I came across a quote from Harriett Lerner in the form of a social media post that said “Authenticity is not about telling all—or telling all at once. It’s about making wise decisions about HOW and WHEN to tell WHAT to WHOM”.
Um, come again?!
It doesn’t mean being an open book or showing my immediate reaction in real time?
Mind officially blown!
Authenticity is a value I hold very closely, because I genuinely believe is central to having meaningful relationships. It is also one of my favorite personal traits (and one the most difficult to manage).
I often feel like I’m “too much” for people. But also, I don’t know how to operate any other way. When I try to filter, not only does it feel against the grain, there is a cringe feeling somewhere between an itch I can’t reach, a smell I can’t tolerate, and ants in my pants that make me want to bolt to a corner I can hide in.
Other times, when I’m not trying to filter, I leave situations with immense anxiety that I was “too much” or went “too far”. I believe I saw a meme somewhere calling this a “vulnerability hangover”. This can come with major disclosures, but sometimes just by being myself in certain situations.
So, what’s a girl to do?
This is part of who I am AND research shows it is an important part of good connections. According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is central to having meaningful connection with others. And being vulnerable can be an act of displaying authenticity.
On the other hand, authenticity can look like vomiting thoughts and feelings all over people, but somehow I don’t think that’s the kind of authenticity the research is talking about.
This quote may be revolutionary for me, because it gives me the doses and instructions for using authenticity productively. Or at least the start to putting boundaries around it.
Like fire, it can be vital to survival by keeping relationships genuine, honest, and equitable. Yet, it can also burn us and others if we let it outside the safe space or let it get too big.
Those writer’s questions from elementary English are coming full circle:
How and When, What to Whom?
Therapist who should know, but doesn’t