Inauthenticity: Why it Happens and Why I’m Passionate About It
Posted: February 1, 2019
If you have seen any of my social media posts, you’ve probably recognized by now that I preach authenticity over and over again. So, why am I so passionate about authenticity? As they say, therapists are the wounded healers. Some people are surprised to hear this. We tend to fall into the trap of associating “expert” with perfection. I think people assume this even more about therapists. I’ve heard things like, “o you must have it all figured out” or “your relationship must be perfect” or “your kids are so lucky, being a therapist must make you a great mom”. While these are nice sentiments and I like to think I try my best in different aspects of my life, I definitely am not exempt from having my own things that I struggle with which brings me back to the term wounded healer. If you think about it, pretty much everyone in life has wounds. Our parents do the best they can but let’s face it, no one is perfect. Even if you had a “perfect” childhood (I would love to meet you because you must be a unicorn), life will most likely inflict some emotional pain upon you at some point. While we may not all have the same wounds, and of course some have it worse than others, sitting with someone who has had pain and really gets it provides a whole new sense of validation and connectedness. Hence why therapists can really make us feel like “they get me”. Am I saying that it’s appropriate for a therapist to tell you every detail of their wounding and turn you into their therapist? Of course not! What I am saying is that a great therapist will have done their own work which is why they can provide the space, physically and emotionally, for you to do your own work. So why is authenticity my thing that I preface over and over again? Out of all the therapy experiences I had, it wasn’t until I met one particularly amazing therapist and worked with her on and off for about five years, that I learned what being authentic truly meant and how not being authentic can wreak havoc in our lives. Once I started to really understand this in my own life and work through those wounds and really begin to transform my life, I started looking at the different therapy models that are taught to us in school. They might have different names for it but for most, their goal is the same: to help clients live in such a manner in which all aspects of themselves are present, accepted, and honored. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it’s not! The question is then twofold, why is it so hard to be authentic and how does that typically show up in people’s lives? The Shadow Carl Jung, one of the OG psychotherapists, contributed so many amazing ideas to the world of psychology. One of those pearls of wisdom is his concept of the shadow. He believed that we all possess different characteristics or attributes that make up the entirety of our being. Somewhere along the way (typically in childhood), we are given verbal or non-verbal messages that some of these qualities are not acceptable. We then start to internalize those messages, especially when we’re kids, and force those parts of ourselves to go into hiding. Those aspects may peek their heads out every now and then (sometimes in very forceful ways) but until we are ready to meet them, we will keep pushing them away. You may be wondering why humans are so quick to exile these parts. Well, two of our biggest fears are: the fear of abandonment and the fear of being hurt (physically or emotionally). Being that our brains job is to keep us safe, if it sees an opportunity to avoid pain (emotional or physical), it’s going to run with it. Hence, the exiling of those parts that our brain associates with being a threat. Signs of Living Inauthentically So how does this affect us as we get older and move through life? Not everyone is the same but this is how I see it showing up in my office: 1. People pleasing 2. Difficulty setting boundaries 3. The inability to access one’s own wants and needs 4. Seeking validation externally 5. Persistent sense of unhappiness but unsure why 6. Relationship instability 7. Anxiety or depression 8. Feeling suicidal I want to preface a few things: 1) this is not a comprehensive list as everyone’s experiences are different 2) of course a lack of authenticity is not the only reason why someone may struggle with these things. With that being said, I have yet to work with a client who came in with one or more of these issues and didn't struggle on some level with a fear of letting their true selves, and all aspects of themselves, be present. It has truly been a remarkable experience to see how many of those presenting issues begin to fade away for so many of my clients once we dive in and recover these exiled parts. If you feel that you struggle with any (or all) of these things, I really encourage you to explore if old wounds and those two fears we talked about (fear of abandonment and fear of being hurt) are contributing factors. As always, I highly encourage you to find a therapist that can help you work through these things so you can begin to live a life as authentically as possible. If you are not ready to embark upon that journey, the good news is that I will be offering some helpful tips and exercises that you can begin practicing to start getting in touch with your true self through future blogs and vlogs. Stay tuned!