There have been a couple words popping up in my consciousness lately, either through books I have read, other people’s blog posts, or conversations with others. Isn’t it funny how that happens? But it got me thinking about myself. I really like the words because they make me think. Am I living them?
The first word is Authenticity – “real or genuine; not copied or false: true and accurate. The degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures”. That last part – true to one’s own – really catches me. Is it possible to be “true to own’s own” self deception? How about one’s own “wish I was like this”? Or, one’s own “this is what I want people to think I am like?” Not really. So authenticity requires some real self examination. To use a phrase, it is “being real”.
This summed it up for me:
I am working hard at trying to embrace who I am. I find that for me, the best way to become authentic is to challenge my own conventional wisdom. I’ve built up so many layers over the years to protect myself , to help myself get through the daily grind and to be diplomatic. Some of those layers need to stay. But like a piece of wood that has many layers of paint or shellac on it, stripping them away sometimes reveals the real beauty of the grain of the wood. I feel like there is some part of me that needs to be brought to the forefront. How many things have I done, said or NOT said simply to gain approval? Am I being true (authentic) to myself, as well as those I interact with?
The second word is Openness – “An accommodating attitude or opinion, as in receptivity to new ideas, behaviors, cultures, peoples, environments, experiences, etc., different from the familiar, conventional, traditional, or one’s own.”
I like the word “accommodating” in this case. For the most part, this is a word with positive definitions. One way it is positive is doing a favor for someone else. Another positive way is through providing a place to live to another or a place for something to be stored. Both definitions talk of being helpful to others.
This goes along with open mindedness – “receptiveness to new ideas; the way in which people approach the views and knowledge of others, and incorporate the beliefs that others should be free to express their views and that the value of others’ knowledge should be recognized”. Once again, positive words like “value” and “free”.
I like the theory of trying to be more open-minded, being receptive to new ideas. But the practice is not always easy to follow through on. I find that it is relatively easy for me to me open-minded about things I am interested in, and things that are close to my current beliefs. But trying to be open about things that are very different? That is hard. For example, I have to admit that I am not going to be so open as to want to go to (or talk about) the opera, for example, or to start reading romance novels! But am I willing to be open to political viewpoints much different than mine? How about parental styles? Now it gets harder to be “open”.
Being open doesn’t mean I have to change my own convictions to someone else’s viewpoints. But it does mean a willingness to try to understand the genesis of other’s viewpoints.
One more thought on openness. A really hard part of being open is sharing certain things with others. “What if they don’t like what I have to say? What if I embarrass myself? Why should I impose my viewpoints on them? Won’t they think less of me?”
I have a lot of work to do on being authentic and open. But simply remembering some of the positive words – real, genuine, accommodating, value others – provides enough incentive to try.