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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

on being real

In less time than it takes for a hand to circumnavigate the face of a clock , I've had two separate conversations about being real. Both times we were talking about relationships, anger, forgiveness, conflict and the Aussie culture.

The conclusion was that too often we avoid being real because we don't want to offend. But in the not offending we settle for shallow relationships and uncomfortable tip toeing around important issues. Or looking inwards, we refuse to acknowledge faults we have ourselves, stunting our personal growth and development.

Where does this come from, this unreality?
Fear of vulnerability?
Needing perfection?
Inability to manage conflict?
Unwillingness to acknowledge failings?
Trepidation over the response we might receive?

I'm as guilty as anyone. I don't always address issues. More particularly I would prefer not to have issues addressed with me. Mostly because I don't want to admit I'm weak and frail and sometimes pathetic, and... human. I want you to see me as in control, chic, successful, and I will act my way through anything in order to maintain the pretence.

Where did this truth avoidance come from? I always prided myself on my honesty and authenticity. Now I lie, even to myself.

I have a few ideas about the source of my unreality, but in a way they are inconsequential. The more important thing is to find a pathway back to truth. I'm not talking about brow beating and back lashing and running myself and everyone else into the ground in the interest of being real. I'm just talking about speaking honestly about what's going on.

I sometimes wish life could be like the 'Speaker Box' one of the teachers runs at school. After each student speaks they are scored by a panel of three. The first and third members of the panel (usually classmates, though I was a guest judge one week) give 'stars'. The middle judge presents a 'wish' and all have the same judging criteria, be it 'good eye contact', 'clear diction' or 'you kept our attention'. Each judge provides feedback on one criteria using the formula 'I liked it when you...' or 'I wish you...'. Every student grows and develops in their public speaking, but more importantly they have the opportunity to learn to give and receive both positive and constructive feedback.

Would we all did that! Calmly, factually gave objective feedback or offered an insight into how we have been affected. Or, since we are emotional beings who find objectivity difficult, if we saw life as a journey of increasing self awareness and growth, perhaps we could give and receive feedback freely. Gratefully even. If I was less concerned about making sure I always looked good, perhaps people would approach me and suggest ways I could improve. And then I could graciously accept their comments, discern their truth, admit my mistakes and change for the better.

I expend a great deal of energy maintaining my fa├žade, striving to keep face. Part of me longs to let it go, let it all hang out, just admit I can't do everything and be at peace with that. Another part of me cringes and hangs back in fear.

But here's my pledge: to become increasingly real. It's much better. Really.

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