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At Chautauqua we hear lectures on vacation; David Brooks spoke about the lack of depth & inner dialogue that he finds is part of today’s youth culture because there is so much focus on their “outsides”. Many times in this blog I have ranted about the amount of avoiding and deflecting that occurs in important relationships. David Brooks is right, we avoid self-awareness and the work of an inner dialogue between our bad & our good selves which is all about the insides.

Human beings tend to feel either on top of the world or drowning in the certainty they are despicable. It requires a lot of depth to hang on to both knowing your gifts and your dark side instead of being either one or the other. Authenticity requires that we struggle to be aware of both sides to who we are.

Authenticity seems to be dismissed as narcissistic or self-serving. Making amends to someone and asking them what their worst part of the hurt was…..there is nothing easy or selfish about that.

Telling a partner that you really are unhappy about a way that they parent, or that they aren’t careful enough when they deal with your parents or…..or…..or. There’s nothing easy about that. Then instead of collapsing into defensiveness & fighting try to dialogue and respect the differences. That’s being authentic!

Knowing yourself to be who holds grudges and working at changing that. Admitting to someone you love that there are resentments that have silently piled up. Listening to your kid tell you that you were preoccupied as a mother when he was a teen and accepting that hard truth…..none of these are easy to do.

Authentic means owning up to your part in things. It’s the wince of self recognition that makes you want to be a better person or to have remorse. We are surrounded by people who are way to comfortable finding someone to blame then we can avoid looking at ourselves.

Authentic means being uncomfortable in the personal inventory of self, in relationships and in understanding more about the way the world works..

Facing the cultural facts of economic inequality is very uncomfortable. Recognizing the sad truth as reported by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute that the 6 Walmart Heirs have more money than the bottom 42% of Americans is very discomforting. Knowing that 600 people gave 99% of the money for political campaigns through super pacs and 163 people gave 50% of that 99% (from a lecture by Trevor Potter). CEO’s in the late 1970’s made 40 times what their workers made, now CEO’s make 800 times what their workers make (from a lecture by George Packer).

There is nothing about being authentic on any level that is about comfort & ease. It requires character to do the work of authenticity.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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