She learned to say and do all the things that would please her family and her friends until she had entirely lost the sense of what pleased her. If an average person had an emotional meter that looked like this
ANGRY --------OUT OF SORTS--------SLIGHTLY UNHAPPY-------FINE--------SOMEWHAT HAPPY---- HAPPY
her’s looked like this
ANGRY --------FINE----------------FINE------------------FINE----------------FINE----------------FINE---- HAPPY
When you have this much fine on your emotional radar. You probably aren't really fine and maybe it might be a great time to do a little self examination!
It falls to each individual to set their own moral compass so an excellent exercise is taking time to reflect on authenticity on a regular basis in a meditation or when journaling.