Monday, February 11, 2008

On Being Real

I came across a great article today called Have An Average Day. I think it's a great article.

It got me to thinking about the kinds of skills I teach my clients. I teach mindfulness. I teach affirmations. I teach people to consider and challenge their thoughts (if they're right, accept and work on it and if they're wrong, don't buy into the crap). I teach them that there is a danger in being too serious and that laughter is healthy. Basically, I teach them to be real.

I don't teach them to put a positive spin on everything. I don't teach them to only look at the bright side. I don't teach them that depression and anxiety are "bad" -- they simply are and it's all in what we do with it. It's even okay to have setbacks and not demand so much of ourselves (as that's generally what gets you into problems in the first place). I don't teach them to simply say that everything is "GREAT!" That was the pop psychology of the 80's--I'm okay, you're okay, and doggone it, people like me! That's isn't real. That's Alec Baldwin's Parker character on Friends.

I teach them to simply be real and to be okay with being real. After all, if you can't be real, then who is everyone around you hanging out with? And how can anyone have a real relationship of any depth with you?

It got me thinking about family and friends and how much I appreciate people who are real, genuine, the real deal. There's depth there. I love people in the east (no offense to those in the west--it's a Boston thing). They tell it like it is. The guy you don't even know on the street walks past you and says, "Geez, it's wicked cold! This freaking weather, eh?" Go Red Sox. They're not looking for the silver lining, but yet they're not being negative either. They're being REAL. And they're telling it like it is, usually with a warm, friendly smile on their face (or not, but the tone is friendly). I like that.

I have a great friend who has recently brought to my attention how far I've come in being real. And how much she likes that. She complimented me on my bravery in that. I used to put up a fake, cheerful front even though I was a mess inside. That sucked. And I battled that. In a very. major. way. And I *have* come a long way. I'm spotting it more easily in others--that pretense, that facade, that fraud, sometimes even to themselves. Something's brewing under that fake surface. Some of them must explode behind closed doors. Some of them haven't yet, but are going to in a major way when they finally crack.

Several of my clients have said that they feel comfortable with me because I'm "real" and down to earth and not stuffy. That is a mighty big compliment. See, I'm far from perfect, but I try my best to be real with those around me and I expect the same courtesy in return. Or at least, I connect more deeply with those who are brave enough to give the same in return. Otherwise, I am being betrayed. And so is everyone else.

I once heard a saying that went something like "People in the east will bite your head off, but watch your back with people in the west." Obviously that is a gross generalization, but you get the idea. I'd rather know where I stand. Don't clench your teeth and sweetly grin at me and try desperately to find something to compliment or something sunny to say (and then turn around and roll your eyes or think nasty thoughts), just tell me what you think! Again, I say, how_else_can_I_have_a_relationship_of_any_depth_with_you.

Anyway, I'm grateful for people who are real. I'm seeing more and more that it's a skill. It's easy to be fake. It's much harder and more truthful and more vulnerable to be real. After all, people might not like you when you're real, right? But then, who wants friends who like you only because they really don't know you? And better yet, how great are friends who like you because they know the real vulnerable you despite or maybe because of your shortcomings? Then not only are YOU real, but your friends are, too. Win-win. "Hey, look at me! I'm a headcase! You still like me? Good! Then you're my friend."

I'm very blessed to have a great REAL husband and awesome REAL kids who fully support and encourage me (they love the real me!) in all paths of life. It's mutual. I think they're pretty great, too. I'm blessed to have REAL friends (both in person and online)--the kind I can really open up to and say what I really think without judgment or fear of pretense from them. I'm feeling quite grateful for real relationships. Real people.

So, have an average day. Enjoy the ordinary. Go after what you want in life. Focus on "being" more than "doing." Be real. And revel in the common.

And don't be a Parker. It's just annoying. (Watch video from 3:12-5:26):


emily said...

i have to admit that i've been in social situations where it's sort of necessary to get along and i genuinely don't like someone and i've been one of those just seems like in some situations it's not quite appropriate to say "i'm sorry, i just can't talk to you, you drive me crazy!"

also, i had a real struggle with being too judgmental when i was in high school and the way i turned it around was by thinking of something (anything) to compliment the person and it honestly changed the way i thought about people--that there really is something of value in everybody, even if i don't like them.

but i do agree. i struggle with being real (could it be that i'm from the west?!) especially when i'm in new situations, meeting people for the first time. but i'm much happier just being me.

Boquinha said...

What? No comment on the Friends post? I thought for sure Dave or Emily would be making a Friends joke. :P

I totally agree that being real shouldn't be at the cost of social decorum. There are ways to be real and nice at the same time. The phrase "if you don't have something nice to say, dont' say anything at all" can still apply. But to constantly not be ourselves can slowly chip away at us until we don't know who we are anymore (and neither does anyone around us).

I used to struggle, too, with being judgmental. Badly. And it was very subtle. I look back and didn't even notice I was doing it, because I felt so right and justified in my own ways. It was more of a "Oh, if they'd only (fill in the blank with some righteous thing to do), they wouldn't have that problem." How arrogant was that! Though I meant well and it wasn't even conscious, just an undercurrent of thought and views on others. I dislike that a lot and have made big changes to get away from that.

