The question means: How often do you let the people in your life — family, friends, co-workers — see what you are really thinking, feeling, experiencing in your interactions vs creating an impression that projects what you believe the “other” person wants or needs from you — or perhaps believes about you?
When that “exterior” does not represent what is truly going on in your head and in your heart, you are creating stress. And if that “miss-match” is your regular way of going through the day, the stress keeps building. The hard truth is most of us get very little education and support for being authentic about what we think and feel. The message — “never let them see you sweat” is a good example of a cultural belief that hiding who you really are gives you an advantage! “Hiding” feelings seems more prevalent than we might imagine. My clients often struggle to let ME know what they feel….all the while showing up and paying money to heal from depression, anxiety, and often from addiction.
When we stuff authentic feelings regularly, it becomes hard to keep the lid on them. Too much alcohol, or food, or sex, or nicotine or drugs or excessive shopping gives the illusion that the”lid” is just tight enough!. It’s not. And eventually the addictive behavior complicates every aspect of life; especially authenticity.
Feelings frighten us: “What if I start to get angry or cry and can’t stop?” Does that actually happen? Yes, especially if we’ve gone for many years stuffing and denying real feelings. Consequently changing takes time. It also takes an effort to convince yourself it’s worth it.
There’s another common belief to compound the fear: “People really don’t want to know what you feel!” I honestly do not believe that. Do SOME people not want to know? Certainly. But the people you live with and work with are hopefully exceptions. I do believe that it’s genuinely hard to dig deep and present your authentic self to another person if you’ve been taught to NOT DO IT. Consequently it takes practice. Sometimes it takes a good coach, a therapist, a few books or workshops to actually LEARN what blocks you from being who you really are in important relationships.
Assess yourself with some of these questions…
-Do I come away from important conversations knowing I did not say what I wanted to say?
-Do I sometimes feel like a fraud?
-Do I think about all the things I wish I had said? Or want to be able to say?
-Do some of my feelings scare me?
-Do I ever feel “if only I had_____”?
-Do I feel disconnected in many of my relationships?
-Do I leave an evening out feeling I was not heard in the conversation?
-Do I know I “hold back?”
Too many yes answers might give you some information about the relationships you are in, especially if you feel disconnected from others. We need authenticity to be genuinely connected. Explore it and ask for help if you think you just might benefit from talking to someone.