In the process of change and growth in relationships, authenticity is a vital, yet difficult, attribute to develop. In his book, Becoming a Whole Man, David Matheson states, “To be authentic means to live out of the core of who we truly are, undistorted by our shadows, wounds, or symptoms. It means being the real thing—being genuine or pure. It’s something more than blunt honesty. Rudeness is sometimes honest. Rage can be honest, so can hatred, lust, and selfishness. But authenticity represents the highest and most mature level of ego consciousness of which we’re capable. [It] springs from the guiding self that exists at our center.”
I wanted to share a personal example in my own life to show how authenticity can change relationships for both the good and bad but ultimately lead us to healthy and happier lives. This experience occurred quite recently.
During my first year of college, I moved in with my best friend (let’s call him Joe) and his brother. The three of us started to get pretty close over the coming months and their relationships had become important to me. After several months, some friends from their hometown started to move into the complex and what began as a small group of guys hanging out became quite a large one. At one point our apartment complex needed us to switch apartments. So, on moving day, I headed down to the office and asked what apartment I was moving into with my friends. They told me Joe had told them that I was moving into a different apartment with some people I had never met prior to this.
When I had confronted Joe, he told me that he wanted to move in with his hometown buddies and he didn’t have the heart to tell me. I was devastated. This overwhelming feeling of rejection overtook my body. I decided from that day to lock my heart up and keep my distance from my friend emotionally. I told myself that it was too difficult for me to be emotionally influenced by him any longer. Over the years I started to distance myself from him more and more, and he eventually moved away so we rarely spoke after that.
In spite of my efforts to distance myself, Joe has been pretty persistent these past several years in keeping our friendship alive and has always done well to call me and ask me about my life. Joe had apologized for his actions previously in our apartment turmoil, but up until a few weeks ago, I had been avoiding his calls. At first I wasn’t consciously aware why I had been avoiding his calls because I had thought I had done my own therapeutic work already around that fateful day. However, I had recognized some fear I was experiencing every time I thought of calling him and knew there was some unresolved work around this.
So, I decided to be vulnerable and authentic with him about my fears. When I spoke to him, I apologized for avoiding his calls and told him that it was a result of my hurt around that fateful moving day. I told him that in spite of his apology, my body obviously wasn’t over the issue and that I was currently working on it. I told him that I felt it was my issue and asked for his patience. He was able to respond warmly and told me, “If I had been a better friend, you wouldn’t be feeling this way. I want you to know that I love you and think of you as one of my best friends.” I told him that if it weren’t for his willingness to see how I was doing on a regular basis, I would have made excuses not to call. I told him that I loved him too and that he was important to me. His words to me were exactly what I needed to hear, and I felt my fear dissipate. We have talked quite often since, and I felt that our conversation was just what I needed to resolve my fear. Joe was able to validate my hurt feelings, and I felt a connection with him on a higher level than I have ever felt with him previously.
I hope my story will help each of you get the courage to take the risk and become vulnerable and authentic with the people you care about. It will bless your life. I believe that authenticity in relationships can help increase your own feelings of worthiness as human beings and help you on the path to becoming whole.
Many individuals have spent a large portion of their lives trying to be the types of people they believe others want them to be. They do this to gain acceptance and love from those around them, but in this process they forget their true selves. It is as if they’ve locked up their unique true selves in a prison inside their unconscious mind, in order to protect it from danger and avoid acknowledging it any longer. If we’re able to open the prison door and listen to the part of us we have kept locked up, we will come to find that the true authentic versions of ourselves are actually the versions that people desperately want to see and come to know.
The road to authenticity can be a difficult journey, and it may include letting ourselves become vulnerable, sometimes even to those individuals who are capable of hurting us. This journey may require us to explore the pains of our past. However, if we let our true selves be seen by others, and take the risks required to connect to those people who are willing to see us for who we really are, the ultimate goal of becoming whole and finding lasting happiness will be much closer than we have imagined possible. So, let’s find relationships that encourage us to become genuine and authentic. These are the relationships that are so vital to our success in living up to our whole potential as human beings and obtain the happiness we so desperately desire in a world filled with constant turmoil and chaos.
This video clip from the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” addresses the concept of authenticity in a really unique way. Check it out.