There is a drug commercial on TV these days where you see the camera zoom in on several different people. As the camera closes in, the person wistfully expresses his or her need for people to “See Me.” The first time I saw this commercial I was really pulled in by the desire expressed. So many of my patients just want to be seen for who they really are. “See me.” Of course, then I realized the product was some kind of drug for skin problems. I couldn’t quite see the relationship between this cry for understanding and a skin care drug. But I was still intrigued by the concept of wanting to be seen for who we truly are.
I think deep down, everyone wants to be seen for the authentic person they are. Why do you think Brené Brown’s writings on authenticity have been so popular? We want people to understand us, to understand our motivations, to think well of us. Of course, we don’t want people to see our flaws, the “bad” parts of ourselves. So we wear masks, we behave in such a way that we think others expect us to, and we close off our “true identity” for fear of rejection. We are pretty sure that if friends truly knew us, they wouldn’t like what they saw and would dump us for a better, less flawed friend.
We start off life with a “split personality.” Who we are inside, our true self, and who we present to the outside world. Now don’t get me wrong. There are times that societal rules demand we not say the first thing that comes into our head. Our self-control improves with age, but we also get better at hiding our true self. We become acutely aware of what others find acceptable and often fear exposing our true self because we want to be liked, to be OK in others’ opinions.
It takes great courage to show others our true self and it is important to find safe people to share with.
So, why is it important to be authentic and congruent? Is it really a good idea to hang our dirty laundry out in public? Shouldn’t we just keep a stiff upper lip, smile and say “Bless Your Heart.” As Miranda Lambert sings….. “Powder your nose, paint your toes line your lips and keep ’em closed. Cross your legs, dot your I’s and never let ’em see you cry.” *
Stay tuned. Next week I will talk about how being authentic and congruent affects our relationships.