““To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”— Brené Brown
Thanks, Brene, but how in the hell do we pull off this magical deed? How do we become mindfully authentic? Simply by virtue of recognizing our limitations? By mindfully stepping into our imperfect skins?
Jean-Paul Sartre offers us some clarity in his concept of “bad faith.” In existential thought – a form of philosophy which reigned supreme in the mid-twentieth century – authenticity is the degree to which an individual’s actions are congruent with their beliefs and values, particularly in the face of external pressures. In other words, to adopt false values and disengage personal freedom under the pressure of social forces is an act of bad faith – therefore, living an inauthentic life is a social prison of sorts, rather than the freedom that should organically be found in relationships.
In my own life, I’ve developed a 5 step lifestyle to BEAT bad faith and to awaken personal authenticity and relational freedom; I’d like to share them with you:
- The Courage To Be Disliked
- The Courage To Engage People
- The Courage To Accept Others
- The Courage To Teach
- The Courage To Speak
Yes, I know I added an “s” but whatever, it felt right so I went with it. Plus, I can’t say let’s BEATS bad faith, that’s a grammatical disaster and sounds stupid.
In any event, It takes great courage to forge a BEATS-oriented life, yet true and lasting security comes with a cost – paradoxically, it’s a sacrifice of that very security. That’s the nature of courage.
The Courage To Be Disliked
Okay, so cats out of the bag. A BEATS-life is a vulnerable one. Step 1? It’s ok for folks to not like you!
Life Principle: If you focus only on the deficits of your character, talents, intellect, etc., you are merely concocting reasons to hate yourself.
Maybe we do this to exclude ourselves from others, particularly perceived societal expectations?
Maybe to avoid responsibility and it’s inherent risks?
Maybe a need to overcompensate and provide an alibi for overwhelming feelings of inferiority and inadequacy?
This is what is commonly termed an “inferiority complex” and most of us have it to a certain degree.
It’s best to think of it as that obnoxious voice inside our skull that speaks to us in our own voice. You’ve certainly experienced it as the psyche battering ram wielded by the ego to cause maximum self-condemnation and relentless self-induced torture.
Yup, that voice…call it the Super-Ego, The Judge, Satan, Sin Nature, Maya, whatever, you want. Rational Recovery refers to this entity as “the beast.” I’m not going to lie, I’m quite fond of that title.
Ironically, and hopefully, not discouragingly, the advent of authenticity is the courage to allow this voice to be!
I know, I know. You want to eliminate it. Adios, ciao, bon voyage, au revoir, ha set, or how my grandmother so thuggishly concludes an interaction: see ya later, alligator.
Unfortunately, this voice is a part of us. We can’t fight it. Instead, we have to courageously permit it to take a seat in the committee between our ears and not buy the insane shenanigans it’s pushing…
People may not like us. We may not like others. We can’t all get along, but we must never sacrifice originality for social acceptability: we must always be our own person, allow the possibility of rejection, and let the voice chatter away.
The beast hushes up anyway once it stops getting fed with our attention – but not without a fight!
The Courage To Engage Others
This step naturally follows the first. To engage others we must first accept the fact that they may not like us. It’s also valuable to grasp that rejection has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the rejector. Armed with this understanding, compassion should be generated, not fear.
Life Principle: Everyone is attempting a life of authenticity. Some people are trying to be courageously authentic and others are driven by fear to appear courageously authentic.
But in any event, we are a social creature and can’t escape interaction with others. If we weren’t social at heart then any talk of authenticity would be frivolous. This does not mean we need to be working the crowds like Obama, it just refers to a human need which I termed “emotional sociality.”
What the heck does this mean?
Emotional sociality refers to a basic need that exists within every human being that can only be satisfied within a community. We tend to put social connection higher up on the hierarchy of needs, but I’d argue it’s on the bottom with the other necessities for survival.
It could be broken down further into two main social-emotional needs: individual contribution and group identity.
Individual contribution is what we personally offer society and it is where we derive purpose. This is why someone who plays video games all day in their mother’s basement often has a bleak outlook on life. What purpose exists in an artificial world of games?
However, if that same person starts a YouTube channel creating visual guides and walk-throughs this can create not only income but a sense of purpose and meaning.
Moreover, purpose and meaning are the elements that forge a healthy group identity. But in this day and age, we find ourselves on a slippery slope. This is due to the fact that as a society we no longer identify ourselves by our group, but now our identity is centered around attributes: the most stylish, the best athlete, the killer musician, etc…
Additionally, this attitude fosters a constant state of guilt for always failing to be the best and live up to unreal expectations. Instead, if we can merely focus on what we personally contribute in the present moment, we will find our identity satisfied at the group level and if we can implement step one we can circumvent the unhealthy expectations.
