January 2015

Being Better: Going Authentic

Author: Kitty Bartell

I feel like I am on a constant mission to be honest with myself. One of the most difficult questions you could ask me is, “What do I really want?” My husband may ask me what movie I would like to see. My sister may ask me to pick a restaurant for a girls’ night out. And these are the easy ones. When the soul searching questions of life are presented to me, I am stymied. Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty of opinions and I am pretty savvy when it comes to operating my own life on a day-to-day basis.

However, I am always second-guessing what I really want, because after all, there are other people’s needs and wishes to be considered. (I sense I have a few compatriots out there with this same malady.) I can find road blocks anywhere I choose to look for them, and can drive my friends and family to distraction trying to make them happy, while rarely identifying what would actually please me, no matter how much they plead.

I would like to change this about myself, and in order to be better at being my true self, I will have to plant my feet and feelings firmly on the road to authenticity. I will get started by looking at five crucial areas that could use some attention.

First, I will redefine my values. What do I truly care about? On a global scale, I would like to think that everyone could have a roof over their head, food on their table, peace, and love. I deeply value these privileges; however, I understand the scale of that mountain is a little too much for me to climb alone, so I will begin at home. I recall consoling a distressed friend whose husband was angry with her, and her children were a mess, because she was always away from home doing her volunteer job at a local non-profit. I reminded her of the expression, “Think globally; act locally.” Like me, she could see the bigger mountain that needed climbing, but found that until the home-front was in order, saving (or pleasing) the outside world would have to wait.

Next, I will keep an open mind. Rigid thinking—good vs. bad—limits me. When I am limited, I become afraid of showing my true self, and when that happens I will say and do what I think I am supposed to say and do, out of fear of rejection of my authentic self—the proverbial vicious circle. Being better will encourage me to look at all sides and be open to new thinking.

Then, I will make a list of the things that could fill in the following blank: If you really knew me, you would know this: ____________. I will then bravely share my answers. It will come as no surprise to my cohort that I do truly love to read. However, it may be surprising to learn that I love to do that reading all alone, in the morning, with the bedroom door shut to the world. In fact, in a perfect world I would very much like to be left alone until noon. Don’t get me wrong; I love sleeping next to my husband, but in the spirit of being truly authentic, I really like it when he gets out of bed first and I have the bedroom to myself. I imagine myself emerging like a butterfly from her cocoon, refreshed from bathing in words and personal projects for the first few hours of the day. Ahhh … in a perfect world.

Then I will work on noticing when I am being authentic and when I am not. Being better will require listening to that little voice in my head, no matter whose voice it is that I hear. Recently, my dad told a story about the little voice in his head guiding him. Dad had met a man outside the stadium where he was trying to sell a ticket for the seat next to him at a rather choice football game. After some negotiation, the stranger purchased the ticket, and sitting side-by-side in the stands they found some common ground and chatted amicably. Sometime during the conversation, Dad came to the realization that this fellow fan had drained his financial resources nearly to the bottom of the barrel in order to have a seat at the game. That’s when Dad heard a little voice in his head telling him to give the money he had received for the ticket back to the man … just because.

It wasn’t so much the story of the ticket and its price that really caught my attention; it was Dad saying that the voice he heard in his head was my voice. It was my voice reminding him to be authentic to his already innate spirit of generosity. It isn’t as though I created Dad’s authentic inclinations; however, if I had not previously demonstrated empathy, or had hidden my own compassion, he never would have heard my voice—it probably would have been someone else’s. I am grateful that it was me, and that my actions and words were sharing glimmers of my own authenticity.

Finally, I will work on trusting my intuition. For me, intuition is that gut feeling that something feels just right. To wait for and work toward those genuine, green-light feelings requires tremendous patience. This is challenging because I am always thinking about the me that I would really like to be, not the me that actually is. The gurus of authenticity tell of the riches to be had if I patiently accept my own authenticity while waiting for those mercurial nudges, and learn to act on them when they appear.

Being authentically better equates to being genuine and real, and nowhere will that be more beneficial than in my personal relationships. Absolutely, some of my authentic choices will be unpopular. So be it.

To those who object … tough. Being authentic means I will have to release my grip on the mantle of making everyone happy, and it will be required to let go of people-pleasing. Further, if I want to attract authentic relationships into my life, it’s only fair that I try to get there first. Clearly, being authentic requires acceptance of my weaknesses; however, equally important, it requires acceptance of my strengths as well. 

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