The challenge of being authentic

 © Jenn Shallvey

© Jenn Shallvey

I genuinely believe every day is an opportunity for a new start. Whatever I did yesterday I get to do differently today. Mistakes made can be learned from. Moments of joy can be carried forward and celebrated. The common denominator is me. My decision to focus on today not yesterday. 

It is easy to get trapped in the oh my look what I have done mode (or a more strongly worded criticism). I do this sometimes until I catch myself and pull myself out of the downward spiral. Negativity seems to simply breed more negativity. When it’s just me creating it then why in the world would I want to do this? 

Return on time well spent

Well somewhere deep in my psyche I know. Years of therapy, personal growth and development gave me glimpses. Add to this insight more years of study and learning about why people do what they do. The shaping of my life and it’s journey pointed me in this direction. And so here I am. Right now in this day with the power to choose. I have the power to choose how I want to live this day. 

Just knowing viscerally this truth is a game changer. Yes. It can shift my well being an entire compass point or more. I am off in a new direction. More so I am repointed along the path I intend and wish to follow. If I choose.

What guides me?

Much. I write a lot about ‘listening’ to self. You would think that my whole point is to remind you that that voice in your head is your friend. It is. Yet for some reason we let that voice in our head take over no matter what it is like.

In my experience when the voice in my head is not nice to me that is not me. Well it is a part of me. But it is a byproduct of a lot of other factors. It reflects what I choose to pay attention to and take on board. It reflects years of influence by people and forces stronger than I at the time. It reflects the undeniable strength of culture, place, environment and the external world.  Yet these forces are exactly that - external.

What is inside of me is me. The innate me is untouched by external forces. It is pure. The knowing of me is therefore the life pursuit. When we are able to be in a clear, genuine relationship with our self we can then better and more likely express our true self.  

Other influence

Because the power of others is so strong in our life we are also shaped into the person others see. This happens so early in our life that it is a challenge to break free and discover our real self.  It can be the transfer of values, the imparting of beliefs and principles, judgements, political views.

The actions of those around us are even more powerful. That old adage of what you do says more than what you speak is often true. When we are around people that influence us with their actions we can become a person like they desire not how we desire.

An observation

So I sit here writing as my way of expressing and dealing with this observation.  I am often reflecting on what person am I being. By myself it is easy. No one else knows. With others though there is a dance. There are so many other factors-for another discussion.  

One observation is we meet at a superficial level in many ways. Guarded by layers of self protection we show people what we want them to see. This is our personality. The behaviours and actions can be so well managed that they become entrenched and we are unaware.  Where did these behaviours originate from? When did these ways start? How different in your actions and thinking are you from what others see?

The 'profile chick'

I used to do a lot of 360 degree feedback facilitation. I did so much of this work I joked that I was the ‘profile chick’. Company calls me up, I administer profile, deliver the feedback, coach. In a big program there would be many people over many days. At times it could seem impersonal, but it wasn't. 

For me each individual encounter was so not just about ticking the box for feedback in a coaching session. It was a rare and privileged opportunity to witness and be with the real person. Perhaps it’s my style, perhaps it’s my way but I would say 95% of people I met  in these sessions were authentic, genuine and open. I also was 100% adamant that no matter what anyone asks my greatest duty of care was confidentiality. I still adhere to this today. I have long since shredded all documentation, deleted files and let go of the knowledge I had of these people. I had lots of knowledge. Somewhere in some external profile system this data still exists.

The real feedback is not on a form

Yet what is not captured anywhere other than in my memory and experience and that of the other person is their insight, their awareness, their change in knowing. The opportunity to unearth a gem of this nature is what made the work worth it.  Now I no longer choose to use these tools and instead use intuitive questions. Yet I know that there are many people administering these aids helping people with this first step forward towards greater self awareness. Whether required by a company or chosen by one self, the journey to self awareness takes courage.

With this example of feedback I still think there is one crucial element at the crux of the authenticity challenge. What do you know about yourself and how much do you want to be aware of this right now? It is your choice. It is your choice to decide ‘who I am’ with others is also ‘who I am’ inside. The gap can be closed. At risk is the direction we go in to do so.

Closing the gap

When you seek to close the gap by meeting the expectations of others this is suffocating in the long run. When you seek to only be you defiantly and aggressively it also can be isolating. Either extreme is in fact that, an extreme. Instead I feel that the expression of who we truly are comes to its fore in the exposure and sharing of it with others. By being with others we test out our knowing. By sharing with others we discover our differences and similarities. By being with others we can learn how to be a community of individuals together.

Idealistic, right?

Of course. I am always idealistic. It is my Achilles heel and my great strength. Yes I have the belief in the positive outcome, an aspiring to be utopian world. I also am a practical realist when I have to be. Have to be means so I can cope with the world that is actually around me.

I share this reflection as an invitation to you to consider your journey of self awareness. What openings and invitations have you had? What are the moments where you can see the you created by external influences? What are the ones where you feel the inherent knowing of the real you?  

Then once you have a bit more insight how will you choose to be today? Tomorrow?

One more thing...

As a side note I have another invitation. I opened up a survey for people to have their say and participate in a conversation about authenticity. I called this The Authenticity Initiative. If you feel inclined I would love for you to contribute your words of wisdom and insight. The survey only takes about 5 minutes. Find out more.