If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve had discussions with your friends as I have about how we work so hard (consciously or subconsciously) to make our lives look great to others on these public forums. A friend of mine said, “I wish my life were as fabulous as it looks on Facebook!” I laughed because I knew it was true.
Recently I been compelled by the powerful work of Glennon Doyle Melton. In her bestselling books and TEDx talk, Lessons from the Mental Hospital, she reveals — in a stunning way — how inauthentic the vast majority of people are. Not because they want to be liars or withholders, but because they’re deathly afraid to be real.
We all say we want authenticity, but most people run from brave, uncensored truth-telling. I believe that so much of our fear of hearing the truth comes from the fact we don’t know how to be empathic. We just don’t have any idea how to step in other people’s shoes and feel what it feels like to be them.
I’d like to share three things to help you build your ability to be authentic:
1. Learn to see and feel your judgments, then let them go.
When I was seeing a therapist myself about why I was so stuck in career directions that made me miserable, he and I talked about how many judgments I had, every single day, regarding what was “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” “desirable” or “undesirable.” For a week I took note of all my thoughts and made a mental check mark every time I had a judging thought. I realized after noting more than 1,000 judging thoughts, that I barely had one thought that wasn’t a “judgment.” Judgments are the death of peace.
Tip: Start watching your thoughts. (The average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute so it’s not easy, but try!). Make a mental check mark for each thoughts that has a judgment embedded in it, and see what thoughts you habitually think that disturb your peace, love, connection to others. Then think how you might want to change those thoughts to something more loving and peaceful.
2. Look at what you’re so afraid of about yourself.
I once gave a keynote for NEW Southern California and we talked about our “power gaps” — the things that make us feel ashamed, vulnerable and “less than.” Our power gaps hurt us, because we tend to believe that only we have them and if anyone knew, they would cast us out of their lives.
Tip: Take some time to journal this week about your power gaps. What story are you telling yourself about how you’re a loser or different from other people? Send all the light you can muster directly to this power gap.
3. Realize that what you reject in others stems from fear.
I had a conversation with another friend who shared that she just doesn’t want to let in the negative stuff that other people share. She doesn’t “resonate” with it and doesn’t want to focus on it.
The problem with that type of thinking is that when you allow (or force) yourself to hide from darkness, you’re rejecting every person who has darkness inside of them — and that’s everyone on the planet.
Tip: Don’t separate yourself from others or from your own darkness because you’re afraid. “Brave up” in 10 life-changing ways to see that we’re all a part of each other, and that to shun what you’re afraid of, is to shun yourself as well.
Take a step to get out of your small, controlled, sheltered sphere and be with different types of people who are struggling. Find it in your heart to connect with people who don’t “look” or “sound” or “act” like you, who don’t travel in your circles. Let in a wider range of human experience, and learn to love, respect and value all of it.