A recent email caught my eye: “Here is your free gift! (as promised)”
Normally, a subject line like this would prompt an immediate “Block Sender” action, but the source was an organization I had just researched. While visiting their website, I signed up to get their emails. This must be my opt in gift, I thought.
Some gift. It was a link to an old article that is publicly available on that same website. Anyone could get it any time they wanted! Oh, the email also included a giant group picture of folks from the organization with the caption, “Let me introduce myself. That’s me with a bunch of my friends! Now we’re not strangers anymore.” Huh?
It gets better. The sender, whichever of those smiling faces he actually was, included a second link to another old article saying, “Since I like to under-promise and over-deliver, here’s a second gift today! See it pays to read to the bottom of the email.” He closed with a teaser. “Tomorrow your third gift will hit your inbox, so keep an eye out for the subject line: Gift #3.”
Yeah, no thanks. I unsubscribed, but not soon enough. “Gift #3” arrived, as promised, and lo and behold: a link to an article published in 2014. Such a giver!
The clincher: the organization’s mission is to facilitate authentic communication.
Shit like this irks the hell out of me. It’s the opposite of authentic. It’s slimy.
Irritated as I am, I also feel grateful. For one, I see through bullshit like this. You may have noticed, there’s a lot of fake news, and even fake fake news, we have to schlop through every day. I have a keen critical eye that serves me in cases like this.
For another, it reinforces my commitment to be fully authentic in all my interactions. Just because I can hide behind the interwebs, interacting with my fan base and readers here online, doesn’t mean I can try to scam you, however subtly. I’m proud that my online presence is a beautiful compliment to my real presence.
It’s not wrong to say things like, “now that we’re not strangers” and “see, it pays to read to the bottom of the email.” In fact, I could see myself saying those exact words. I want my fans to feel like they know me. I agree that it often pays to read the whole email. What lacked for me in that false gift email was authenticity.
What’s so hard about being real? Here’s my 2 cents in 2 minutes on that.
When you’re a kid, you crave safety over everything else. For a kid, safety isn’t simply about not getting hurt. It’s the big Safety with a capital S, which many people call love. In my opinion, it’s more accurately termed Safety. I’ll divulge my thoughts on the nuances between Safety and love another time. For now, just hang in there with me.
If, as I posit, Safety is the #1 need of a child, every child finds ways to maintain Safety. If you did something, like pour a carton of milk on the carpet, you’d sense your parents’ reactions – anything from mild annoyance to upset to physical violence – all of which create an atmosphere of “not Safe.” Those types of occurrences, happening multiple times daily over the course of many years, curtail a child’s natural impulses.
In this way, we learned to check ourselves. We traded our impulsive behavior for more trained behaviors, as long as doing so maintained our Safety. We learned to be inauthentic.
Many reach adulthood with only a healthy layer of curtailed behaviors, and we’re okay with the trade-offs. We agree that pouring milk on the carpet is an impulse worth giving up. We’re okay with being a little bit inauthentic if it means keeping the carpet clean, or being polite or helpful or not pooping our pants.
Most of us, though, in the pursuit of Safety, agreed to other behaviors that really make no sense in our adult lives. Why not climb trees, paint watercolors, express our real feelings, wear what we feel comfortable wearing, choose a different career or religion or place to live?
For example, I grew up with the confusing messages that money is precious and not to be wasted, but that if you worked hard for it, you deserve to go a little crazy. Guess who has a money hang-up now?
Now that I’m an adult, how can I uncover what is truly authentic to me about money?
My authentic self, the one under all the layers of conditioning about money, can only peek out when I’m willing to peel back my long- and tightly-held “truths” about money. To get out from under them, I have to question those truths.
Questioning in this way is hard work because it goes against everything we’ve worked to create. Inside we are screaming, “Hell NO! I’m not going out there! It’s not Safe!”
That’s why it’s hard to be authentic. Once we’ve spent 20, 30, 40, 50 years staying far behind the barbed wire fence, it takes huge leaps of faith and acts of courage to step close enough to realize it’s only made out of twine.
All we need are scissors, and we’re free? Hooray!
If you’re having a “wait….a….minute…” moment, then your scam-o-meter is working well. This blog post is not a scam, but your gut is telling you it can’t be that easy. And you’re right.
In my experience, each time I’ve mustered up the ability to cut through a false Safety fence, I find myself on the other side going, “Now what?”
Liberation isn’t easy either. It takes time and energy to find a new normal. It requires diving into the reasons we put up those fences to begin with, and sometimes it just seems easier to just stay caged up.
As far as my money hang up goes, I’m practically standing at the fence asking to be let back in. Ask my husband. With some fences, like radical acceptance, I’m making headway. Other fences, like self-worth, are becoming a distant memory.
Maybe my authentic self looks a little bit like your playful Auntie Rita after she let you wrap her into a toilet paper mummy. You can see me under all the protective layers, but the layers are still there too. That’s the me I am right now – the real me.
See? It pays to read to the end of the blog post!
(BTW – my opt-in gift is a free song, so feel free to join my email list. I’ll send you the song – as promised! – and you can unsubscribe any time. I won’t take it personally.)
How do you uncover your authentic self?
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