The Truth About Truth And Authenticity

Fall Leaf Reflection at Findley State Park, Wellington, OH - Photo by Todd Sechel

Fall Leaf Reflection at Findley State Park, Wellington, OH - Photo by Todd Sechel

Truth and Authenticity… big buzz words these days… what do these words mean to you? Do you feel you can live your truth and be your authentic self all the time? Do you feel constrained by expectations, work culture, community culture, social goals, etc.? Do you dream of being liberated from the constraints?

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt I couldn’t live my truth… when I’ve felt cut-off from my authentic self. As I developed my life vision, I recognized how important truth is to me, and I made a commitment to myself that I will approach the world with truth and my authentic self.

Sounds great, right? Yes, but as I reflected on what truth and authenticity mean to me, I discovered that truth and authenticity aren’t so straightforward…

 

Do truth and authenticity mean that I say exactly what comes to my mind at that moment? Do they mean that if I feel vulgar that’s how I act and speak? Do they mean that I match an intense situation with equal intensity because that’s how the situation makes me feel?

My answer to these questions is “no” much of the time. Does this mean I’m still constrained? No… here’s the issue… our truths and authentic selves may be exactly the opposite of how we feel we should respond to a situation.

Let’s look at an example that we can all relate to… we’re in a discussion about something that is meaningful to us. Someone challenges us in a way that stirs us up… maybe questioning our motives, character, intelligence, etc. We feel misinterpreted and want to defend ourselves… our blood is boiling. We think of all the reasons we are right. Our negative impressions of the other person start to pop into our minds… how could this person who does this, acts like this, made this mistake, etc. question me??!!!

We may have a great argument for why we are right. It may also be 100% “true” that the other person did something with an unethical motive, has questionable character, and/or has made big mistakes in the past, but is bringing any of this up living according to our authentic selves? Does it help us learn and grow? Is it the “truth” we want to live by?

I hear a lot about authenticity, radical transparency, total truth, etc., and I’m concerned that we’re actually getting farther away from our truths and authentic selves. Some recommend speaking our minds all the time. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mind runs wild and speaking it would not be my truth or my authentic self.

The truth is that the 100% authentic me wants to treat others with love and compassion, wants to empathize with others, and wants to learn from every experience, even the most painful. The 100% authentic me wants to focus my energy on living my vision and doing deeply meaningful and impactful work. The 100% authentic me wants to do the right thing, even when it’s hard…

It’s not hard to give in to petty arguments and to point out others’ flaws. It’s not hard to refuse to listen and drive our point relentlessly. It’s not hard to use vulgarity to get a point across. It’s not hard to use sarcasm to say something we want to say but float it out as a joke in case it doesn’t go over well. It’s not hard to find someone else who’s at fault. It’s not hard to avoid painful lesson by focusing on others’ mistakes.

It’s hard to love someone who’s hurt us. It’s hard to learn a lesson when a comment feels like a kick in the gut. It’s hard face up to our mistakes and admit them. It’s hard to not blame and to take responsibility. It’s hard to listen and consider that our view may need to change. It’s hard to expose our authentic selves without a hard shell. It’s hard to accept the consequences of voicing an unpopular view or concern…

As I peeled back the layers that I had piled on my truth and the authentic me, I realized that some of the things I wished I could have said and done before weren’t my truth at all. I realized that my truth is to love more, be kinder, live without excuses and blame, listen and learn, embrace vulnerability, accept consequences, and celebrate all feedback no matter how painful the delivery.

What is your truth? Who is the authentic you? When we really dig down below the surface and uncover our truths and authentic selves our perspectives and communication may change completely!