Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

Always Ask the Question

December 1, 2015

Awhile back, I was talking with someone about entrepreneurship and building a business and they shared with me a story about someone who managed to get her product into a big catalogue simply by asking the owner if they might consider offering it amongst their other merchandise. The takeaway from this interview was, “Don’t hold back, always ask the question.” There are so many questions we don’t ask, either of ourselves or of others.


Questions are dangerous things because once asked, they hang there waiting for an answer. And sometimes answers, if given honestly, may present us with clarity we’d just as soon not have. As re-booters, it is these inconvenient answers that are so important to our reinvention process. “Am I ready for this? Can I take it on? Am I brave enough to try?” If we can’t see ourselves or our situation clearly and honestly, we’re just spinning our wheels. The enlightenment, the ah-ha moment, that can follow from a surprise, scary answer can change the course of our lives (or at least our thinking).


Recently, I was talking to a fellow about a serious decision he is preparing to make in his relationship. “I don’t want to be the bad guy,” he confessed, agonizing over when to pull the relationship rip cord. We went round and round about this for awhile and then I finally asked him, “Well, what if you are the ‘bad guy’*? Is that something you can’t live with? What would it mean if you were (or at least that is how others might perceive you)?” As the reader of this post, you may substitute any condition/status/interest/opinion. Perhaps, deep down, you are (gasp!): gay, fascinated by serial killers, talk too much, drawn to some weird religion, into D/s, Democrat, Republican, still play Dungeons and Dragons, hate being a caretaker, love reality tv. Or maybe we need to be willing to ask ourself whether the person we’re dealing with is who they present themselves to be? What if my confident, opinionated husband actually has no direction or ambition at all? What if my boss isn’t the loyal stalwart they claim to be? Am I willing to acknowledge this as a possibility? It’s not that you have to tell anyone else, but at least tell yourself. The point is to explore whatever it is we shudder to admit about ourselves and be honest about the answer. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, can it really be that bad?


For me, admitting that I wanted to be a writer was a really big deal. Even saying it out loud, today, feels scary–especially in a place like Washington where everyone has ambitions and where there are “real” writers who publish real books and make real money. Saying that I am a writer may not be as scary as admitting I might be a Republican or like to watch reality tv (and I’m not admitting to either, fyi), but so what if I were? Absent a few roles where you’re harming other people, surely our ego can withstand the possibility that yeah, in this particular instance, we are selfish or indecisive or have engaged in some behavior that would put us in a less than an ideal and flattering light. This is true of us all!


Is it the end of the world? No!


What the act of articulating such answers does is free us up to live our lives from a more authentic place. Heck, we may even summon the courage to stop fighting this part of ourselves. Maybe you have no ambition and are ok with living your life in a drift-less state. Articulating and admitting such an answer to yourself may help answer why you feel so stressed all the time when your spouse asks you what have you accomplished. (Whether or not your achievement oriented spouse can continue to live with you is a different matter.)


I know so many people who haven’t been willing to ask themselves the important questions: what do I want? What sort of person am I really? How does this support or conflict with my image of who I am? Is what I’m doing, is the direction I’m currently heading the one that truly suits me? And we have to be brave enough to listen to the (sometimes terrifying) answers that burble up. But then, we have to summon another dose of courage and ask ourselves—if we are displeased or unsettled by the answers we receive—if I am this way, is that really so bad? Why do I fear this?


Whoa, Nelly, these are some big ass questions. The answers may throw you…but they also might open new worlds of possibility.


So, circling back to the top of the post, there’s our successful entrepreneur encouraging us to always ask the question. Here I am encouraging you to truly listen to the answer. Whatever it is, it can’t be so bad. It just can’t. You’re you, you’re fine as you are. You can handle it…


* Note: for purposes of this post, I am not saying that this person’s characterization of themselves as being the “bad guy” is even correct. Maybe they’re not the bad guy at all, but they’re doing something hard but necessary. What’s important for purposes of this example is how they perceive it.


The Authenticity of a Sometime Friend

May 16, 2013

Halfway measures get a bad rap. Often perceived as more of a failure than success, we tell ourselves that if something is only halfway, it somehow doesn’t “count” or isn’t “real.” While many Re-booters have realized that working towards any aspiration is positive–even if we haven’t fully crossed the goal line–we get far more confused when this line of thinking is applied to adult friendships. Is it ok to only sort-of like a person? Can you be an authentic friend with someone who doesn’t float your boat 100% of the time?

Yes, you can.

