When becoming the most genuine version of ourself there are many factors at play. Some of these factors are true obstacles, real tangible things like people, culture, or society. Other factors could be physical or mental challenges that we personally deal with. Still, additional barriers might stem from any childhood trauma that we endured. All of these obstacles lead to different stumbling blocks: fear, in-action, shame, etc.
Taking time to reflect, going to counseling, meditation, or exercise are just a few ways to tap into those deeper parts of ourself that need healing. With self-reflection comes restorative habits and eventually, growth.
I admit that I am privileged in nearly every way; my stumbling blocks have felt easier to overcome than other’s journeys that I have witnessed. I grew up in a middle-class home, in a safe neighborhood, to parents who didn’t use shame as a teaching tactic. I enjoyed the benefits of their hard work and encouragement leading into my adult life.
Luckily, from a young age, I actively sought to understand and learn from others, realizing the beauty in diverse experiences and relationships. I tried not to close my mind or heart to new perspectives or friendships. Were there hiccups along the way? Of course, there were! There were times my forthright personality offended, and instances when my lack of understanding led to uncomfortable interactions. Today, my perspective-seeking behavior continues as I hunt for podcasts to listen to and books to read that will broaden my understanding of other’s experiences.
Most days I send my little ones off to school in this new pandemic world, masks covering their beautiful smiles, apprehensions slowing their bravery to make new friends, and fear of the unknown following them throughout their day. Quite often, I remind them that there are other children at school who could use a simple “hello,” or a “would you like to sit with me at lunch today?”
In reminding them to seek new connections, I am hoping to expand their understanding of the world. As we make an effort to reach out to people not in our typical social circle, we provide ourselves and others the opportunity to expand our perspective on different topics, to create unique life experiences, and to understand different cultures.
Not only that, but we create an opportunity for friendship to blossom. The more friendships there are in the world, the less fear we have of differences.
Complacency seems to be the enemy of authenticity, allowing individuals to feel okay with the status quo, or providing the excuse to put blinders on when it comes to the perspectives of others. Education would then be the natural enemy of complacency, providing paths to understanding the beauty of diversity in thought, culture, experience, and understanding.
Venturing away from our normal podcasts, news stations, and literature allows us to hear an issue from multiple angles. Recently, I began scrolling through my husband’s YouTube news feed and noticed that he followed someone called The Secular Humanist. As I have been trying to learn more about secular humanism recently, I decided to click on it. I was delighted by his unbiased commentary, pointing out contradictions in both political candidates’ remarks and raising valid questions for each side to respond to. Becoming authentic through education is a path led by questioning. Questions open our minds to possibilities we have not imagined yet.
Perhaps authenticity could more appropriately be classified as a moving target. As we take time to grow and learn, becoming a genuine and honest version of ourselves, we will continue on that path to “becoming authentic”. I would argue that this path cannot be walked alone. Humans are drawn to each other and thus, we must learn to become authentic within the relationships that we foster, including our relationship with ourself.
I would love to hear what you have done in your life to challenge your perspective, work on becoming authentic with yourself, and finding ways to be true in your relationships with others. Did you have habits that you changed? Were there books that you read? Please share with us so that we can learn from your experience!