Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Lost Art of Authenticity

Watching little ones play I see true authenticity.  They are genuine and true to themselves.  They have not ingrained societal norms into their brains just yet.  If they want something, they ask for it.  If they don't want it, they might throw it.  If they are happy they jump, skip, sing and laugh.  If they are sad or hurt, they cry, scream and carry on.  They truly are genuine.

And then we step in.

Adults teach their kids acceptable behavior.  Manners, if you will.  We restrict emotions and behaviors outlining time frames in which they can be displayed properly.  We even go as far as squelching some entirely due to societal pressure.  I have heard many a parents tell their young sons to "man up".  Do not cry, do not show vulnerability.  Be strong.

My theory?  When we do this over and over the result we are looking for will occur.  We will kill their authentic selves.

Maybe that doesn't matter.  Maybe that is what we are supposed to do as parents.  Who really wants their adult kid sitting around picking his nose in public or farting at the restaurant dinner table?  Obviously some of this structure is required.  But where do we draw the line between creating acceptable mannerisms and altering authenticity?

My fave definition of authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures;  a particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas.  Being REAL.  

I'm sure you are thinking of at least 3 people you DON'T want to see their real selves.  I know I did.

For me, it's a life quest.  Once I slid past the age of 40 I am constantly reevaluating myself, my environment and my authenticity.  I am tired of societal norms which define me.  Who says what a perfect mother should be?  Who defines a perfect wife, a perfect friend, a perfect sister?  And my most challenging question:  who really, really will love me as my true authentic self?  Have I become so good at fulfilling my roles that people may shrug away from my true person?

When you ask yourself that question, be prepared for the answer.  It may not be what you want to hear.  These roles we take on as siblings, parents, spouses, etc. are exactly how we are defined externally and some people cannot see beyond them at all.  We are stage actors, playing parts we have fallen into.  Some people stray so far from their true authenticity that they may never even find it again.  I'm not even sure they realize it's lost.

I hope that's not the case for me.  I strive to be real, to be true to myself.  I'm sure it may not always be favorable to everyone else in my life but it does mean everything to me.

As I rode in the car with little guy last night I took note of his authentic self.  He was singing at the top of his lungs (sometimes WAY off key).  He was dancing in the car regardless of who pulled up next to us.  He didn't alter his behavior even as I giggled and told him he looked like a dork.  He was his true self.

I'm going to work hard to not squash that in him.  Society will do it enough... I don't need to do it, too.  His goofiness and light hearted nature will serve him well in knowing his true self in adulthood.  I'm so jealous... it's taking me decades to try to get back to my true self.  I"m thankful for still having time to figure it out.

How authentic are you?


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