Allowing myself to become more vulnerable and being real are all part of an ongoing process of self-discovery. With an intense “Be Strong” driver running through my veins (almost as ferociously as the adidas three stripes!), I still have trouble, sometimes, relating authentically to family and friends, when I feel a little disconnected……now, how’s that for honesty, for you!?!
Over the years, especially in my role as a psychotherapist, I’ve come to realise that this inability for people to be truly authentic is usually because one (or both) is valuing self-protection over connection as a way of being.
Asking the following two questions have been key to my unlocking what “being real” is all about:
- How different would my behaviour be if I valued connection over self-protection?
- How different do I need to be with this person to allow them to feel safe enough to value connection more than self-protection?
Daring to get close to others lies at the root of authenticity, but not everyone feels safe enough, emotionally, to do this. For those of you who want to become more real, here’s a beginner’s guide to authenticity!
- Start with yourself – being authentic begins with being honest about what you really think and feel. Keeping a journal is a useful way to ask yourself some questions to draw out your true reactions. Why not start with these? ……What emotions did I feel today and why? What was the best thing I did today and what was the worst? The one thing I don’t want anyone to know about my day, today, is……. (fill in the blank).
- Choose wisely – identify some safe people in your life. You will want them to be people who are trustworthy, kind and non-judgemental.
- Take the first step – the next time you speak to one of those people, go one step deeper than you usually would. For example, if your normal level of sharing is 4/10, ask yourself what could I share to make it a 5? Then, next time, go for a 6 and see how that feels.
- Express your feelings – when you’re sharing, make sure you mention your emotions, both good and bad. “When A & B happened, I felt X, Y and Z.”
- Be brave – being vulnerable can feel quite uncomfortable, especially when you’re starting out, so be bold and persevere. It’s like using any muscle you haven’t used for a while – it gets easier the more you exercise it.
- Encourage others – help those around you to be authentic with you. Be curious about who they are and what they feel and be supportive when they share their emotions or any other such information with you.
- Be kind – as you attempt to live more authentically, always be gentle with yourself and others…..and remember, being flippant or discarding their comments in a jokey manner, in order to deflect the issue and protect yourself, will only have them close up as they begin to doubt your emotional trustworthiness. You may think you are the most trustworthy person in the world, but your own need for self-protection means you may never truly connect with others at a deeper, more meaningful level.
Being authentic does mean taking a risk. If you value the relationship, surely, it’s worth that risk?