By Linda McCarrin-Certified Holistic Counselor

Being genuine in our relationships with others can be challenging. What? you say, “I always mean what I say!” Ah, but do you always say what you mean? Let’s face it there are various shades of gray when it comes to our conversations with others. And there a variety of styles that we take on in those conversations. For example, if two close friends are having lunch or getting together for shopping or a round of golf there are exchanges that could range from teasing and general poking of fun to asking one another for their opinion on any given subject to inquiries into one another’s personal life. Much like that swing at the tee, it’s all in the approach.

Some of us have a “soft and flowing swing with a direct hit on the ball.” Translated into human conversation that might sound like this: “So in our last talk you mentioned you were worried about your son. What is it that you’re concerned about?” With this approach we lead into our question based on what our friend has revealed in the past and then we get to the point head on. Another person might take a different shot. This approach would look like this: “So what’s this problem you’re so worried about with Jimmy? Have you talked to anyone about it?” Here you have a direct swing with more velocity and you nail the ball (your point) swift and hard. Either one works as long as you know your audience.

There are times when we ask someone a question but we really have an agenda attached to it. This is easy to relate to if you’re a parent or caretaker of a child or adolescent. As an older adult with plenty of experience under our belts we often see the motives a teenager might have when asking to sleep over at a friend’s house or use the family car. They, too, can sometimes see through our line of questioning as we grill them about the why, who, where, when, and what time will you be home? But it’s in our exchanges with others when we need to reveal ourselves openly and honestly that takes real emotional courage. And let’s face it, not many of us are comfortable with that.

A general truth about genuine emotional exchanges is that self disclosure is not easy or comfortable. We all want to look good in the eyes of others. As human beings we need to have the freedom of knowing that our emotions won’t be judged. Most of us need to know that the other person won’t reject us. The key to feeling that comfort comes from being convinced that our emotions are neither good or bad, right or wrong. This is inherent to every human being.

The first step to being authentic is the self –acceptance of our emotions. This does not imply that we always act on them. For example it’s one thing to realize that traffic feeds my anxiety or anger and it’s another to act out on the road! It’s one thing to admit that I’m fearful about job retention and it’s quite another to be so overwhelmed that I’m sleep deprived thinking about it all night. Basically not judging ourselves is paramount to feeling that others won’t as well. This all comes under the label of fear. Once we release the fear that we will be accepted for who we are, we feel free enough to engage in conversation about ourselves.

The second step to Authenticity is how much duty we feel towards others. While growing up we can be programmed and conditioned to engaging in a motherlode of behaviors. As we blossom into our true Self, most of us drop some of these along the way. Yes, there may be the weekly call to mom, dad or the grandparents and trying to get to everyone’s house in some fashion during the holidays, but where do we draw the line when it comes to being at their beck and call 24/7? Being dutiful to our country is shown by flying the flag at half mast when as a nation we are mourning the death of a statesman or a tragedy has occurred on a college campus. Those who are inclined to serve our nation should be honored for their bravery. The question about duty to anything or anyone is how much is so much that we enmesh with that which we are trying to honor? Holding someone on a pedestal and not seeing their “humanness,” is being too attached. This inevitably leads to a compromised life and often times a resentful one.

On our journey to becoming our real Self, the next rung on the ladder falls in the area of Achievement. What, you question, could be wrong with achieving? No matter what our field of endeavor, from gang leaders to teachers to those in health care or climbing the corporate ladder, they all have a stake in achieving something! My question to you is when is our life unbalanced due to the actions we take toward achieving? Certainly having honorable goals IS the goal, unlike the criminal I referenced. Receiving an award for volunteerism, getting our degree, bringing a new idea to the company conference, raising decent children that contribute to society are all worthwhile aspirations. But when is the idea of achieving detrimental to our health and well-being? At the risk of self-disclosure, I’ll share with you my story. Until recently, achieving drove my life. I wanted to raise healthy, well mannered kids. I wanted to be gainfully employed. I strove for initials beyond my Bachelor’s. Giving back to society was important. The trouble came when I tried to do it all at the same time. Enter migraine headaches! I’ll never forget going to a neurologist telling him of the recurrent headaches I’d been experiencing. Being an astute person in his field his first inquiry came in the form of a statement. “Tell me about your life,” he said. I went on to say how I was teaching religious classes weekly, had my house up for sale, had landed a full time teaching job, was going to graduate school and my last born was in first grade and I was anxious about her being out of the house. He paused and asked, “What kind of grades are you getting in grad school?” I responded with an almost defiant, “Well, A’s, of course.” He pressed on by asking if I would accept anything less than an A. “No, of course not,” was my reply. To this he added, “Yep, you’re a typical migraine profile!” Later I had a laugh at myself thinking who did I think I was trying to do all of that at the same time. On the stress scale of life I was off the charts! This was truly an example of how achieving can be a good thing if only I had taken it in increments.

That brings me to the highest rung on the ladder…Authenticity. Do you know someone who is totally authentic? Genuine? The real deal? What qualities make up such a person? What do you look for?
To me an authentic person knows them self. They know what they know about them self. They understand their strengths and those things that challenge them. They are upfront with others. They go to the source if there is a problem. They also know what their path is in life and they are living it. The word sincerity comes up. Phoniness is not part of their modus operandi. They like most people and most people like them.

Authentic individuals don’t let fear overtake their lives. Duty has its place but not to the extent that it consumes them. They achieve most of their goals and the ones that don’t get done, they don’t spend time crying about. They don’t resent or blame themselves or others for not having reached the top.

Authentic people are fun to be with. They bring a certain spark to a conversation. They bring a quality to a gathering that leaves people glad to have met them. This all occurs because that person knows them self and is happy with what they see. They practice their craft. Hobbies or pastimes are a part of their repertoire. In essence…they feel good about themselves and it shows.

Author's Bio: 

Linda McCarrin, a certified holistic counselor and life coach uses a combination of practical tools to help individuals dis-create negative beliefs about themselves. Some of these techniques are self-parenting, learning the "language of feelings," and validating the client where they are at presently. By having your past acknowledged, you feel free to explore new territory. Weekly assignments are in the form of reading, writing, and taking on new behaviors in small increments. You then feel more confident to move on to more challenging goals.
Linda's background includes teaching the gifted, alternative, and at risk grades 4 through 8, counseling at a drug and alcohol treatment center, and giving workshops for local universities, libraries, and hospitals such as University of Chicago, St. Francis and St. James. One of her favorite quotes is: "Change is Inevitable...Growth is Optional" which she adds...."Why not take the Option?"