The cost of authenticity

June 24, 2014

grown-ass lady

I wasn’t always the confident person I am now.

But I was always someone who could only be how she was. Authenticity was me.

Here in Silicon Valley, we call that WYSIWYG.

Pronounced Whizz-EE-Wig.

It stands for “What you see is what you get.”

It’s not that I set out to be that way. I came IN that way, genetically unable to put on a facade.

Some of my recent posts about stepping into your own power and having confidence have generated good discussions, back and forths about the cost of being who you are.  I was surprised to see that some women really did think there is a cost to being authentic.

Not me.

I’ve never thought that I lost anything worthwhile by being my authentic self.

Integrity–that quality of being honest in a way that lets everyone know where you stand–has had only positives.

Does that meant it hasn’t created a little havoc? Of course not.

I had a crazy boss who wanted me gone because of stands I took.  But it was past time for me to leave that gig and I was happy when I had the chance to resign and leave his increasing and clinical paranoia.  So my boss didn’t like me. Who cares when an idiot doesn’t like them? Not me.

A coworker gave me the highest compliment ever when he pointed out that I was one of the very few people on the job who would speak out against racism. My coworkers didn’t seem racist. They just wouldn’t open their mouths when the time came.  Was that because they were afraid to be who they really are for fear of losing a gig? That they couldn’t stand in their own power?

My rebound marriage fell apart because I couldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not.  What did I lose, the opportunity to wear a facade for the rest of my life?

My siblings left my life because I am not like them. The cost was that I do not have my closest genetic family in my life. But to do that I would have to pretend and not be me.  But I am close with plenty of people who are just fine with me as I am. My chosen family. What I’ve really lost is the stress of being with people who judge and dislike me. Not such a bad thing.

See, that’s the thing.

We THINK we might lose something but if we really analyze the situation we’ll probably find we haven’t lost anything of value at all.

THEY are the ones who have lost something.

Because it’s not about us at all. It’s about them.

But it really does take some discriminating thought to get there.

What do YOU think?

55 comments on “The cost of authenticity
  1. AS you’ve noted there is a price to pay sometimes. I suspect I try to moderate a little more than you do–the ‘social work’ type, i.e. peacemaker. I think it is important for people to feel comfortable expressing their own wants and needs, beliefs and more–not an easy task for many.

    • The peacemaker role is important. My grandfather modeled that in a very beautiful way and I was lucky to see it in action. Sometimes, though, peace can not be made, as much as we want it to be.

  2. Carol you bring up an interesting point in discussing authenticity. I think people may express it differently, perhaps for one being their true self means speaking bluntly, and not sugar coating things. I have a cousin who personifies that personality and I have always been a little envious of her ability to do that. But if I was to try to be like that I would be a fraud, even though the ideas I may speak would be my own. I am by nature or nurture a caretaker, or peacemaker. I think in the end it is important for us to each be comfortable in who we are, learning not to be afraid, but speaking in a voice that is true for us. Thanks so much for sparking these thoughts for me!

    • I so agree–speaking in a voice true to us and understanding that we do not lose anything of value by being who we are. It doesn’t mean scorching the earth!

  3. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    I agree and disagree. I agree that being authentic all the time is important, and in fact, like you, I’m not sure I could be anyone else but me. That being said, there is a part of me that stands back for people while I stand up for what I believe. I give them the space to have their POV, then either step away from them entirely if their morals and ethics and dogma rub against my grain, or just “let go” and exist with them in my outermost spheres.I choose carefully what bridges to burn and instead simply choose to take a different route in order not to have to cross them.

    • We are pretty much alike in that way. I don’t advocate burning bridges at all. I do advocate standing up for what we believe in, though, and letting go of things that do not serve us.

  4. Tammy says:

    Interesting post Carol. I, much like you, feel comfortable speaking my mind. However, over the years and through a need to pay the bills, I have found that it isn’t always in my best interest to share my thoughts. Of course I’m not talking about something as important as race or anything else that should be brought to light. I guess for me, as a New Yorker transplanted to the South, I’ve learned to be a bit more southern in my approach rather than a WYSIWYG New Yawker. That said, I’m sure by southern standards I’m still just a good ole Yankee.

