Fifty Two: Authenticity

“How would your life be different if…You approached all relationships with authenticity and honesty? Let today be the day…You dedicate yourself to building relationships on the solid foundation of truth and authenticity.” – Steve Maraboli; Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Today I spent the day with a friend who has struggled to become a more authentic person. The difficulty, for her, is not in speaking her truth but in maintaining relationships amidst this. Ask yourself: how authentic do you want the people in your own life to be?

She had been an acquaintance of mine for years, and then I saw her at a playground chewing out a friend who took and took and took from her without giving. She laid it out on the line for this woman with brutal honesty and a lawyer’s finesse. It was refreshing and the awkwardness of her having impartial witnesses to the experience prompted her to reach out and talk to me about it. The experience kindled a friendship between us and we’ve been close ever since.

The first time I went over to her home she shared her story with me. I have a knack for this, perhaps, by virtue of my under-utilized journalism training. She made herself vulnerable. I appreciate that tremendously, living in a world where many fear vulnerability and intimacy. Interactions without vulnerability become flat and robotic, and I am more than guilty of this in many situations. For me, building a situation imbued with vulnerability takes time and thoughtfulness and a great deal of emotional fortitude, and I’m not always game for ante’ing that up.

I need friends that are authentic. That might not always mean that they have their shit together, but they will share their struggles and let others in. Being in the presence of that allows me to process just how to engage in more authentic conversations and behaviors myself. I once lead a training on public speaking in which our guest speaker talked about the roots of public speaking fears. If you watch a fearful public speaker, his eyes will dart around the room. His heart rate will speed up and he might be seen to be sweating. He is every bit an animal who is looking out for a possible attack. Successful speakers hold visual contact for longer stretches of time. They breathe. Pause. They acknowledge the possible threat and move on with things.

My friend is very assured in what she says. She is not callous, and yet I’ve seen how in speaking her mind she has isolated herself from others who cannot handle the honesty. It is unfortunate, and yet isn’t this relationship culling something that happens throughout our lives? We look for others who match our level of desire to be authentic. Some people want complete sincerity and truth-speaking. Others want praise. Still others need something in between.

Do you use an authentic voice? Do you search out authenticity in others? And does your authenticity depend on the situation you are in?

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