"....Everyone else is taken." ~Mike Robbins.
I love quotes. The above are two of my absolute favorites. I've had several conversations lately about genuineness. Interestingly, it seems that everyone values it, or at least claims to, yet so many say they feel it difficult to find in others. It seems an odd balance - if everyone values it, wouldn't they be genuine themselves, making it easy to find in others?
In my opinion, there are three possible reasons for this.*
1. There are those people who truly are acting. By this I mean that for some reason or another, they are purposely acting in a way that's not in alignement with who they really are. Perhaps they are trying to fit in, perhaps they like the "fake" person better than the person they feel they are, perhaps they think they'll get ahead by acting a certain way. Whatever it is, their actions are intentional. This isn't to judge it one way or another. They may have a very valid reason for doing so. It just means they know what they're doing.
2. There are those who aren't intentionally being disingenuous but aren't acting in accordance to who they are "deep down". Perhaps they're just confused about who they are or what they want. They're not trying to fool anyone, they're just having a bit of an identity crisis.
3. There are those who really aren't being disingenuous at all, but on the surface it appears that they are. These people may, in fact, be over-genuine. Instead of trying to keep things consistent by hiding, say an illness, a mood cycle, a depressive episode, etc, they're act according to how they feel at that moment - it just might not be how they were feeling yesterday. This is tough to understand unless you've been through it.
Regardless of which group someone falls into, being yourself means accepting who you are, being ok with it, and acting accordingly. That doesn't mean it's easy. It took, and still sometimes does take, a lot for me to open up about my condition and basically say, "this is who I am. I hope you like it. If not, I understand but we'll part ways here." It has lost me a few people that have been very dear to me, but it's more important for me to surround myself with people who, even if they don't always understand me, care enough to stand by me.
There are a few tricks I've learned over this journey that keep me honest with myself, and therefore help keep my actions in line with who I am at the core, even in the midst of a bad mood cycle.
- Trust your gut. If you're acting/saying/doing something and you feel a twinge in your gut that it doesn't feel right, it's probably not lining up with your values. Revisit it.
- Accept yourself. You're you, like it or not. If you don't like it, examine why. There may be an underlying reason, and that's a whole different issue. If I get angry about something and this bothers me, then I have to look at my anger and figure out how to deal with it. But I have to admit to myself that I'm angry - I won't get anywhere on changing it if I don't.
- Being genuine and trying to grow aren't mutually exclusive. If you're genuinely trying to change something, that's, well, genuine. So checking yourself if you start to act the "old" way, and making a quick adjustment isn't disingenuous. It's self awareness.
- Look at yourself through the eyes of a best friend/partner/sibling that knows you best. Would they say your actions align with the person they know you are, or with the adjustments you're trying to make? If you feel comfortable, ask them. Just be prepared that the answer might not be one you want to hear. If their answer is no, ask why not?
- Use common sense, and tact. Someone might say, "When I say how I really feel, people get upset so I have to pretend." Here's the thing: if you're friend asks you how an outfit looks and you don't like it, there's a big difference between saying, "That's awful, please take it off before the mirror breaks" and "Maybe you should try the blue dress. I think I like that one better." You can convey your thoughts without saying exactly what you're thinking, and still be genuine.
- Don't sell yourself short. People "not being themselves" isn't all about bravado. It's just as important to know your positive traits and be comfortable acknowledging them. Celebrating an accomplishment and being proud of who you are is perfectly acceptable and, in fact, healthy. Many times people feel bad saying, "I did a great job", "I'm accomplished at this", "I'm a nice/smart/interesting/talented person." You'd easily give your friend that credit - why can't you say it about yourself?