“I didn’t feel authentic when I had to be one of the guys on the golf course, working to fit in,” said TBB.
“I spent years going through all the options in my mind, rehearsing in the men’s room after hours, taking overtime to practice in the mirror,” ShamanGal told me.
“I used to try and control everyone around me,” I said, “until a partner slapped me for it and I came to.”
The opposite of authentic is controlling.
When you try to control your behaviour to attempt to control the choices and opinions of others, you aren’t being honest, forthright, comfortable, authentic.
I have heard improv people dismiss this need to control rather than be in the moment as “writing.” For someone who works very hard to be in the moment when she writes, letting the flow carry her, that label seems reductive, though I do see how someone might use it.
Today, TBB is called Auntie Sabrina by her co-workers, who respect her smarts and her enormous heart.
Saturday night, ShamanGal got over her damnself and went to a birthday party at Hamburger Mary’s. She stayed until closing dancing like a diva, and then had a lovely Denny’s experience with a charmed waitress and a few fellows to flirt with. She hadn’t felt this way for a year and forgot how empowering being authentic and loose felt.
And I am reminded how much my words can engage, enlighten and move people.
When we are told that who we are just isn’t right, proper or good enough, we internalize those lessons. We begin to believe that we are broken, and the only way we can be acceptable is to create a false front, a calculated manner to manipulate the way that others see us. We get grandiose, telling stories we think people want to hear — people including us — rather than being authentic.
People can read that attempt at control, though, can see through our carefully constructed façade to the real person underneath. It is when they see a dissonance between who we are pretending to be and who they glimpse beneath that they see us as not comfortable in our own skin, see us as squirrley and untrustworthy, see us as inauthentic.
The idea that we can’t control ourselves better than our creator made is is very important. We may co-create our lives with God, but that does not mean we can erase what she has created in us, we can only polish, enhance and extend it.
Society often tells us that this is wrong, that we need to do what is expected, not what is natural. Many feel better when the imposed structure overrides the organic, when the “should” erases the “is.”
This over controlled denial of the real and authentic, though, never works. It always leaves a hollow space inside, leaving what makes us special and potent to wither and warp in the darkness.
In the end, this challenge comes back to where it always does. “Give me the power to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
It is when we work with our nature, our desires and the truths of the world that we become authentic, and it is when we try to impose our own imagined control over nature and the truths of the world when we become inauthentic. The symbols and choices of humans can never express the full circle of truth in one go, but it is when our expression is in harmony with truth, rather than attempting to cover truth with deception that we become authentic.
Practice is the way we work with nature, the process of separating the true from the false, taking time to reveal and explore our nature and our world so that we can be centred in what we value and venerate, which then allows us to be fluid and authentic in the moments of creation and connection.
When we are fluid and authentic, following our bliss, people sense that, opening to us. The world opens to us.
The opposite of authentic is controlled. This isn’t a binary, of course, where we need to be one or the other. We need both components in our lives.
One of the great powers of humans is the ability to control our choices, to make considered and deliberate choices that are effective in getting us what we need and want. It is only when we exercise that control to cover and erase the truth that our choices become deceptive and inauthentic.
When we bring together thoughtful choices and essential authenticity, our co-creation of self is at its most successful, using wisdom to alloy the power to change what we can and the serenity to accept what we cannot change.
It is possible to be both authentic and a mess, of course, and that doesn’t serve us. Getting our performances right, in balance with mind and nature, is empowering, letting us show truth in gracious and potent ways.
Letting go of trying to control what we can’t control, learning to embrace what is true, lets us be both polished and authentic.
And that always makes us live a happier and more authentic life.