One of the things we're constantly telling our kids is "It's okay to think you're great; to think you're better than someone else has crossed a line."

I think if we watch our approach with people, often when we're being fake, we can FEEL it if we allow ourselves to . . . and it doesn't feel at all congruent with our true and natural selves. And then you have cognitive dissonance. And for some (like me), it can catch up and spiral you into depression. I have to be real (yet nice, yes) for my mental and emotional sanity. And yes, it's a constant balance to be real yet nice (though I think you can definitely be both).

I'm also talking about not just how we handle situations, but how we are in general--being open, being truthful, not feeling like we have to put up some I've-got-it-all-together front. Emily, you ARE real! Read your blog. You tell it like it is. You don't paint some picture of a perfectly-run, smoothly-operating, no-one-ever-has-a-tantrum-or-bad-day home and not all Moms are brave enough to do that. That's one of the reasons I love so many of your blog posts. I don't feel like you're blowing sunshing--you're being real. I love "real" blogs. :) Maybe we can start a network of real blogs--people willing to be open and say, "I'm not perfect and it's okay!" :P

Boquinha said...

One more thing to add. Also, for my emotional and mental sanity, I do well with "real" friends--people unafraid to show weakness, doubt, non-perfectness. I love people like that. Because then I know I'm not alone. And I can be comfortable around them and better explore who I am as a person with the freedom to express those same things--weakness, doubt, non-perfectness. If everyone would do this, the world would be sooooooo different. But it takes bravery and we don't all have that, so I think most of us struggle with this. But I do believe it's best and can be done. I'm working on it anyway . . .

Dr. Mark said...

Well, since reading this post I had an average evening, followed by an average night's sleep, which transitioned into a very average day thus far. And I've got to say, it feels pretty good.

Moving on . . .

Can I just say that too much sunshine really gets on my nerves. I can appreciate and even admire positive thinkers, but sometimes things are just what they are. I was out last night returning library books and getting a few item at the grocery store, and it was so cold that this guy bought a soda inside, and it was already slushy by the time he got to his car. That's a bit cold. The temperature was somewhere in the teens and I don't even want to know what the windchill was. It was cold, I was cold, and I wanted to get home. Guess what? No amount of positive spin will change the fact that I was a few degrees from missing important appendages. Not being negative. Just real.

I appreciate people that can be cordial and polite even if they don't particularly care for me. I don't want them to be rude, but they don't have to pretend to be my friend either. I just don't see the point in being "unreal."

On and on I go, but that's my .02 for now.

Aaron Houssian said...

This is an interesting issue, and certainly one that as mentioned in laster posts, is a "hot button" issue for me.

Oh and YES, the friends clip was HIlarious (caps intentional).

I am not saying that you should unload your crap on people when they ask you "How are you doing" while standing in line at the store, or passing in the hall at church, no no NO no. What I am saying is that I have had a hard time coming to grips with just letting ppl know, hey things suck right now, but in a really easy way that doesn't necessarily invite them to inquire about it. I also secretly hate people that are positive about things all the time.

I had a VERY difficult time coming back from my mission with people I served with. I believed that we were friends. Often friendship is based on shared experience, common beliefs, and common interests. We even had some fun together. I guess I was wrong apparently.
I'm not sure why, but I thought that would equate to us being friends after we came home. I'm not saying best buddies, hang out all the time, but at least see each other occasionally, stay in touch, and catch a movie together some time (assuming they were in Provo). This was not my experience. It sucked.

Wow I'm ranting now, OK I'll stop, but let's just say I prefer honesty and not acting like my friend and being cordial than being fake.

Jill O said...

I love this post. Kent trademark slogan is "normal." How are you today? Normal. What do you think of the weather. Normal. etc...
At first it drove me nuts! I wanted sunshine and flowers with rainbows mixed in with fluffy bunnies. But then he explained that normal is not a bad way for him to be. If he is sad, he tells you, if he is happy, he lets you know. When things are just what they are, he is normal and he is okay with that.
After dealing with so many fakey people, I set a goal to be just myself and I love it! No more pretense and fluff.
There are some people that you have to fake it just to get through that part of the day. Those are the people I don't want anything from except whatever is happening at that moment. I had to learn to let them go because they just pull me down.
It is always so great when you find a like minded person who thinks the same way you do. Thanks for being my friend.

Dave Johnson said...

How did I miss this post before? You wrote this in 2008. That's about exactly the time we were starting to define what we want in friends, what we expect, and doggone it, what we deserve. This is the thing I believe we are most like-minded about. No more Parkers in our lives. I've done my time with those people and it's miserable. Sometimes it's not a thousand points of life, IT'S A TRAFFIC JAM!!

This is what we appreciate SO SO SO SO SO much about you guys - just your "real-ness," your willingness to just say so when something sucks, when you're mad, when you're having an out of sync (or just average) day. It's the sign of a healthy mind, and it makes you the kind of people that have realistic expectations of others. You will never know how refreshing that has been for us, and how very much we've needed such friends for so long. I don't know what we'd do without the five of you.

Boquinha said...

Go figure on the time coincidence. Serendipity, my friend. :)

Thank you so much for the nice words. And for being real. We're so grateful for our friendship with you, too! It is so mutual.