  5. Sometimes being authentic can be a struggle, especially when working with other people, but I do my best. As far as family goes, that’s one place where I will bend a bit to make others more comfortable – in many cases it’s more important to me to stay connected than it is to always speak my mind.

    • Authenticity does not require others to be uncomfortable. I think it’s interesting how most of us default to thinking it means some kind of confrontation, when all it means is being true to who we are.

  6. My role in my family was always peacemaker too, similar to Walkers comment above. I stay true to myself, but I guess I’m a bit less confrontational. There are times when I feel like I am struggling with authenticity – usually when I’m in situations with non-working moms who are absolutely GREAT at doing “mom stuff,” like the ones who volunteer for class mom, or basketball mom. I’ve had a career my entire life, so never really had the time (or wanted to) get involved with all the school stuff but every now and then I feel like I should have, and feel a bit “less” than those other moms. So I remind myself that my authentic self is just who I am, I’m not that mom who volunteers, I’m the working mom who makes enough money to pay for my kids college education and offer us all a pretty darn good life.

  7. Linda Roy says:

    Indeed it’s not always easy showing one’s authentic self. I’ve found my authentic self gets me in trouble from time to time. 😉 But it’s a good feeling knowing I’ve stayed true to my convictions, and in that way, you find the people whom you most honestly connect with.

    • Yes. It is very hard for me to have “superficial” relationships–which I think is why I don’t like groups or never liked being part of a clique. I am much more comfortable connecting 1/1 deeply. When I say “superficial” I mean the ones in which you never talk about anything that really matters. It’s just now how I roll. Not that I don’t have fun, that’s not it. I know it sounds kind of snobby but that’s not how I mean it.

  8. I think I wish I was able to feel the same way about things as you do, in this instance. But the truth is, I am very impressionable, and hurt really easily. When I think back on my life, and the people I think about who hated me… it still gives me twinges of pain. Oh, my life is so much better for having them gone, but I always try so hard before I give up. I’m not sure why. I am fairy certain I am authentic though. Most of the time. A door slam helps sometimes. xo

  9. kim tackett says:

    Interesting discussion for sure (and I am still on my first cup of coffee). I too, am a person who speaks her mind. But what I have seen over the years (and especially the past few) is that if I slow down a bit, and am not always the first to speak up and out, then I might see another point of view. My strongly held opinion (which I am confident in sharing) may shift and change. And I am viewing that as a good thing too.

  10. Sheryl says:

    I have so, so many times found exactly this to be true: Because it’s not about us at all. It’s about them.

  11. I try to be as authentic as I can at all times because I (or anyone) can’t be all things to all people. However, I do find myself from time to time trying to get along, giving in a little to no being my totally honest self. I hate confrontations. But I always want to like what I see in the mirror, and for that reason I always try to remain true to myself.

  12. I just know that I was always exhausted, upset and never felt at peace until I spoke up and said I will no longer listen to negativity of any kind.
    When someone called to gossip or complain, I no longer had time to listen.
    Friends and family dropped out of my life and I have never been more at peace.
    I was so worried about ‘losing people’ or ‘hurting people.’
    I do not miss them at all. I have new positive, happy friends.

  13. Lana says:

    When I was younger I was definitely guilty of being the peacemaker and not wanting to rock the boat – so I stayed silent many times. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become stronger. I’ve lost some friends, but the people still in my life are the important ones.

  14. Karen says:

    One of the highest compliments I ever received at work was after a meeting, when someone said to me, “I love that you always say the thing that everyone else is just thinking.” And I completely agree with your stand on authenticity. My only concern is with some people who use the term “authenticity” to mean “being a jerk and not having to apologize.” When that happens, I stand up to it, but it pains me that a perfectly fine attribute can get such a bad rap from a few miscreants.

  15. I am also a what you see is what you get kind of girl – even more so as I get older. Yes, it’s gotten me in trouble occasionally because I feel compelled to say what I think but it’s also enabled me to have some really interesting conversations with people!

