How many of us actually walk the walk? We may talk the talk, and some circumstances do require us to present ourselves in a particular way. In order to feel confident and step effectively into the role of boss/teacher/colleague we may adopt a specific persona which allows us to deliver what’s required and do it well.
But what’s behind the public face, how real are you? When we take on a role, adopt a set of values or code of conduct the underlying question could well be, are we living what we advocate or is behind the scenes a very different story?
Yes, many of us have several versions of ourselves that are revealed in the different areas of our lives. When we’re with colleagues, friends, lovers, family, children, pets we will slip into either a comfortable, familiar role or one that helps us cope best with the situation. Hopefully we’ll still retain our core, fundamental authenticity. We may present as tough in business, more fun and relaxed in domestic or social situations, but our true values and integrity hopefully stay central to us so that we’re genuine in those relationships and interactions.
Let’s look at what being real entails
Feeling that we need to say one thing whilst living another may be a factor in surviving in a fast-paced, acquisitive society. It’s perhaps tempting to be caught up in a spiral of wanting more, striving to live the dream, seeing success as having a lifestyle of fabulous cars, holidays and homes, but it’s stressful to maintain and often doesn’t deliver the satisfaction of the original promise. Plus, if something happens to change our health, finances, domestic situation — the whole infrastructure can come toppling down.
Maintaining a positive outlook is much feted and often portrayed as being a ‘want it, visualise it, get it’ approach that focuses on seeing beyond any setbacks, rather than being demotivated by them. However, being real also means acknowledging if things are tough or not working and keeping a realistic, balanced view of life. Sometimes we may need to adapt, revise or change our goals, perhaps even park them for a while. But the experience is still valid, valuable and can teach us a lot. Congratulate yourself for having had a go.
Allow yourself exciting goals, but maybe pace them in order to enjoy the journey and have time for other areas of life, celebrating each mini-success along the way. Pausing to reflect and be grateful for what we have can keep us real. Being alive, having food, a roof over our heads, access to education, friends and diverse options can help us feel balanced, self-contained and upbeat.
Self-deprecation can be an attractive part of being real.
Retaining a sense of humour, being prepared to laugh at yourself if warranted, can keep your feet on the ground and stop you taking yourself too seriously or being in danger of believing your own publicity! That way you’re more likely to be receptive to others, to their offers of help, prepared to acknowledge if you need to learn new skills or make some compromises and adjustments to your original plans.
Sometimes adopting a mask or persona is called Imposter Syndrome, where we camouflage our real self in order to cover up how low or unsure we’re feeling, and are afraid of being ‘found out’. This may help us keep going and even aid recovery. But being real also means admitting that there are issues, stresses or even depression lurking underneath. Hoping that they’ll fade away, resolve themselves or that we’ll continue to keep going ‘for now’ isn’t always the answer and sometimes requires that we share our struggles and become receptive to help and support.
Pretending everything’s fine indefinitely is often a recipe for ill-health, stress and burnout. How long can we maintain a facade before it becomes overwhelming? Often, when we admit that we’re struggling other people are willing to respond to our plight and are keen to help. Those closest to us have usually noticed our non-verbal signals of tension, irritability, stress, overwhelm. Being real is not about being weak, but allows us to be authentic, rather than pretend to be superman or woman.
Being real includes facing issues and not hiding from bad news or problems. We need to have some awareness of the bigger picture and not bury our head in the sand. Yes, politics might be confusing, crime and abuse is regularly reported, setbacks happen. We may block them from our feed, but they’re still out there. Having greater awareness brings compassion, sensitivity and empathy into our lives, it allows us to remain real, grounded, with gratitude for what we do have, so keeping a balanced outlook on life.
Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon. To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit www.lifestyletherapy.net