You’re going to hurt peoples’ feelings, or you’re going to lie to avoid hurting peoples' feelings.
You’re going to trigger people with your voice, or you’re going to hide your truth to avoid triggering people.
You're going to be yourself. Or, you're going to agree with everyone that being yourself is a bad idea, and try to change the core of who you are.
Both options are hard. The point is you get to wake up everyday and choose your hard.
You also get to look deeper, and figure out why you’re choosing one vs. the other.
This work is critical if we want to have healthier relationships with ourselves and the people around us.
Do you avoid the risk of hurting them out of compassion, or do you fear deep down they'll hurt you in return?
Are you being "authentic" out of compassion for yourself & others, or are you doing it for shock factor and to flex some power? Is that really authentic to begin with? Is it harmful? What is that behavior overcompensating for?
Do you shrink your voice to keep the peace, or to keep the power your social circle gives you for being so agreeable?
Are you changing who you are because they're right, or because you're so afraid of losing people who are wrong about you, you'd rather abandon yourself?
Unpacking authenticity helps us figure out a lot about ourselves, the people around us, and how to navigate the world.
Especially when that very world is burning.
Some things to note during the process of unpacking authenticity:
- Hurting someone’s feelings and causing them harm are two different things.
- Being triggered is a normal aspect of life. It doesn't mean you created a wound. It means you touched one that existed well before you entered the conversation. More often than not, this is accidental. Innocent. It doesn't make you a bad person.
- With that being said, triggering someone by speaking your truth isn’t the same thing as harming someone. It’s reminding them of harm they incurred in the past. This is painful for them. That pain deserves to be respected and held with tenderness. We all have triggers. Empathize with that. And. You did not cause the pain of that wound. You touched it, and they reacted as if you caused it. Notice that. Notice the difference between that and how someone treats you, every time.
- Also notice that they have a choice for what to do with that truth once the dust of their initial pain & reaction settles. (Actually being triggered is involuntary. So no, they don't have many options while activated. Their nervous system is on autopilot. The prefrontal cortex of their brain is turned off). Regardless, don’t try to control their process. Give them space and/or affirm their autonomy as they work their way through it.
- Apologize if you need to. Make amends how it seems fit. But remember that you are not in control of anyone’s healing process but your own. Mean well, show it, and support them in doing what they need to do for themselves. Even if that means getting away from you. Set your boundaries accordingly as well. Oftentimes, space is the safest thing two hurting people have.
- Some days we simply won’t have the capacity to deal with the challenges and pains of practicing authenticity - and that’s okay. Everyone bumps up against that wall, including the “most authentic” people. It doesn’t make you fake or bad. It makes you human. The word “masking” has grown in popularity as a simple representation of this truth. We don’t get to say we mask so much & call ourselves “authentic” as a basic character trait in the same breath. The system and the constructs that uphold it are all designed to strip us of who we are. The system and those constructs get to all of us in one way or another. Let that judgment go.
- Authenticity was never a character trait to begin with. It’s a practice. A value. Something we have to have capacity for. Something we have to choose. As practices go. People who claim to simply "be" authentic without every showing effort toward it, tend to be deeply unaware and inauthentic people. No shade to them. They just have more unpacking to do. Focus on your own practice & let them find their way to theirs.
- Some days you will have the capacity to practice authenticity. Those days will be a lot of things. You will feel a lot of things. It will feel hard. It will feel vulnerable. Afraid. The resistance you receive may feel heartbreaking. You yourself may feel triggered and scare your damn self. Then, it will feel empowering. It may feel refreshingly unfamiliar. You will feel proud. You will feel courageous. You will undoubtedly feel a tad bit more enlightened. You may feel all these things all at once.
- One day, maybe not that day, but one day, you will feel relieved and happy that you did it.
- So, authenticity is always challenging. And, when you have the capacity to handle the challenges, do it anyway.
- Because ultimately, authenticity is truth. Truth is a gateway to freedom. To knowing your own strength. To healing old wounds. To expanding your window of capacity. And to surrounding yourself with people who can be free with you and who can allow you to be free in return. People you can genuinely connect with for who you are, instead of the comforts you bring.
Using your influence to keep yourself & the people around you trapped in a cage of self-sacrifice isn't the move.
Standing in our truth breathes life into our spirits and our connections. Especially if we learn to do it in a loving and respectful way.
Shying away from this practice is a natural move. Have those moments. But it's not the move. Feel me?
It's a rocky road. Have compassion for yourself and those you touch in the process.
Rooting for you.
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