Recently I have been thinking about authenticity. The definition is being true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character…..is sincere and authentic with no pretensions. Perhaps it is because I am so totally hooked on the Crown. This Netflix series portrays a person who must give up so much of their personality in public. No longer even saying I when talking about ones self there is the royal “we”. It is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office like a king or queen.
We can gradually lose some of our authenticity by trying to fit in to societal norms starting early in our school years. When I was five, for a school performance of Bear Went Over the Mountain, everyone on stage had to be a bear or mountain. My best friend and I refused to be either. So the teacher let us be wildflowers growing on the mountain. I saw the friend this summer. She also had the same proud memory of us being five year old wildflowers unafraid to be different. My parents very strongly encouraged me to be myself, think for myself and be an individual, society norms are strong. The even let me choose my religion when I was just 11 years old. As I got older I tried to be more like everyone else. It is even worse for young people today. Two of my favorite movies are Pretty in Pink and Napoleon Dynamite. Both are great role models of an expression of individuality.
Then came the world of corporate America. I was told to be creative and think outside the box, but often the message was to buy into the current corporate model of how to dress (I still laugh at our power suits wit shoulder pads and pantyhose ), talk and act. Work gave me a real sense of security so I tried to fit the mold. I was well established in my career and it took many promotions before I felt I could start letting more of the real me show up at work. It was a relief to be more me again. I had to find my voice in teaching too. When I started teaching many moons ago I tried to copy a bit of each of my favorites. I only started having real fun teaching by finding my own true style.
It can be a fine line to be a true you and also feel like you belong. We all want to be liked and we need a tribe it is who we are. One of my favorite poems is one of David Whyte’s called Self-Portrait. “…I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned. If you know despair or can see it in others. I want to know if you are prepared to live in the world with its harsh need to change you. If you can look back with firm eyes saying this is where I stand.”
Photo by Kacper Szczechla on Unsplash