One of the biggest impediments to human associations is the unwillingness to say what you think and request what you want.
Notice how I phrase this. I say ‘request’ what you want. None of us are entitled to something—time, or anything else—from another merely because we want it. But we are entitled to ask. The person is equally entitled to say no.
I’m not just speaking of strangers here. I’m talking of family and loved ones, most of all.
We are all autonomous individuals and love chains nobody to us, nor us to them. Presumably, desire and motivation do—but desire, motivation and love are not (or should not be) chains.
If I ask somebody for something, I’m counting on one very important thing: If they say they’re willing to do something, then they mean it. We’re all entitled to this authenticity from others. But most of the time, we don’t get it.
Does this mean that most people are willfully malicious and seek to lie? No. But the unfortunate lack of authenticity from people is what leads to problems.
Being inauthentic is a form of lying, even if you don’t have malicious intentions. Like regular lying, the creation of one inauthentic statement leads to the ‘need’ to create others—in order to disguise the inauthenticity of the first.
For example, ‘Oh, I love doing that with you. Let’s do it again sometime.’ The truth might be different. ‘Good God, I hope I don’t have to do that again.’ And then wouldn’t you know it, you’re invited to do the same thing again! You dug this hole yourself.
You might sometimes run into passive-aggressive behavior with another. In other words, they repeatedly say they want to do something, or that they like something, but their actions suggest otherwise. They fail to show up, or they show up late, or they seem half-hearted about it.
Usually the best way to handle these situations is to say, in one form or another, ‘Please be straight with me. I’m OK with what you say. Just be honest. That’s the only way we can resolve this.’
I call it the invitation to authenticity. Fancy term, but it really means something.
It applies to every kind of relationship and association from the most intimate to even, at times, the more distant and professional.
People will say this is risky. ‘I can be authentic, even in a calm and diplomatic way. But the truth sometimes hurts and you’ll lose people for it.’
If you lose somebody because they discover something about you that they don’t like—but it’s something YOU like just fine—then you should lose them. It’s OK to lose people, when keeping them in your life would require inauthenticity on one or both of your parts.
The truth always works even when it hurts. If somebody rejects you for something you’re proud of, then you don’t want that person anyway. If somebody rejects you for something you’re ashamed of, then it’s something you should have been calling to your own attention in the first place. By rejecting you for it, this authentic person did you a favor.
Yes, the truth can hurt—but hurting is not always and necessarily bad! Hurting is often how we grow, and get to a place where we’re stronger and even hurt much less.
Running from the truth, with self or others, is what creates the buildup in stress, anxiety, depression, and all the other things psychology and psychiatry attempt to treat and talk about. Inauthenticity is a game that takes too much work. It’s ultimately destructive.
One caveat: I don’t mean to imply by ‘being real’ that you go out of your way to give unappreciated advice or tell people things they have not asked your opinion about. That’s not what I’m saying here.
What I mean by being ‘real’ is never saying or doing anything that isn’t part of your authentic self. You don’t have to impose yourself on others; but you don’t have to fake it, either. Faking it is what I’m against.
Keep it real in your relationships with others. You’ll lose some others along the way. But the ones you keep will be so, so valuable. And your self-respect will shine brightly throughout your life.
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