Being Real

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

being real is rare

Being real means being who you are rather than trying to be who you are not for the sake of pleasing someone else. It is being comfortable enough in your own skin that you don’t have to play games, pretend, manage an image, etc. You can be you, warts and all.

One aspect of reality is that “I am who I am.” (I think Popeye the Sailor Man first coined a similar phrase.) I’m 5’9, weigh 155 lbs and am going bald. I would have loved to be 6’5, weighed 210 and played quarterback in the NFL. That’s not me. I honor myself when I allow me to be who I am.

Social Comparison

Ditto for other realities that define who you are. How often have you compared yourself against someone else, someone who you (or your social group) defined as popular, cool or successful in some way? Maybe you compete by trying to be better or as good as them. On the other hand, maybe you give up and feel inferior. (Teenagers are very susceptible to this dynamic. It can be a very competitive, even harsh and judgmental world they live in, working so hard to measure up, so many so often feeling they fall short. They do all kinds of crazy things to fit in or feel acceptable to some reference group, if not healthy then unhealthy.)

Using others as positive role models can be helpful. However, continually measuring yourself against others doesn’t work. You’ll always find people better than you on any given dimension, so it is hard to ever feel good enough. And if you don’t feel good enough, it is easy to put on an act or façade. You pretend to be more than you are, thinking that if you get people to buy the image you’ll feel okay.

Give up Pretense

It is much healthier is to accept that it is okay to be who you are, to give up pretense. Being real is choosing to be comfortable enough with yourself  that you happily let others see you blossom and flower without trying to change the color of the petals. This statement is not, by the way, an excuse for mediocre living. It is, rather, an acknowledgment of a truth about happiness and personal effectiveness.

Consider for a moment the natural state of being by thinking about characteristics of little children. They are real, honest, spontaneous, curious, energetic and forgiving. They live from who they are rather than who they’re supposed to be (until we finish socializing them). A child doesn’t ask, “How shall I be when I get out on the playground?” He/she just goes out and does what comes naturally.

As an adult, on the other hand, you are much more likely to be self-conscious about how well you are doing. You have experienced being criticized, compared with others, and so learn to stifle your natural self and, instead, put on an image, wear masks or play games, fearing you’ll be found wanting. By maintaining images, you keep up the self-delusion that you can control the degree of acceptance and approval you experience from others. But pleasing and pretending are actually hard work.

Pretending is Self-Rejection

Pretending is not only hard work, it is self-defeating. Ironically, you experience the very rejection that you are trying so hard to avoid. You are, in effect, rejecting yourself (ultimately the only rejection that matters) and living in constant fear of being found out, rejected by others. You feel like an imposter and must continually be on guard.

Being real is seeing your image for what it is – protection. It is a relief to be real, to realize you can end a lot of conflict and stress in your life by trading your desire to look good for the much better choice to feel good, to be who you are, to be authentic.

Although a relief, there is also a price tag that comes from being real. It requires that you face your fear of rejection. It takes self-knowledge and a willingness to be responsible for yourself, emotionally. In some cases, living this way takes great integrity and courage. And yet as you do so, you also grow immensely in self-respect and peace of mind.

So think about the following questions:

  • Who do you know who lives authentically?
  • What attracts you to that way of being?
  • What price do you think they have paid to live that way?
  • What factors encourage authenticity?
  • What factors increase it?
  • What fears would you face to live authentically?
  • What else would you need to do to live more authentically?

About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

6 responses to “Being Real”

  1. Carlene says:

    Thanks so much for your insight, it is educational and informative. The key point for me is to thine own self be true. I learnt to practice self acceptance and to let go of the fear by simply breathing. I am evolving daily into the person of self worth and accountability by practicing yoga and meditating. Thanks for sharing, continuous blessings.

    • Thanks, Carlene. I believe that your spiritual practices (breathing, yoga and meditation) are key to finding greater acceptance and peace. I appreciate your comment.

  2. Connie says:

    Excellent article!

  3. Asma says:

    How do I sense or be aware of this dangerous self-rejection? What does it means to accept ourselve?

    • These are good questions, Asma. Avoiding self-rejection takes awareness. We begin by noticing how we feel during and after certain social interactions. Was does my gut, intuition, or heart tell me about the role I played? Was I authentic? Did I come from love for myself? Did I honor myself during the interaction? Expanding your awareness is a process. At first you notice how you did after the interaction is over, often based on your feelings. As you become more aware, you can notice whether your honoring yourself during an interaction, although you may still make an unhelpful choice. The pull of approval from others is stronger than your love for yourself. As you keep being aware and practicing, you may notice in the middle of an interaction and make a different, better choice. Soon, you can decide ahead of time, before you even start the interaction, how honest and authentic you choose to be. It takes awareness and practice. But, this I know. Your heart knows if you are being self-loving or self-rejecting. Learn to listen.

      What does it mean to accept ourselves? It means that we know ourselves, as we are and not only as we wish to be. It means that we make a decision to be okay with our imperfections, our not-okayness, so to speak. One of my mantras is “I am here for you, Roger.” I’ll support myself, the way I would a good friend, when I’m going through something hard, when I know I embarrassed myself or made a mistake. Not that I’ll be defensive and cover up the mistake, but I refuse to belittle and demean myself. I’ll treat myself with kindness, no matter what.

  4. Rachelle says:

    What an interesting point, that pretending is in essence self-rejection.

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