A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were invited to a group dinner that we we obligated to attend. To to be honest, I was dreading it. Meeting several new people while being more of an introverted individual can be overwhelming. I thought to myself, “I thrive off of individualization, small gatherings and authentic conversations, so how could I possibly get enjoyment from this?” After we committed to going, I found myself wishing for gifts that extroverts possess. You know, an outgoing temperament, a bubbly personality, or a heavy dose of cheer at least. Feeling defeated, I figured I would just have to muster through it.
As the night of the dinner came, I was mentally preparing myself to get through the evening. “Let go of your negativity. Just be yourself and everything will be fine.” I said to quietly while getting ready. To my surprise, it worked. In fact, I even found the dinner to be enjoyable. While the typical socially scripted conversations were present, there was more authenticity from others than I expected. One guest was making funny remarks throughout the evening to lighten up the dryness that some of the conversations evoked. Seeing this brought me joy. I love seeing people light up. I love seeing them be their imperfect, candid, human self. This person was not afraid of how these funny remarks would appear. He was just being true to who he was, with kindness of course. These jokes broke the ice and led to an evening full of hearty laughs and good conversation.
This brought me to an important lesson:
In order for others to show up authentically, we need to do the same.
Authentic. We hear this word thrown around and often do not let it penetrate us as deeply as it should. In my work as a clinician, I talk to others about getting in touch with the “authentic self.” This is the self that is the real you. Exposed, peeled back and raw. The you that your family and friends know and love anyway. The you that is genuine, honest, and real.
This is your authentic self.
Unfortunately, we can easily get caught up in showing our picturesque self to the world. The image that is wrapped up perfectly with a matching festive bow. The self we often show on social media, in forums and when we feel insecure. The “perfect self.” Friends, let us not confuse this phony with our authentic selves. The perfect self does not exist. It is an image we can fall into portraying. The authentic self allows for connection where as the perfect self builds walls. People do not connect with the highlight reel that our perfect self shows. Because the truth is we also encompass the raw footage…just like everyone else. When trueness is present, it allows for connection to arise. Just like at the dinner party, when the authentic self showed up, it provided a freshness into our otherwise seemingly “dry” conversations and it naturally led to an enjoyable experience.
While being authentic is crucial, it is important to note that being your authentic self does not mean lacking boundaries. We as humans naturally need to have limits and boundaries in place that keep ourselves and others comfortable. Oversharing and/or overwhelming others by being unfiltered is a recipe for disaster. We can still show up authentically while having tact and a healthy level of reserve.
The truth is, our authentic selves are messy. After all, we are human. When we fail to live up to the perfect self we try to portray, we feel pain and discomfort. We inherently will fail, because being the perfect self is impossible. That is why striving to be our authentic selves in all settings is paramount.