Why is it so challenging to show up authentically, as we really are? Why do we hide behind masks, and appear fake and phony much of the time?
Everyone is born authentic. However, the human condition, i.e., life, often requires many of us to separate from our innate, authentic, natural and spontaneous self – beginning in childhood and moving through adolescence and into adulthood. So, “Who am I, really?” becomes a meaningful and purposeful question.
Many of us don one mask or personality when we’re alone and other masks in the various groups, settings, events and circumstances we encounter along life’s path – at work, home, at play and in relationship. We become confused souls. Role-playing – call it what it is – becomes stressful and exhausting on many levels – mental, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. The truth is many of us don’t really know who we are.
Growing up, we each learned how to please mommy and daddy, or our primary caregivers, to get their love, approval, and acceptance. This was “learned,” not innate, behavior. We’re taught how to act and not act; be one way and not another; speak one way and not another; think one way and not another, and the like. When we behaved in ways we, but not our parents, felt were OK, we were admonished, punished or rejected in some way – verbally, emotionally or sometimes physically. As a result, we became insecure.
Thus, as we grew up, matured and ventured out into our world, we weren’t always sure how to be, or what to say or do, in order to gain the acceptance, approval and acknowledgement of others. Instead of being our natural and authentic self, we began to play out some ideal or image of who and how we thought we should be – images we learned at home which would help us feel safe and secure.
The appearance of who we are
This initial, internalized inner insecurity around adhering to the way our parents wanted us to be – their wishes and demands – led many of to grow up as actors and actresses trying to appear as our self rather than just “being myself. ” Our constant striving to “play the role,” to live up to an image, leads to self-deceit and our being inauthentic. Ironically, as adults, many of us invest huge amounts of time, money and energy searching for who we really are, often to no avail.
Many of us, consciously or unconsciously, obsess over how we appear to others, jumping through hoops to gain others’ acceptance, approval, acknowledgement and recognition. We do, “whatever I have to do” which often means showing up as a fake and phony, role-playing the images that were imprinted or hard-wired into our brains early on.
The obstacle to authenticity
What is it that gets in the way of being authentic? The greatest obstacle is identifying with the self-images we have taken on as a result of our early interactions with parents and primary caregivers, friends, school-mates, and the like – images we then take ourselves to be.
Assume we each have a gallery where 15 portraits of us are displayed. Under each, what label would you affix that describes you (e.g., best mother, excellent leader/manager, smart and well educated, the clown, great lover, the spiritual one, wealthy, the victim, the rescuer, the super-achiever, the rebel, the persecutor, the martyr, the drama king-queen, the denier, the pleaser, etc.)
There’s a good chance most of your labels represent self-images you created early on – not from a place of authenticity, and natural-ness, but out of your need to be “someone,” an imposter or poseur, to gain others’ acceptance and approval. Unfortunately, when you expressed your true self as a youngster, there were often times you did not sync up with your parents’ expectations of who you should and should not be, and were denied love and acceptance. Your solution? Jettison your true and real self and role-play the child your parents wanted you to be – to feel safe, secure, and loved.
So, early on, we became actors and remain actors to this day. The downside is that if we forget our role, “our lines,” we think we’ll lose out on the accolades, recognition, and approval. Many of us feel we have to be “on,” i.e., fake, 24/7, 365 and have become obsessed with our self-images, winding up being someone we’re not. Our fear of rejection is just too great for many of us to bear. So, we resist showing up as our authentic self, for fear of not being “seen” or “heard.” We fear being “invisible.”
When we let go of our mental self-images, engage in the inner, personal work of self-awareness, we re-discover our True and Real Self, and allow our real self to arise, be authentic, natural and spontaneous.
Few of us are able or willing to do this deeper exploration to look at the spiritual truth of who we are. We choose to wear masks and don personas that obscure our authentic, natural and spontaneous expression.
When we separate from our authentic self, this disconnect manifests largely as our ego personality that is constantly experiencing low self-esteem, low self-value and low self-worth which we then try to recover “outside” ourselves – mired in the progressive drug of fakery and phoniness.
One of the reasons honest, safe, trusting and conscious relationships are so challenging – at work, at home and at play – is because many of us are living the “image” of ourselves and cannot or will not show up as real and authentic. It’s like living “beside myself,” unable to be truly embodied within my real self.
All of this may help us understand, on a higher/deeper level why so many of our relationships fail – due to our wearing masks, our living idealized personalities and being unable or unwilling to show up as real and authentic. We get back/attract what we put out.
As long as we protect our idealized selves, and keep imagining ideal relationships and idealized “me”, the honest, conscious communion and connection with our self, and others will remain elusive.
What really does exist, is the possibility to start from who and where we really are and do the work that leads us – psycho/emotionally – to discover our true and whole self.
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Who are you – really?
- Would others agree with you?
- Do you play roles and wear masks in certain circumstances or with certain individuals? How so?
- Have you ever been judged – directly or indirectly – as being a fake or phony? How did that feel? Do you commonly judge others as being fake or phony?
- When are you at your authentic best? What’s that like to be/act that way?
- How did you learn roles, and create images about yourself, as you were growing up? What roles and what images? Do these roles and images serve your highest and best good today?
- What would it be like if you were authentic all the tim
(c) 2014, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, http://www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.