Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thoughts On Being Authentic - Friday Reflections (Not on Friday)


As I prepared for this prompt about authenticity, my mind was flooded with numerous examples of inauthenticity from my life and from that of my friends. 

A male friend told me once about how his first wife acted differently before they married.  He is convinced that she was a mission to marry a "good man" (apparently her first husband was abusive) and therefore was on her best behavior throughout their courtship, never allowing any of her flaws or bad habits to be seen.  But, as it often goes, keeping up a facade is exhausting and about a year into the marriage, unable to maintain the pretense any longer, her true colors started to show through.  Unfortunately, this version of herself, her real self, was not what my friend thought he had married. They divorced two kids and seven years later.  He once said that he wished she would've been herself from the beginning, that way they could've saved each other a lot of time, money, aggravation, and disappointment.

Recently, another friend of mine echoed similar sentiments about his wife, saying that she behaved in a certain way just to "get him."  Apparently when they were dating, she pretended to enjoy many of the outdoor activities that he enjoys like camping and fishing. But, once they were married, she disclosed that she didn't like doing those things after all. My friend has eluded that he feels swindled because he thought he was getting a companion with similar interests, someone to do things with, but that isn't the case.  He's married to someone with whom he has little in common and with each passing year, the distance between them gets a little larger and the marriage gets less satisfying.

For my next example, I dug deep, going way back into my single days when I was online dating.  I met this guy whom I liked, but he and I lived about an hour and a half apart, so we spent a lot of time chatting online and talking on the phone before meeting in person.  We knew what the other looked liked, for I had a picture on my profile and he had emailed me a picture that he had scanned and uploaded that was 2-3 years old.  (Remember, digital photography was still relatively new.) My profile picture was about a year old and I disclosed that my hair was shorter and highlighted, but basically everything else was the same. He never I mentioned any changes in his appearance, so I just figured that probably looked the same.

When he and I finally met, had he not shared what kind of car he'd be driving and had I not seen him getting out of the silver Pontiac, I don't think I would've recognized him.  You see, in the 2-3 years since his picture had been taken, he had doubled in size.  

Wait a second!  I have never cared if a man was overweight because I've been overweight all my life.  That was not the problem.  My problem was that the man I sat across the table from during dinner that evening didn't match the mental picture of the man I had chatted with and talked to on the phone for two months. There was a weird disconnect between what I had been led to believe and what was real and I had a hard time reconciling the two.  Anyway, the date was weird and I believe he felt it, too.  He never asked me out again and I wasn't disappointed that he didn't.  

I wish that he had just been upfront about his weight when we talked about our pictures.  I still would've gone out with him because I enjoyed talking with him and he made me laugh.  Had I not been caught off guard, I think I would've acted less weird and the date might've turned out better than it did.

Despite all the obvious ramifications that can result from being inauthentic, why do we struggle so much with being ourselves?  Why do we put so much energy into pretending when we know one day the truth will eventually come out?

I know firsthand how hard it can be just to simply be yourself, especially in a world that is constantly trying to change you.  I was a teenage tomboy in the 1980s and 90s.  Although tomboys were not completely uncommon at the  time, they weren't as mainstream as they are now.  I spent the majority of my teen years battling and resisting the relentless pressure to be something I wasn't, which was an awful experience.  I truly believe what got me through those terrible experiences was the steadfast belief that pretending to be something I wasn't was worse than enduring society's pressure.  

Yes, I know, I make it sound like I was the Gen X poster child for being yourself, but I assure you, that's not the case. I had some moments of weakness when I caved under the pressure and most of them involved boys.

Case in point: I liked this one guy in high school.  One day he and I sat together in the bleachers in our gym and talked. In an attempt to be more "girly," because that's what guys wanted in terms of girlfriends after all, I had on a terrible pair of flats that hurt like hell and a trendy outfit that made me look ridiculous. They guy was droning on and on about something and I was pretending to be completely enthralled in what he was saying, which was inaccurate by the way. I didn't want to correct him because I didn't want to show him up. My paternal grandfather's words, "Don't get too smart because boys don't like girls that are smarter than they are," ran through my mind. So, I sat there trying to look interested, resisting the urge to tell him he was wrong, trying to be doting and flirtatious, and feeling like an absolute idiot. It was miserable. 

That evening, once I returned home, I kicked off those damn flats and threw them in the garbage. That's when I asked myself, "What the hell am I doing?" 

It that moment, it finally occurred to me that if that guy didn't like me, the real me, the smart me, the tomboyish me, the me that didn't wear uncomfortable shoes to school, the me that wanted to join in the softball game rather than watch from the fence, the me I was day in and day out, then he wasn't the guy for me. You see, I may not have been the pretty, feminine, doting co-ed, but I was loyal, understanding, adventurous, intelligent, kind, and fun to be around. I learned that the real me was by far and away more interesting and had way more depth than that phony, silly girl I was pretending to be.

So, I don't know if there is an easy answer to my earlier question. We struggle to be ourselves for many reasons, each reason as personal and varied as the next. For me, I pretended to be something I wasn't because I wanted to be liked by the boys I had crushes on.  In the end, I discovered that liking myself was more important. 

In closing, I leave you with two quotes:


- Oscar Wilde


Why do you think we (collectively as humans) struggle to be authentic?  

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful Sunday!


4 comments:

  1. Because humans are social creatures. We want to fit in and be liked by others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, I think those are definitely two of the numerous, varied reasons. Thanks for stopping by, E Man!

      Delete
  2. I have always been true to myself 95 percent of the time and that has led to few friends and even fewer girlfriends in life but I am happy with myself and really enjoy this one very true friend I have.

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  3. I think being your true self can be hard because most people have difficulty dealing with differences. If you aren't fitting into the box they can have trouble relating.

    ReplyDelete

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