A significant challenge for many of us is to decide when to be our authentic selves and
when not to. We would like to think that we are our real authentic selves most of the time, but when we really take a look, are we showing all of our sides, inside and out, most of the time - or just the ones we feel comfortable showing?
Maybe it would help to start with an even bigger question; "Why be authentic and real in the first place?"
That's a great question. Simply put, relationships are the key to all success, happiness, fulfillment, peace, and anything else we may be aspiring to as human beings. To be successful or happy, we need others and effective relationships with them. To be fulfilled and at peace, we need ourselves and the relationships with ourselves. How we relate to ourselves and others is critical and the keys to any highly effective relationship are trust and authenticity. Unless we choose to be aware of all sides of us and to share all sides with others, we remain stuck and caught in our own fear and self-judgement, making it difficult to trust ourselves. When we are stuck in this way.... being who we want to be, doing what we want to do or having what we want to have is nearly impossible.
Alternatively, when we identify and show all of our sides, essentially we are saying, "I love myself, I accept every part of me and with this acceptance I trust myself and am confident in showing who I really am, regardless of what others may think or say..... and I am not afraid."
Being authentic with ourselves and others is critical.
So after we choose to be authentic and trust ourselves, the decision then becomes when to be real. As a member of the metaLyf Community, we have access to metaLyf Leadership groups, where like minded people come together to give and receive support, while together making a bigger difference that we can make on our own. A key component of these groups is creating a trusted environment where every member can be themselves and share and receive support for those things we keep from most others in our lives. In one of our recent groups, the topic of when to be authentic came up, with some perspectives of needing to create 'boundaries' with certain people - and essentially not be fully authentic with them.
There was some great discussion around when and with who it is appropriate and when to hold back that prompted some additional thought. In doing so, I remembered some wisdom I received from a few mentors recently around the subject. As mentioned earlier, the less we are authentic, the more we are judging ourselves and the less we trust ourselves, which impacts every area of our lives. Does this mean we should go 'open kimono' all the time and bear all our emotions and thoughts to everyone? No, not at all. However, it is highly beneficial to consistently strive towards being able to open our kimonos more and more as a significant component of our growth.
So how do we choose who to be authentic with and who not to? For this answer, there are 2 simple rules of thumb: 1) Share to the level that that person has earned your trust - then go 1 small step further and 2) Share only what will not harm anyone in the process.
For example, in our groups, where it is wide open kimono for most, trust is at a level where we can bear all. However, if what we are sharing is of potential harm to someone in the group, it need not be shared. An different example is sharing with someone at work - if they have earned your trust to the level that you can tell them about your pet rock habit, share it with them, and don't forget to go 1 step further and mention that you know the rocks love you back (rocks have feelings too).... At the same time, even though telling them your plans to break up with your significant other and how that is weighing on you will not harm them specifically, they have not earned your trust to that level yet, so hold back being fully authentic in that area at this time. In both examples, we share 1 step past our comfort zone applicable to the person(s) we are with and we avoided sharing anything that would be of harm to them.
At the end of the day, the more authentic we become, the more we trust and love ourselves and the more our lives become who, what and how we want. Strive to push ourselves in this regard each and every day and strive to be leaders by going 1 step further than our comfort zones - to inspire others to be authentic as well. While doing so, boundaries are important when based on level of trust earned and impact to others, however, boundaries based on our own fears of showing who we really are should always be broken through. When we do, who we want to be, what we want to do and what we want to have all become possible.
Keep goin! Be Authentic.