Appropriate vs. authentic

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Appropriate.  For me that is a loaded word.  Behave appropriately, dress appropriately, write appropriately, etc.  Sounds like a lot of telling me how I “should” do things.

And wow, did I feel a lot of shoulds as an expat arriving in Switzerland.  I should speak the language, I should know all the customs, I should know and follow the rules…etc.  Be quiet on the tram, the train! Behave appropriately!

The thing is, I don’t believe in shoulding on myself.  Not anymore.  I have done it for years.  Behaved appropriately as a daughter, student, employee, mother, friend.  With occasional bouts of rebellion which cover a wide spectrum from being wild to mildly stepping out of the appropriate line.

Now, instead of being appropriate, I’d rather be authentic.  Be honest, real, vulnerable.

What does that look like?  Well, it can be having so much fun I am “loud.”

Do I need to be the loud ugly American?  No.  (I actually like the quiet!)  I can be respectful and be myself.  So, if I am giggling with my kids on the tram so be it.  I choose joy over (perceived) appropriateness.  Because, really, who says I can’t laugh aloud on the tram?  Really, only me.  My fears speaking, worrying about not fitting in.

It can also be admitting when I see you that I have forgotten your name.  Even though I “should” know it.  The fear is that you’ll reject me.  But what I am finding is that telling you instead brings us closer.  Why?  Because I am being honest, vulnerable, and in so doing allowing you to do the same.  I am saying “wow, I am human and I make mistakes.  You?”

It can look like holding your true self back, in so many forms, all in the hopes of fitting in appropriately.  Wear the uniform, don’t rock the boat, don’t ask too many questions.  But does that really work for you or those around you?  Are you honestly doing anyone any favors by not letting your true self shine?

Here’s some ways to play around with this if you feel so inclined.

1.  Try being honest when you have forgotten a name.  Really honest – no excuses.  Do you know the name but your mind is momentarily blank?  Say so.  Really can’t remember?  Say that.  I know when someone says this to me I find it so refreshing that they are human and honest, and I am so drawn to that person.

2.  Are you late?  Ok, apologize without excuses.  You can say “I am sorry I am late.  I didn’t allow enough time for traffic (or whatever) and I apologize.”  That is so different from blaming the traffic – at which point you are helpless and the traffic has all the power.  How about “I am sorry I am late.  I chose to do one more thing and made myself late.”

Have you noticed that often when you are late, others seemed to arrive on time?  How do they do it?  😉

So cut yourself some slack, and if you want, try it.  Be real.  Take responsibility.  Tell the truth instead of giving excuses.  It is a practice.  Some days I nail it.  Other days I am a wimp!  But I keep coming back to it.  Why?  Well, see how you feel.  You may find that instead of feeling bad you feel more honest, more powerful, more yourself.

Try authenticity over appropriateness.

Let me know what happens!





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