How I yearn to be just one person. I’m tired of censoring myself. I’m fed up with thinking about how to present myself to one person or another.
I’ve had enough of being a different person to everyone I meet. I wish to speak freely, to be myself, to not have to hide aspects of myself and things I’m interested in just because they do not conform to what I perceive to be the conventional reality consensus or what I think someone is comfortable hearing.
Oh how I wish to be one person. I feel like I live in seperate worlds at once. I’m not impressed by my tendency to try and guess what values someone I’m talking to holds and to mould my conversation and presentation of myself to fit. It is not the action of a self assured person. It is not the way of the superior man.
Yet I find myself doing this all the time. I guess we all do it to certain degrees. And of course different circumstances do call for adjustments in behaviour, language and presentation; we’re obviously not going to act in the same way around everyone because society has established roles and expectations and to a certain extent it makes sense to adhere to these – be respectful to a policeman if you don’t want to get arrested, or quiet in a library if you don’t want to piss everyone off, for example.
But I’m not talking so much about these kinds of expectations, although they are related. What I’ve started to become more conscious of is how I often find myself not disclosing things I’m really interested in because of a fear that people will find me unacceptable. It’s a fear of judgement and I believe it comes from a fear of not being good enough, and a desire to win approval from others.
Leaving aside the psychodynamic origins of my fear, a bulk of the discomfort is a result of the fragmented universe I inhabit, and in this I know I’m not alone. I have one foot in an extremely conventional world. The world of nine to five, of office uniforms, of colleagues with Louis Vuitton bags and music ‘talent’ shows on TV, the world of pop culture, of gadgets and fashion. This is where I earn a majority of my income and a few aspects of this I embrace, like my weakness for skinny jeans and a good haircut.
My other foot rests firmly in an alien landscape of psychedelic ceremonies, regular meditation practice, chlorella in my green smoothies, abstention from alcohol, a constant search for existential meaning, no television at home and a conviction that the universe is alive and wants us to realise our own true nature as some kind of divine cosmic creative expression.
You might notice the discord between these seemingly irreconcilable realities.
Now in the workplace I do think it is perfectly acceptable to present a façade to a certain extent. People often like to keep their work lives and personal lives separate, and many just like to turn up, do their stuff and go again. I can understand this attitude. I think it’s boring and a waste of an opportunity to share experience with other human beings but I understand. Similarly, I think that hurling my guts up on ayahuasca in the amazon jungle is a topic I can safely leave out of discussion at the weekly team meeting without castigating myself for being inauthentic. The professional world, for good or for bad, has certain expectations and not adhering to them could make you extremely unemployable. I’m not saying I agree with this culture, just that if I want to get and stay hired I should probably not disclose the aforementioned psychedelic ceremonies. Ultimately of course our workplace should reflect our values but that’s another story and not everyone is able to achieve this.
Where I have noticed myself not being so authentic is for example when I am out with certain friends, talking with colleagues or meeting new people and I don’t discuss my daily meditation practice, my interest in self development or my disdain for the values of the predominating worldview of our time, when I have the opportunity to do so. I believe I have interesting and important views on such matters yet I turn away from articulating them to many people because of fear of how someone will respond and what they might think of me. It’s a fear of not being accepted and I’m guessing if I think like this there must be a fair few others who do the same. At work I present a ‘safe’ version of myself that I know falls within expected norms. I think I’m worried people will think I’m strange or deluded. I’m sure many people have similar fears about being authentic or acting as themselves, which stem from a range of reasons.
It strikes me though that the man I want to be, the strong steadfast man I’m striving to make reality, would not censor himself out of fear. His imperative would be to express himself truly, boldly even, having confidence in his values, in what he believes to be true, and in what he knows to be the right way to live.
The man I aspire to be is fearless in his independence from what others think of him. Not in an aloof, arrogant way, but because he knows himself, he has established what he values and the reasons for that, and has developed the strength of character to not fear rejection. It is the hallmark of someone who has grown out of insecure ways of thinking and of someone ready to make a mark on the world.
In addition, being courageous enough to be honest and authentic give others permission to do the same. It creates a space in which it is safe to speak from the heart and without fear of judgement. Imagine how much richer our conversations would be if we all spoke our truths! Imagine what we could learn from one another. Also imagine how it would be to not have to constantly worry about whether the person you are talking to will judge you based on your words.
