Do you Dare to be Yourself?
I was doing some serious reflection the other day about myself as a person. I do this from time to time, sort of taking a temperature of where I am at this particular stage in my life in regards to tolerance, moral stance, character traits, etcetera etcetera. One of the things that caught and held my attention was this one question: “Am I being the most genuine version of myself at all times?”
I’ve encountered many people who are unapologetic for who they are. They do not change for their audience. They do not shy away at going against the grain. They are wholeheartedly committed and true to themselves. They. Are. (in my opinion) Rock Stars!
Now let me pause to elaborate further on this point. It’s a social adaptation to be a chameleon. It is often encouraged and labeled as healthy behavior. It is a survival necessity to adjust and assimilate. Yes, you may have to alter your appearance in a corporate environment and adjust your speech in a classroom setting, but I’m talking about altering your speech and/or behavior by choice based solely on fear of judgment of others.
This is different than accommodation. For instance, if a person tells you that they dislike profanity, and you actively try to censor yourself, you are being considerate and accommodating. On the other hand, if during conversation a person says “I think that people who use profanity are idiots who have nothing better to say,” and your response is “I agree,” knowing full well that you curse like a sailor on steroids, then it is time to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re being genuine or not.
Scenario 1: You’re out with a whole bunch of guys who are talking and laughing enthusiastically about which football teams they follow, arguing about stats, and players, and records. You do not follow sports of any kind. One guy looks at you and says, “Hey! Which team do you root for?” Do you:
A. Mention that you are a hard-core Steelers fan and mumble something about Polamalu because you saw him in a Pepsi commercial so they can get off your back.
B. Shrug and say, “I’m not interested in sports.”
Scenario 2: A person makes an off-color borderline racist joke. You’re slightly offended, but everyone around you laughs. Do you:
A. Say, “Hey, that’s not cool,” and risk everyone feeling awkward and labeling you as “the sensitive dude.”
B. Laugh along with everyone else. No need to be so serious, it was just a joke, anyway.
Scenario 3: An Obama fanatic is bashing Republicans, identifying them as racist conservatives who don’t know anything about honesty. You are a black republican. He nudges you and says, “I know I’m preaching to the choir man, you’re too cool to be a Republican.” Do you:
A. Correct him, and school him about how not all Republicans are racist conservatives.
B. Smile and laugh. You don’t confirm being a Republican, but you don’t deny being a Democrat either.
I think that it’s easy to make your decision based on a quick A or B choice on a blog, but can you confidently say that you’d make the same choices in a real-life situation? I think that we have an instinct to be like, and as a result we quantify, we overemphasize and we downplay so that we can fit with the group. And it brings me back to my original question… Am I being the most genuine version of myself at all times?
I think it’s about being consistent across all scenarios. If you are typically guarded and your business is kept private, then it is disingenuous to blab about your promotion to your sister-in-law because you wanted to rub it in her face. If you typically show off your tattoos, and chat enthusiastically about getting inked, but cover up at a job which has no policy against tattoos, you are being disingenuous. If you do not drink alcohol, but get cranberry juice in a wine glass to blend in, you are being disingenuous.
I am an outspoken person. If I am passionate about something, you will hear about it. In college, I almost fought a guy because I saw him shaking a tiny girl. (Turns out they were joking.) I’m the person who yelled at a school bully who was picking on a shy girl in gym class. But I also realize that I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser. I like to make people comfortable. But why hamper or exaggerate thoughts or beliefs that are perfectly fine the way they are?
So I’m going to try out some radical genuineness… We’ll see what happens!
Do you think that you are being less genuine by modifying the way you are around others? Does it depend on the situation? Or are you a rock star and truly have a “love me or hate me” view on life?