Authenticity is very important to me. I feel that for a significant part of my life I was not authentic with myself or with others. Once I let that go and started getting real with myself and the people in my life, the quality of my life and relationships with others improved. Like most things in life, simply choosing to be authentic is not easy, particularly in our personal relationships. How can you be authentic with your parents when most of your life you were afraid to really show who you are? Are you worried you might lose the people you care about if you choose to show your authentic self? Or alternatively, do you have habits that are preventing a deeper connection to form? It’s not easy to try to be authentic with your loved ones when the majority of the relationship you have not been authentic but you can certainly take steps to work on having genuine connections with people.
1. Be authentic and loving towards yourself. When you fulfil your own needs, you stop looking for other people to fulfil that void for you. Focus on becoming the person that you admire and want to become. Always work on improving your self-worth and valuing who you are as a person. Being authentic with other people in your life requires that you give something to the people in your life. Instead of always viewing your relations with others from a place of receiving, work on realizing that the best connections are ones where you both contribute. The best and healthiest connections require mutual respect, mutual love/admiration and are a supplement to our own individual happiness.
2. Focus on their strengths. When we are annoyed or frustrated with someone, it’s easy to focus on their weaknesses and shortcomings. Nobody is perfect and you may know this objectively but have a difficult time sorting through all the strengths and weaknesses of the people in your life. Instead of focusing your energy on their weaknesses, take time to notice their strengths. Your childhood friend may have weaknesses that bother you, but when you focus on their strengths you remind yourself of all the reasons you have this friendship in your life and how important this friend is to you. A great habit to incorporate into your life is to freely give genuine compliments and be kind to the people in your life. As you adopt this habit, you will notice that the weaknesses of a person do not matter as much when you recognize how amazing this person is to you.
3. Show people your flaws. Everyone has personal flaws. That’s what makes us humans. Often times our flaws is what helps people connect with us and love us for who we truly are. It’s okay if you feel insecure, misunderstood, weak or lacking confidence. It’s okay if you made mistakes that you are embarrassed or ashamed by. Every single one of us has personal flaws and has made mistakes. When you share your flaws with others, you have the potential to deepen an authentic connection with others. The people who truly care about you will support you regardless of your personal flaws.
4. Recognize when you are trying to change someone and stop. Many of us are guilty of trying to change someone or help them try to fix problems within their own lives. This desire to want to help may come from a place of love, but the most loving thing you can do for the people in your life is to accept, appreciate and love them for who they are. Sure, the people in your life may make mistakes, have bad habits or need to make real changes within themselves. You can certainly support them with making those changes but you have to find the balance between being supportive and when you are taking too much control in your loved one’s life. Accept the person as who they are. If this person has things you feel they really need to change within their life, feel free to be supportive but also take a step back. Recognize that a person can only change if they want to change. The best thing you can do for yourself and the other person is to accept them as they are, listen, be supportive and give them the space to recognize what they need to do within their own lives, without you trying to change them. Your relationship with this person becomes genuine when you stop trying to make someone be someone who they are presently not.
5. Let things go. Earlier this week I was speaking to a friend about how I really dislike arguing about the small things. The small, irritating things that annoy and bother you do not really matter in the grand scheme of things. Often times it’s just best to just choose your battles and practice letting go of the things that don’t really matter. You can have authentic connections when you don’t sweat the small stuff, and spend more time appreciating what you have.
6. Accept that meaningful and genuine relationships are not as easy as we’d like them to be. Unfortunately, there’s a false belief that relationships are always easy. Any kind of conflict is viewed as something wrong with a relationship and a sign that you should not have anything to do with this person anymore. There is truth in that healthy relationships overall add happiness within our lives, but there will be bumps along the way. Looking back at my best friendships, we have had many bumps. I had an argument with two of my very close friends (who I have known for over 10 years) which caused us to not speak for several months (in one case, a couple of years). I’ve had some unpleasant and even embarrassing moments with my family. I’ve had some very tough conversations with pretty much all my very good friends at one point or another, where we argued, maybe there were tears or we even had doubts about if the friendship was even worth keeping. All my long-term romantic relationships consisted of some argument, resolving it, letting it go and moving on. Looking back, all these bumps actually made my connections stronger. We understood each other on a deeper level, accepted each other, figured out better ways to work through problems and basically very rarely have conflicts anymore which means that these meaningful relationships are easy.
7. Authentic connections encourage change and personal growth in unexpected ways. Change can feel unpleasant, especially when unexpected but it might be the very thing you need. Last week this guy was telling me how he met one his best friends. He specifically said she’s the type of person who just turns your world upside down once you meet her. This friend was someone who pushed and prodded him, and yes, it felt unpleasant and he resisted it but ultimately he’s very happy she did it. The best types of relationships are the ones that you grow from. Recognize that the relationships you often need in your life are the ones that encourage you to grow, and sometimes that growth may be unpleasant and even scary, but it might be the very thing you need right now.
8. Apologize when you do mess up. Being authentic requires that you be open when you know you haven’t been a very good friend or partner to someone lately. Sometimes our own ego and stubbornness makes us want to do anything but apologize. It’s easier to not apologize but you aren’t being authentic with yourself or others when you cannot admit when you made a mistake or if you handled a situation poorly. Saying sorry can actually be the very thing that deepens a connection, because you are willing to set aside your ego to do what is right. I once had to apologize with a friend where I had messed up, acted poorly and chose not to speak to them for a very long time rather than admit I handled a situation badly. Saying sorry felt very difficult at the time but ultimately saved our friendship in the end. This was after a couple of years of us not speaking. It’s never too late to apologize.
9. If you are feeling pain, respond from a place of love and kindness. When someone hurts you badly, try to not respond by hurting them or getting revenge. Getting back at this person will not resolve the situation. Focus on being kind to yourself and walking away from a person that is treating you badly. If you are having a tough time in your personal life, try to not take it out on your loved ones. Neglecting your loved ones or hurting them because other aspects of your life are going badly can eventually damage the most important relationships in your life. If you have a hard time not responding with negativity, learn to communicate when you need space.
10. Authentic connections require acceptance. During the 2016 US presidential election I witnessed many friendships and families being torn apart due to differing political opinions. I understand that everyone has different opinions that are valuable and highly important to them, but mistreating someone due to a different opinion does not do anyone any good. When you disagree, work on responding with kindness. You can stay firms with your beliefs and opinions but recognize when a discussion is becoming too heated and risks damaging a relationship. You may not always agree with your loved one’s opinions or choices, but you can work on accepting them for who they are.
11. Authentic relationships do not unnecessarily judge. One of the biggest hindrances to having a genuine connection with someone is when you judge their decisions or their lifestyle. If you would describe yourself as judgmental or notice that you judge people, then recognize that your judgmental attitude may be the thing that is preventing you to have genuine connections with people. Instead of judging others, work on listening more. Try to understand where someone is coming from. Be kind in your responses to others.
12. Let go of connections that encourage negativity within your life. You may be investing too much energy into people who you dislike or relationships filled with bitterness, jealousy and maybe even hatred. You may not even be friends with this person anymore, but continue to focus on seeking revenge or getting even with this person. If you are holding onto negative connections, then the best thing you can do is let go of these people and focus your energy into the people who treat you with kindness and compassion.
Authentic relationships within ourselves and with others aren’t always easy and effortless. Part of being authentic is being honest about your own shortcomings that may be getting in the way of being genuine. Either way you can continue to work on the areas that are preventing you from having authentic connections.