Now I’m not advocating spilling your life story to the person sat next to you on the bus, but imagine how much deeper our friendships would be if we refused to sell ourselves short with superficial conversation and instead revealed the things we care about, are concerned about, hope for and dream of. Maybe as a result we would stop feeling so isolated from each other, we’d realise more of the humanity in others, and we’d realise we’re not so weird after all. Maybe we would come to realise that neglect of the inner landscape of the human condition in favour of superficiality and sales by our society’s mainstream culture is a grave misrepresentation of what it means to be alive.
I know I can’t be the only one who thinks like this. This is something everybody deals with in varying amounts – the invention of our many personas and their presentation to the external world; deciding how we define ourselves to others. Being authentic, being truly one person, seems to me to embody a powerful way of living. It promotes harmony in our inner lives and states our belief in what we hold to be important.
I think it is a necessary and empowering stage on the journey of our conscious evolution, and might enable a much more profound and richer engagement with life. Fear based patterns of thinking that inhibit authenticity are undoubtedly strong, but we can chip away at them each and every time we refuse to be quiet, each time we say what we really think, and whenever we go against conditioned instinct and boldly display our authentic selves.
7 thoughts on “On Being One Person: Reflections on Authenticity”
I fully agree with all you’ve said. I know what you are describing to be true as I have had to face the same experience because I was always afraid of coming out to people as gay and that touches a lot of what you have shared in this blog. But in the end I too strive for authenticity and if the price of that has to be losing some friends and being shunned by others and commented upon behind my back so be it. I have gained freedom, self-respect and peace in the depth of my being – and that sense of dignity and authenticity actually is priceless! I’m not sure it is about being strong in any conventional or accepted understanding of the term and I’m not too sure I care about that, simply because I now value vulnerability as strength and see my apparent weakness as something precious. I no longer strive for perfection in the ways that others might but I look for fulfillment through relationships and am very grateful that I count people like you among them!
Thanks for sharing these great words Gerry! Much appreciated. As you’ve described great treasures are in store for those who find the way to authenticity!
You have no idea how much this post is *me* right now. Thanks for sharing, and hope you find your answers soon.
Thanks for this Ness, it’s good to know others connect with what I write. Wishing you all the best for embodying your true, authentic self in the world!
Thank you on behalf of all of us, for speaking up and reaching out! What you describe is something that I too and as you say, many others surely, have found a real challenge on this inner journey over the years and even to the point of pulling me away or off that path altogether at times. It takes a lot of courage to accept that in speaking out, you may alienate and push many others away. But perhaps that is something we actually need to go through to overcome that fear of rejection (which keeps us stuck and ruled by the mind) and ultimately hopefully break some of the attachment to ‘this reality’ which in itself could be preventing us from truly breaking through to the bliss of the other side.
What I have observed within my own process is that with each significant shift internally, my intention and motivation to cut right through each layer of conditioning and belief system that was handed to me, without choice, gets stronger. So then the will and motivation to make the changes I think are needed to try and resolve the feeling of wearing all these masks also gets stronger. Unsurprisingly some people will back away, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable with that, but the plus side is that others will be drawn to our lives by nature of the law of attraction – like minded vibes finding each other.
As you say though, the work question is harder, as there are certain rules of ‘etiquette’ in the workplace, but my own experience with this has been to try to drip feed bits of the real unmasked me there when it seems appropriate. Actually it’s not been such a bad thing, and have had the pleasure of watching a handful of people think a little more about something they otherwise would have dismissed.
I really do feel this is just a little of what we can do to make ripple changes in our world. Championing and standing up proudly for what we believe rather than shrinking ourselves to fit with a way of Being that we don’t feel comfortable in anyway.. By doing so, how wonderful it would be if others started to be drawn to that flicker of light and start asking the same questions of their own lives and our purpose here..
May we all find the courage and strength to let this beautiful message shine out and hopefully touch others struggling on their paths too. This is one important step – writing about it! Thank you for paving the way 🙂
You just say to the world…’Deal with me!’
See if this resonates with you http://www.dyad.org/d04process.htm
Dyad is one of the most powerful meditation techniques I’ve ever done. It’s life changing, incredibly challenging and absolutely wonderful.
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