Are you? It could be a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but for many of us, the reality is usually “Huh? What does that even mean?”
We don’t – at least I don’t – know what that means sometimes for ourselves. But, ironically, we know VERY well what it means for other people. We have this radar that senses quite accurately when someone is being authentic or not. We see this at gatherings, especially the holiday parties, when someone is acting out, showing off or hiding out miserably in the corner. Those aren’t their authentic selves and we know it.
But we put up with it, or laugh along, or ignore them, knowing it will be over soon enough. We like to be with people who are being authentic, who like themselves, and who let us into their world with a little vulnerability – whether it’s a wise understanding, a short story of imperfection, or a knowing nod.
We can tell quite easily when someone is being authentic. Again, it’s like radar.
We know when a person is telling a story that rings true because they’re feeling confident, even a little bold sometimes, they’re seemingly happy, and they may even be glowing a little. That’s a story that we’re likely to listen to, enjoying the experience, and even resonating with it a bit.
It seems like more and more people are telling their “stories” – some with great success and others with more mixed reviews. I’ve been thinking about this lately because of some of the news that’s come out about certain celebrities and figures in the news. Their story rings true when they ring true, too. If they’re fearful, lashing out, or complaining bitterly about all the things that life has thrown at them, we tend to recoil. It’s just a natural reaction. No one likes to hear dirty laundry aired just for the sake of media attention. It’s downright cringe-worthy!
And the #MeToo stories seem to have a very authentic ring to them. While the hemming and hawing from a number of their predators just rings hollow. It’s hard to ignore. But fairly easy to recognize which are authentic and which are not. The authentic stories – whether from men or women – are having a very real moment BECAUSE they’re authentic. No more hiding; no more telling part of the truth. It’s whole truth and nothing but the truth that is capturing the world’s attention.
And here’s why it feels authentic: When the story-teller is telling the story as if it’s their “hero’s journey”, that’s a story worth listening to. That story-teller is one who has lived through the crises, taken responsibility for their actions and then figured out a way to tell a story that doesn’t scare people but empowers, educates and makes a distinction for them that’s new and different.
That’s a good story!
We can all learn from those stories and we really have a thirst for those. Just look at some of the numbers on social media. The best You Tube videos of the year happened to include “Shape of You”, lots of late night comedy (which thankfully can be DVR’d for the early-to-bed set) and the Tweets heard round the world. Hmm…not one campaign ad! Many uplifting, empowering and generally positive videos amongst the “reality” of nasty politics, divisive issues about the police and terrorists, and lots of war-torn areas around the world! What a year it’s been! It has seemed chaotic at times, but Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times last week had an op-ed called “Why 2017 was the Best Year in History” – because poverty rates, illnesses, clean water and education availability are all better than last year and continue to get better! That’s a good story, too!
And yet, the background to a whirlwind year for the planet is: what happened for you? How did you progress – or not – this year? Were you able to get closer to the real you? Did you make yourself a priority even a little bit? Were you able to do more of the things that make you happy – and less of the things that don’t? And if we’re so good at seeing other people’s authenticity, why can’t we see or manage or improve our own authenticity more easily?
So, back to the authentic you and me. What is it that makes the story authentic when we’re not exactly sure who we are?
If we break it up a little, we’ve got being authentic vs. knowing who we are. We can solve the second part first with a humble but blatant plug for Human Design. That can help to figure out who you really are by delving into the details of what makes you tick. What makes you the unique you that you are and the parts of you that will never change. So that’s settled?! (click here if you’re ready for a new year and a new session on Human Design.)
Once you know who you are, the rest of the journey to authenticity is easy – or at least easier. When we know who we are, it feels good because that’s who we’re supposed to be. It’s not forced, it’s just a natural way of being.
That’s part of the reason that the ones we like the best tell their story most comfortably. We even call it “comfortable in their own skin” when an actor or author or anyone matures into their roles. They figure out who they are, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and then do it with grace and ease, wisdom and confidence. The confidence comes in part from performing their role – whatever industry they’re in – with competence. Once you’re competent at something, you gain confidence. And the competence/confidence cycle continues on to make you a “natural”.
But that “natural” title that we give people who seem to be happy in the work they do is a bit of a misnomer, or at least an overstatement. They are happy because they love what they’re doing. They didn’t choose something that they hated, and make themselves fall in love with it. They naturally gravitated toward, and made a choice, doing something that they already loved, or at least liked doing. And then the doing became a joy for them.
It’s one of the reasons that I’m such a fan of getting kids exposed to as many things as possible before they reach high school. Many of us don’t find what we love until our second career, and some are serial lovers, with many careers in tow! Whatever feels right for you, whatever makes you happy is the real you asserting itself!
Yes, it’s a cliché by now, but do what you love and the rest will follow. If you are the one celebrating your own energy – fully, without holding back, and being the you that you were born to be – no one will look away – and it will be a great story!