Courage To Accept Others
This step is a corollary to the first, namely, the courage to be disliked must accompany the courage to engage those whom we dislike.
That is, we learn the practice of unconditional acceptance in general, and more specifically, of others.
Recall, if in this scenario we are the “rejector” then the emotional pushback we are feeling has everything to do with us and nothing to do with the individual being rejected.
*Of course, if you get punched in the face, anger is a rational response. However, apart from this extreme, the truism holds*
It takes great courage to love even those we loathe and if we are to maximize our contribution we must learn to adapt and adjust to the myriad of conflicting personalities around us. In short, we need to meet people where they are. I’m certainly not advocating for passive resignation or total nonviolence. I’m just saying in most situations the old Golden Rule rings clear: do unto others…
Yet, this is just a tiny aspect of why this step is important.
Life Principle: People are mirrors, at least in the sense they reflect our internal condition. To conclude, if we examine how we respond to the character of those around us, we might just find out a great about our own character.
The Courage To Teach
I’m not affirming here that we should be going around like Socrates teaching everyone the folly of their belief nor am I declaring that we should be providing advice to everyone on a range of topics we know nothing of.
I’m simply saying we should always remain teachable. Which makes no sense, right?
That’s a negative ghost rider. The most crucial aspect of being teachable is the willingness to hold views confidently. Additionally, the conviction to share them with others must accompany this confidence. I state this for two primary reasons:
- We change when we teach. For example, if I’m learning how to communicate more effectively and I share (teach) what I’m learning to my peers, it will not only strengthen my understanding but most likely enlarge it as others engage and interact with the same material.
- We have to believe something with conviction. Authenticity refers to stating confidently what you believe, with tolerance and a willingness to compromise if the evidence warrants.
We aren’t a pushover that just believes whatever we are told. We have our convictions. We voice them. We teach, we learn, and we grow.
The Courage To Speak
We finally arrive at the real vocal McCoy. The ability to communicate effectively can not be overestimated. This doesn’t mean we have to use grandiose verbiage and carry around a thesaurus to the most basic of conversations.
But it does indicate that we have to practice the old saying, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” Within this pithy verse are the three points to communicate with purpose and authenticity.
Say what you mean: in order to say what we mean, we must first understand what we are saying! If we are to be powerful self-advocates we most certainly need to be informed as to what we are advocating. We don’t blindly assert our opinion and allow those in opposition to make mincemeat of us.
As mentioned in step 4, we become convicted in our beliefs as we share them with others and interact with opposing views. We humbly compromise where the evidence warrants. Why? Due to the fact that we believe in something because we’ve examined the evidence and think it leads strongly to our particular conclusions. In turn, this is the producer of confidence and strengthens our frail and stuttering voice.
An excellent resource to improve self-understanding: The Spiritual Discipline Of Self-Examination
Mean what you say: western culture has bred a population whose main dialectic is a vernacular of ambiguity. This is probably due in part to our politically correct climate and progressively liberal ethos – I’m not sure.
However, political correctness is not meant to silence but to refine and to increase the possibility of more dialogue. Progressive liberalism is designed to create system evolution, not system stagnation.
If we are “feeling” a certain way, then we state how we “feel.” We are careful not to make demands or set a yoke of unreasonable expectations upon others.
It’s important to note that a crucial component of communication is the capacity to listen. Understanding precisely what behavior or thought it is we are responding to is obviously important. Failure to listen is like driving a car to a specific location but having no idea where that specific location is. Madness!
When we communicate right when we can truly say what we mean and in the same vein truly understand what the other party is saying. It follows, then that communication has one primary agenda: connection.
An excellent resource for being able to communicate to connect: Tony Robins Key To Communication
Don’t say it mean: the first point is a call to grow in emotional intelligence; the second in cultural intelligence; and lastly, to grow in interpersonal intelligence.
Indeed, the third point is a mixture of the first two, which makes sense. The journey is as follows: understand you, understand them, and bridge the gap. It’s almost impossible to draw hard and fast rules for this stage of communication, but it’s fairly simple. I like to call it “talking with love-intentionality,” however, a dear friend of mine who is a bit more callous and blunt struck the nail on the head when we boldly mumbled, “man, just don’t be a dick.”
An excellent resource for not being a dick: How To Win Friends And Influence People
What are you waiting for?
Jettison the life of bad faith.
It sure as hell BEATS the alternative…
Timmy G (2020)