We all have different thresholds for what is acceptable in various social contexts. We might cry ourselves to sleep alone at night. Yet a few hours later, in the office we will present an image of someone who’s fully together and going places.
We might loosen up with friends over a few beers or glasses of wine, but be far more stilted if we were invited to the Queen’s garden party. We might share our deepest fears or inadequacies in an intimate moment with our Lover, but squirm at the thought of revealing them to the crowd at the Superbowl.
And so we present a facade to the world. A facade that pretends everything’s fine, when really it isn’t. I truly believe that at least 80 – 95% of the difficulties that we have in our world, come from presenting a false external image of ourselves to the world. And the reason why more people fear public speaking than death is this fear of exposing oneself to the world. Yet if we are not open to the world we also miss out on the experience and joy that is our reason for living.
The First Threat To Authenticity
This is the first challenge on a journey to authenticity.
Can you be vulnerable enough to risk shame, rejection and embarrassment?
For if you fail this challenge, you lose at life. In the short-term it may seem that you’ve dodged the challenge and got away with it. Truly you have lost though. Because in your inability to risk losing, you have lost the chance of winning too. For in presenting a facade, you bury whatever the problem is. And then it becomes more tangled and complicated. Whereas, once it’s on the table, you can deal with anything.
I notice this myself in social situations. Reflecting on my thoughts alone, I am brutally honest and it’s difficult for me to get away with stuff. But I’m not a very social person. My ability to observe and see the world clearly comes from having little involvement or attachment to it. If I were more integrated, emotional attachment would cloud my view. And so in social situations I tend to use prepared answers. I first noticed this after I’d just got married.
How Not To Connect With People
I owned a Gym and so lots of people were asking me how married life was. I developed some standard clichéd comment about being kept in line with a rolling-pin. Then after a few of these exchanges I noticed Andy, one of the Instructors, and the Questioner laughing. Andy having heard the same response a number of times had predicted what I was going to say.
Thinking about it, I realised that revealing the exact feelings of your intimate relationships which I hadn’t even considered deeply myself, to lots of Acquaintances was a little more honesty than I felt comfortable with. And so to answer the question, as social rules dictate is polite, I needed some defence mechanism to distance myself from the discomfort I felt at not knowing what to say.
Since then, I’ve noticed that the more uncomfortable I feel in a social context in revealing myself, the more I rely on clichés or glib remarks. They get you through the situation without feeling embarrassed, but they also stop you from connecting with others meaningfully.
The Cost of Cheating Or Shirking The Challenge
Quite often people will email me and say nice things about my book or my blog posts and wonder why they aren’t more widely known. The truth is that relative obscurity is the price I have paid for shirking the vulnerability I feel in wider social circles. For when others have grasped their chances and shared and promoted what they had to offer, I hid what I had to offer the world, in case it were not yet good enough.
The ridiculous paradox is that we want to be recognised by the world for what we are and admired for our abilities, yet we hide these from the world, for fear of rejection. Those that are more authentic are more loved for we recognise and appreciate the inherent bravery involved in sharing yourself.
In any situation where we feel vulnerable, the first temptation is to shirk, avoid or cheat the challenge. If you feel unable to cope with overwhelming pressure or emotional pain, the temptation is to medicate with drugs, alcohol or some other way to relieve the symptoms. Yet in doing so we dis-empower our ability to cope with life.
When you place your trust in a pill, a subliminal cd, a manifesting technique, in someone else to get you through the challenge, you have fallen at the first hurdle in the challenge of mastering the art of living. For reliance on a crutch, a tool or technique is trying to cheat the challenge. It is like the Xbox Gamer who wants a higher score than his skill development is capable of and uses cheat codes to unlock extra armoury or other unfair advantages. He gets a high score to brag about, but it is one that he knows is out of sync with his skill level. And so he does not have the secure feeling that he could reproduce his score in a fair match.
In the same way, those that cheat in the challenges of life may win worldly rewards, but they will never achieve the deep peace and inner satisfaction that is forged in the intense pain of facing fear and growing in discomfort through the ordeal to know you could quell it from your own inner resources should a similar situation re-occur.
But if a person has had the sense of the Call — the feeling that there’s an adventure for him — and if he doesn’t follow that, but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to that condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder, and found that it’s against the wrong wall.
If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. I feel that if one follows what I call one’s bliss — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life — doors will open up. They do! They have in my life and they have in many lives that I know of.
I saw the video below recently and thought it was really interesting to have a Scientific Researcher back up some of the ideas I hold on the importance of feeling and dealing with your emotions honestly.
So I thought this was an important message for you to hear, but beyond that I would love that it could serve as a conversation starter to take this topic further and deeper. So watch the video and then share your thoughts and if you will, what makes you feel vulnerable.