The truth is, the further down the path of life we get, the fewer people there are who we sync with. A far cry from the buddies-forever feelings we have for old school chums, as adults it’s a whole lot more likely that we appreciate people for certain purposes and not for others: we disagree with their politics, but admire the way they’re rearing their children. They’re the perfect person to hang out with at a game, but they’re sorta stupid. How about that hilarious person who’s great except for his driving need to show off how much money he has?  Or the super cool woman who you admire a lot but she rarely makes an effort to reach out?

We all know that nobody is perfect and that no one person can fulfill all our relationship needs, which is why it’s smart to build a social network. So you have a good time with Person A only in certain contexts, but so what? You’re both still enjoying yourselves based on a genuine shared interest—is that a failure? Of course not! I’m sympathetic to the fretting and internal questioning which can occur when we experience a flash of annoyance or disapproval that A’s view on something we really care about doesn’t totally mesh with ours. It can leave us feeling afloat, uncomfortable that we feel this way despite the fact that there’s so much else about Person A we enjoy.

I think it’s fair to say that most adults, regardless how their social lives may appear, feel lonely a large part of their lives. I’ve stopped counting the number of times people have confessed to me that they don’t believe they have anything really in common with the people they know, or that they often feel they have no one to talk to about life who won’t misunderstand what they’re saying. Whether you’ve lived in the same place your entire life or, like me, you’re starting over and have to do the hard work of meeting people and finding friends in a new place, it’s easy to feel isolated. And don’t get me started how this feeling compounds when your friends die.

But this is where the half way measure is a good thing! It’s ok to appreciate people for certain qualities and for a limited time, because when you’re with them, you are authentically there—enjoying who they are, what they have to offer, and vice versa. This is not a failure by any measure. Re-booters know they have to get creative and diversify their friend portfolio so they have someone to call for whatever their mood and need of the moment. Just because I don’t agree with B on politics doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a nice Art Walk with him. I can save my political grumblings for someone else.

It can confuse us when we see a group of adults marching lockstep, laughing and acting as if they are having a Grand Ole Time, while we sit on the sidelines. Our tendency is to project onto this group the (false) belief that they have somehow worked a miracle of finding an entire gang of hilarious best buddies with whom they can share the various passages of life. Not True. In fact, I’m at a point in my re-booting process where if I see a bunch of adults all dressed alike (literally or metaphorically speaking), I think of it as sad and overcompensating. Meanwhile, I call up my hilarious but exhausting friend and suggest we share a laugh for a moment or two.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Does this ring true or false for you?

The Discomfort of Scrutiny

April 30, 2012

At what point does acceptance serve as a nice way to describe complacency, resignation, or willful blindness? When does the quest for self-improvement metastasize into a loathing of one’s perceived vulnerabilities?  What is the tipping point for a rhythm to become a rut? Is the embrace of change and variety an escape from the tedious aspects of stability and commitment–a perpetual adolescence of sorts? There’s impartial scrutiny and then there’s torture disguised under the petticoats of “authenticity.”


I ask myself these horribly uncomfortable questions as part of the ongoing process of re-booting my life. The self-imposed demands of justifying one’s life’s choices (let alone results) extend far beyond my circle of one. In fact, I am willing to bet that all of you reading this have asked yourselves some version of these questions—at least once.


Like languid lizards resting in the shade of a hot desert rock, answers may peek their heads out briefly and then withdraw into the comforting darkness. Few of us go about with sticks, doggedly poking at our carefully constructed, stone hard mental defenses, holding our breath as we dare the answers to show themselves.


Recently, I was speaking with a friend back in California, inquiring as to her job situation. She endeavored to answer my questions, often prefacing any acknowledgement of her struggles by making reference to the fact that she was so blessed in her life. She could not bring herself to admit, flat out, how lost and unhappy she felt about being stuck in a low paying job beneath her capability. As I listened, it occurred to me that while, yes, it is undoubtedly true that we always have more than we lack, at what point is it ok to feel disheartened by our current life circumstances?


I am in no way endorsing a life spent wallowing in sorrow, but (aside from an evening involving strong cocktails) when is it ok to officially recognize the disappointments of our lives despite our blessings? Considering all the suffering in this world, is it ever, truly acceptable? And furthermore, at what point do you make the decision to remain in stasis “for the sake of xyz,” or to wrench yourself, kicking and screaming, into a new place with no guarantees it’ll be better?


Each person answers this differently. How often is the decision based on fear? based on love–for oneself or for others? How often can the decision be revisited? When does it become too late? Is it ever, truly, too late? At what point does it even matter anymore?


Even on the small scale that is my life, I struggle with these issues. I’m out there with my stick, poking at that wily old lizard on a near daily basis and I don’t feel any closer to nabbing him now than I did three years ago. There’s something to be said for patience and letting answers reveal themselves in good time—perhaps mine will crawl out one day, completely unexpectedly. In the meantime, I have to hope and trust that life will work out in the long run.

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