In a recent article, I stated that being authentic and honest with others stems from a strong sense of self-esteem and self-respect. People with poor views of themselves tend to be phony, and pretend to like people or things they really don’t. It’s only the people with strong self-regard you can count on to be real, I suggested.
One reader replied: “Ahh … hadn’t linked authenticity to regard-for-self like that. Makes sense though. Maybe I need to think through my concept of authenticity some more. I thought of it more in the realm of full-disclosure/truth.”
Think about it. It takes courage (at least from a group conformity point-of-view) to be honest with someone. “I know you like that movie; but I didn’t. If you’re interested, I’ll explain why.” Or, “I know you like Phyllis. But I don’t feel the same way about her.” Or, “Can I make a suggestion? I didn’t want to be silent, because you might think I agreed with what you said. We don’t have to talk about it, but if you’re interested, I will.”
Such courage can only come from confidence in your own mind, your own perception and judgment about some aspect of reality. Pick out any confident or successful person in the world (someone who accomplishes something real), either from the headlines or your own personal circles and you’ll find that confidence. I guarantee it.
These are the kinds of things you don’t find with a great number of people, sadly. Why is that?
My view: It takes self-confidence to say these things. Without it, you won’t go that far. Why not? Because someone might reject you for saying such things, for making waves or dissension.
If you have self-confidence your reaction to this will be, “So what if someone doesn’t like me for what I think or say? If it’s really me, then don’t I want to know they dislike the real me?”
Most people, I find, don’t have the presence of self to even get that far in their thinking, or attitudes.
Then there’s the question of spending time with people whom you don’t really like. You might think, “I don’t like this person. But I have to pretend I do. Others seem to like this person. And what will they think of me if I reject him?”
Emotions contain thoughts like these. The problem is, they’re so lightning-like that you don’t even realize it. However, your feelings and motivations do contain thoughts and ideas whether you take the time to investigate them or not.
If your thoughts and ideas are self-denigrating, rather than self-respecting in nature, then you’ll default to doing what you think you “should” do. The “should” here does not refer to your own independent, reflective judgment. It refers to the views of some authority figure or entity, in most cases: “the group,” whatever group you consider most important (your family, your community, the people where you work, your ethnic or social demographic, whatever.) The desire to be part of “the pack” is compelling to a lot of people, and this “pack mentality,” when applied to decisions about life or people, replaces what should have been autonomous and independent thinking.
Generally speaking, the more rational, independent and habitually objective a thinker you are, the less you’ll be willing — or even able to stand — wasting one precious moment of your life being fake. When you lack confidence in your own mind’s assessments and conclusions, it’s natural to look at “what others are saying.” The world becomes a place where almost nobody has confidence in their own thinking, and is looking to everyone else (first) to see what they think about such-and-such or so-and-so. It’s absurd, when you think about it. Pack behavior may be necessary and virtuous for wolves and other wild animals. But it’s not the way for humans to thrive and survive.
We’re generally taught that honesty and authenticity are virtues for the sake of others. But that’s entirely wrong. Others won’t necessarily like your authenticity. They will usually respect it, if you carry it around with you in a consistent way; but they won’t always like it. If you’re to be honest, authentic and real, the only possible or compelling reason to be that way is for your own sake. When you are this way consistently, you can live with yourself. And anyone you attract will come to you for the right reasons. This is how you acquire self-esteem: Only via the truth.
The truth. If not for yourself, then for whom? Without respect for self and truth, you just end up being like too many people: trying to be part of the pack. Those are the people you can trust and rely upon the least. Including when it’s yourself.
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