February 14, 2007



What is the difference between the person who is born with blonde hair and someone else who dyes their hair to look blonde? One is real, the other is fake. Upon close observation, it is easy to tell the difference between the two. For the person who is the bottle blonde, the drapes don't match the carpeting. (Please use your imagination to figure-out the parallel). In this example, we have two people whose natural hair color is different, but look the same; however, one is authentic and the other is pretending. There is something to be said about both, but it has nothing to do with hair color. The focus of this article is on the subject of "authenticity." Authenticity may be related to honesty, self-disclosure, congruence, genuineness and realism. What does it mean to be an "authentic" human being? What is the value of being genuine and real in our relationships with others and ourselves? For people who are authentic, genuine and real, to use an analogy, the drapes do match the carpeting.

Lets use the political arena as a microcosm for our discussion on "authenticity." We can then apply what we learn from that example to our personal lives.

Question: "How do we know when a politician is telling a lie?"
Answer: "When he/she opens their mouth."

Does the above joke reflect an unfair stereotype and pre-judgement of politicians? Is it an oxymoron to say that politicians can be genuine and real people? Is it sad to even ask these questions? The truth: Not all politicians are liars. Many of them treat their constituents in authentic, genuine and real ways. To learn the difference between a deceitful politician and a real one, we must understand:

Authentic politicians accept the fact that not everybody will like them or their ideas, yet continue to be who they are and stand-up for what they believe to be an accurate reflection of their constituents' beliefs. This type of politician feels comfortable.

Genuine politicians do not try to impress people by pretending to be someone other than themselves. Rather, their personal core values are a good fit for their political party's agenda. There is consistency between personal beliefs and professional objectives.

Real politicians demonstrate an intellectual, emotional and behavioral consistency. This means that there is congruence between what they say and what they do. A dishonest politician says one thing, but does something else. An honest politician says one thing and does the same thing.

Lets apply the world of authentic, genuine and real politics to our personal lives:

Not everyone will like us all of the time.

Not everybody will always agree with us.

We do not have the power to make anybody else happy.

Despite the harshness of that reality, there is a socially redeeming value in learning how to develop authentic, genuine and real relationships with others and ourselves! It starts with realizing that the only people over whom we have control is ourselves. To be who we are is to be real. To pretend to be someone we're not is to be fake, someone who lacks substance.

The KEY WORDS here are: "BE YOURSELF" because that is what we can control. This means as adults, we have learned to think, feel and act for ourselves. We have learned to own our thoughts, feelings and actions rather than to blame others for what we think, what we feel and what we do. We are all accountable to ourselves. There is no deception. There is no hidden agenda when we genuinely present ourselves to others.

It takes courage to "be yourself" because we risk others not liking us. I don't know anybody who is liked by everybody. To be liked by everybody means we would need to be all things to all people, and that is an unlikely scenario. Comedian, Flip Wilson, had a more realistic scenario when he said, "What you see is what you get!"

We need to be authentic, genuine and real with ourselves before we can think, feel and act in kind to others. Otherwise, we are just pretending and trying to fool everybody including ourselves. If the goal is to match the drapes to the carpeting, "BE YOURSELF." Skeptics might ask, "What if we don't like ourselves?" That is an interesting question and worthy of further exploration. Counseling can help validate our worth and/or promote self-improvement!

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

Comedienne, Vicki Lawrence, gets the credit for using the "drapes and carpeting" analogy during her show at the Millennium Centre in Southfield, Michigan on February 1st, 2003.

I appreciate you supporting Stooltime Counseling, Greg!

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