Life Lessons – Honesty about Traits

One’s negative character traits make them human but one’s honesty about their character traits make them lovable.

There are many life lessons that state in a simple phrase a profound truth concerning a secret to successful living. The statement explored here ranks among the most important of all such statements in that it requires a commitment to truth and honesty that goes against our deepest human instincts as well as our experience with self-examination. It suggests that if we are only concerned with looking good we tend to ignore and hide from the real person we are. The application of this life lesson involves all three of the key principles that the book asks us to adopt; Acceptance, Forgiveness and Humility.

While we all are likely to admit that there are things about ourselves that could be improved upon, we tend to try to keep them in the background. If we demonstrate some inappropriate behavior, there is usually an excuse or justification for our actions. Therefore, we seldom face the underlying cause that is repeatedly interjected into our interactions. This is in essence, hiding from the truth about ourselves. This is ignoring the obvious. This is living in the illusion that no one sees the real person. However, the real tragedy here is that we do not know our real selves.

Dealing with this duality of the open vs the closed parts of ourselves is the substance of self-discovery. As children everything about us is open. Moving into adolescence we only see, and are horrified by, our imperfections. By adulthood we develop sophisticated ways of covering our weaknesses and attempt not to show our vulnerability. Yet we are unable to escape ourselves, the limits of our capabilities, the feeling of incompleteness, the fear of appearing unacceptable. So, we continually embellish the illusion of ourselves and hone the fake persona that responds to “How you doing?” with “I’m great.”. But we know this response is just a reflex comment, a cover story to avoid exposing any crack in our armor.

The idea of honesty about our true selves in order to be more open is an exercise in Acceptance, Forgiveness and Humility. Acceptance involves the willingness to see, acknowledge and embrace our real selves as we have never done before. This is not groveling because we lack some desirable attribute nor does it involve apologies or excuses for any inability to perform in some prescribed way. Rather, acceptance is a simple assertion of how we see ourselves after a careful examination of beliefs, feelings, attitudes and behaviors and acknowledging our ineffective ways of expression that impact ourselves and others.

Forgiveness is a powerful part of embracing ourselves. It is forgiving ourselves for the harm we have done to ourselves and others once we have seen and accepted our behavior. Forgiveness is typically thought of as forgiving someone else for their behaviors but in reality, we are forgiving ourselves for the judgement we made of that person. If we focus on forgiving we are free of resentment, disappointment, or the feeling of being disrespected. We recognize our own foibles making us much more accepting of those who’s humanness may have caused them to act in a less than personable way. In this sense, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.

Humility plays into this exercise by giving us the freedom from the need to be perfect or to feel that we are safe from criticism. If our feelings stemming from the awareness of our vulnerability creates an aversion to being exposed as imperfect, the only alternative is to hide, to engage in puffery, or to be feel justified in being critical of others. Adopting the attribute of humility is the willingness to bear witness to, and an acceptance of our imperfections. We don’t ask for nor expect any special treatment for our honesty about acting in-artfully. If we know we are making our best effort, there is no need to expect more of ourselves. Our willingness to put ourselves out there, just as we are, is enough and expresses our acceptance of ourselves. There is nothing more humanizing than being real.

When it is boiled down to its essence, our being real, without any props, is our best self. It is what those around us want to see and relate to. It rings true with what others most likely recognize in us. They don’t understand why we are unwilling to drop the pretense or to quiet the rhetoric. When people know we are comfortable with ourselves they are comfortable with us and can relate to what they sense as real. The feelings that are interchanged in this environment of realness are expression of love, acceptance and support of each other. Why would we want anything else?

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Life Lessons – Over Corrections

Life is a series of over-corrections

Comedy is the portrayal of life exaggerating both the circumstances and the human response to plausible situations. I don’t mean to show my age but I am reminded of the Carol Burnett Show and her sketch of the dysfunctional family or Tim Conway’s old man shuffling across the floor. Why did I laugh so hysterically at what may otherwise be considered sad or even pathetic? In all likelihood, I saw humor because I could relate to the absurdity of how hard I try to be perfect when deep down I knew I was just a human doing the best I can.

What I can take away from the recognition of my own absurdity is seeing that I attempt to star in a slap-stick comedy show of my own making. I exaggerate my misconceptions when I fail to acknowledge obvious flaws in the underlying rational I give for my choices. I try so hard to appear normal or “put-together” because I fear being criticized, or worse, ostracized. In the background, there is a gnawing uneasiness whispering to me that I can’t hide who I really am yet I continue the charade as if no one can see my subterfuge.

Here is where I experience the fear of being found-out. My anxiety about being exposed means that as soon as I feel someone sees through the masquerade, I immediately adjust. More often than not my nervousness causes the adjustment to be more extreme than necessary. I intuitively recognize my overreaction which adds to my feeling of ineptness. Still I continue to “shuck-n-jive” to maintain my image, all the while completely destroying any semblance of dignity.

If only I could laugh at myself. If only I could take a bow to an approving audience who saw my parody of life, not my sophomoric attempt to play-act. In the quiet of my inner being, I know I am a fraud. In my cognitive being, I construct a narrative that explains how my life really does support my mirage. In my social being, I spring into the next scene ready to show-off my brilliance and primed to manipulate any situation that would otherwise taint my image. And when unexpected exposure looms, as it always does, I twist myself into a contorted illusion and pretend to be what I am not.

In truth, I can’t think of anything more absurd, yet before I started my process of self-examination, I seemed to be incapable of stopping the ruse. Today life is not only easier and more satisfying but my relationships are so much more genuine. The ability to connect with others is so much better when I am myself without regret or defense for being anything other than “just another smuck”.

Describe your persona (the nature of your personality that is presented to others.) and indicate whether it is an image you work at presenting. If it is, explain why that image is important to you. What happens when you feel others are not seeing what you intend them to see?

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