In our lives there’s a lot of social pressure to be excellent. We put our best foot forward in introductions, work interactions, job interviews, parties, and a variety of other new situations. It’s what we naturally do.
It’s terrifying to be real. To expose who you really are, and how you really live, and what you really value, because if you do that and you are rejected then the rejection feels so personal. We’d rather put forward personas… those images we want to project. Then if you’re rejected, its just because you chose the wrong persona. A simple mistake, no big deal, and the “real” you is deep inside, safely insulated from pain.
But here’s the thing… people crave authenticity. Countless years of human interaction and adaptation have developed our species into authenticity detecting machines. We sense it. We can feel it in our gut, even if we can’t see in consciously (just ask Malcolm Gladwell). And when we see somebody (a boss, a role model, an applicants, a politician, a teacher… anyone!) who chooses to be vulnerable enough to be real, we are drawn to them. It’s so refreshing.
Sometimes being real is not an option. You may not be who you want to be right now, or you may need to work through some issues first. If you can’t be real, that’s ok, but you pay a price. You lose opportunities for friendship, understanding, and the liberation of being authentic. You learn healthier ways of handling criticism. You have conversations that you wouldn’t have had before, about things that really matter to you.
So if you can’t be real right now, then see if you can get to a place where you can be more real, with more people, more often.