I have had two totally separate conversations recently that have me thinking about these things we call connection and authenticity. As fate would have it, both conversations were around social media and engagement. The irony is not lost on me… trust me.
The conversations just kept kicking around in my head. What gets people to connect? What draws us to people?
We grow up being told to put our best foot forward. Have you ever really thought about what that means? To me, best foot can mean any and all of the following:
- Hair perfectly done
- Makeup on point
- Clothes properly pressed
- Shoulders back
- Perfect posture
- Smiling at the rude comments
- Ignoring the passive insult
Have you ever stopped to think, “Is that really the goal?” I’m not suggesting, even for a second, that there is not a time and place for being polished. There is. I mean, don’t go to that job interview in your pjs (though that is kind of a dreamy thought, no?).
But is it the every day, every moment goal? I say no.The goal is NOT to only present our bestness.
The goal is to be vulnerable.
The goal is to be authentic.
Think about it. You see that woman at a party. You know the one. She’s centerfold beautiful. You know what really sucks; she’s fricking nice. I mean… nice nice. Ooey gooey nice. Bitch.
If you’re like me, you admire her. You might even envy her a bit. Right? Okay… let’s be totally honest, we have that big old measuring stick out and who’s falling short? I am! Ughhh. And how does that make me feel? Like shit.
So she is putting her best foot forward, right? We can all agree on that. But what sense of connection are you really having with that “bestness”? None. Admiration is not connection. Envy… that’s really not connection. In fact, all the things you are coveting about her… that best foot is actually counterproductive to connection. We cannot connect to “bestness”.
So here you are, both at this party, and then the façade slips… just a little. She goes to take a sip of wine and manages to pour it down the front of her dress (who has done that? Can I get a holla? Oh just me… damn). You can see she’s mortified. She’s red-cheeked and you know if there was a rock handy, she’d crawl under it. How are you feeling now about her?
Or maybe the façade slips a fair amount? Maybe she shares that these sorts of events make her nervous because she never knows quite what to say?
She grabs your hand and says, “I am so glad you are here though, you’ve been so easy to talk to.”
How do you feel about her now?
Or maybe she is sipping a tic too much wine and the façade falls totally away? Maybe you both tipsy-talk about the challenges of marriage and she shares she has been in counseling for a year, but she doesn’t see much change? You tell her about this amazing therapist that you feel saved your marriage. She writes the name and number down.
When you leave, she hugs you like she doesn’t want to let go and says, “thank you.”
How do you feel about her now?
The great connector is not perfection. The great connector is letting the veil down. It’s making ourselves vulnerable. It’s showing our authentic self… messy and imperfect.
We connect over shared sorrows, struggles, and joys.
So why is that vulnerability so hard?
I think there are a lot of reasons, really. Some of it might be the feeling of “what if?” What if I am totally authentic and they don’t like me? I mean, if you just put your best foot forward and someone rejects it, they’re really rejecting your fake foot, not you. There’s safety in that.
Of course, the other side of that coin is if they accept you, they’re not really accepting YOU, are they?
Damn that coin.
I think the other, more complex part of this has to do with unconditional love.
Think about it. Most of us have little to no concept of that. We say, “I love you” with an expectation or hope. We want to hear it back, right? That’s the condition. We’re, for some reason, afraid to put love out there that might not be returned.
What if you could put love out there and just not care what the outcome was?
Think about it. I want you to imagine everyone you encounter and just give them love—be it a compliment, a hug, or a listening ear. Maybe you tell a co-worker how much you love working with them? Or the lady on the elevator that always gives you the nicest smile? What if you told her you loved her smile? What if you just didn’t care if she thought you were weird or didn’t care if she liked you? You just gave her love.
What if? That would be your authentic self. I think we have this feeling that our authenticity lies in our darkness. It doesn’t. It lies in our love. It lies in our vulnerability. It lies most surely in our imperfection. Imperfection isn’t darkness. It’s humanity. Maybe even a gift?
What if it’s the drink spilling-socially awkward-drank too much-over shared part of you—the part you are hating so damn hard. What if that’s what has allowed every connection you have ever had.
What if all you hated about YOU, was all that allowed the people you hold dear to feel safe trying to love you?
Go forth and