  16. Diane says:

    Putting on a facade is exhausting! I simply couldn’t keep it up. WYSIWYG has always worked for me. Sure there are people who don’t care for me because of it. But I can live with that! 🙂

  17. Carol Graham says:

    I related to this in more ways than I want to admit 🙂 Can we do lunch?

  18. I think that’s the key – We never lose anything worth keeping by being our authentic selves. Thank you for the reminder. Great post!

  19. Risa says:

    What an interesting conversation! I think time and age are factors for some of us who were insecure about being authentic back in the day. I found the ability to cut through the BS and “mercy out” of stuff that didn’t matter got easier the older I got. And it’s really quite liberating. And if you really want a concrete example, just look at my hair! Seriously, while it may seem superficial, it was a first huge step towards feeling authentic. I am a grown-ass woman–with silver hair! Thanks for getting this conversation started.

  20. My most outspoken friend is considered by many to be abrasive. But what I like best about her, is that I always know exactly where I stand with her 🙂 You have made some great points here!

  21. Michelle R says:

    Oh, you know I agree with this post! We should all live authentically, not just for ourselves, but for those around us. And encourage them to do the same…in words and actions. As I’ve often said, “My husband knows who he married.” For better or worse, it is authentically me. And he is authentically him. It does sometimes cause friction, but not unexpectedly. In my experience, it is the less-than-authentic relationships where the real surprises and real let downs have occurred. And like you, I was glad to remove those from my life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen better, be more accepting, and sometimes hold my quick/sharp tongue. And experience just adds to the authenticity. Thanks for the post, Carol. Good stuff!

  22. donna says:

    Very well said. For many years I pretended to be something I was not. Never satisfied with myself or my circumstances, I floundered between becoming someone I *thought* people would like and spending time reading books on how to become *that* person.
    it took a like altering moment and about 3+ years of “recovery” to become the person I am today…the person that probably could not care less about what most people think of me :). And the ones I do allow to have influence and inspiration in my life…they are the few that encourage me to be who I AM, are not afraid to tell me if I am being a jerk, love me even when I am being a jerk…AND more importantly, are still my friend even if I disagree with their assessment of my jerkiness :).
    It is important to have those kind of people in your life, but I will never succumb to what others may think I *should* be. And if you go out of your way to disrespect me. my hubby, or my kids…later tater :)!

  23. A fellow professor gave me the ultimate compliment…she was a social psychologist. She said I was the only person she knew who didn’t put on and take off different personalities…that I was my authentic self in every situation. I felt very complimented by that.

  24. Very true Carol. Because who are we fooling anyway except for ourselves. Why on Earth would we want to be friends with anyone who didn’t really like the real us anyway????

  25. When my kids were younger and cutting people from my life could have repercussions for them, I did it far less. I’m freed in that respect now that they’ll both be in college. And I have been taking steps away from and even cutting people out of my life who I feel are toxic. It really is a relief sometimes.

  26. One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in trying to embrace and live my most authentic self is reconnecting with who I am–who I came into this world as, before that being was mucked up by others’ definitions of who I am.

    I was always strong willed–came into this world that way. I was always positive and a bit silly. I was girly and emotional and very intuitive. And, I am still all of these things. By her own admission, my mother tried to “break” me in the way someone breaks a pony. However, also by my mom’s admission (when discussing my younger daughter–the spitting image of my spirited will), she made a mistake. “Train her spirit,” she told me, “don’t try to break it.”
    Since my 30’s, I’ve been on a quest to rediscover me–the me that isn’t defined by role, or family, or someone’s ideas of what is right and proper and to live as authentically as possible, without apology.

  27. Ruth Curran says:

    Sometimes letting it all fall away — all those things that don’t belong to us — is easy in theory, hard in practice, but worth it in the long run. Love the reminders!

  28. Yep, can be a challenge!

  29. joan says:

    wow!! Again something I’ve been struggling with…. But I’m not as strong about it as you… and I do have a bit of another slant on it….
    Like it’s ok to compromise to make some people comfortable…. But then maybe that’s the person I am…. so that’s ok too!

    I met you on one of the trips to SF play… Hope to meet up with you again!! You are a power woman!!

  30. I agree that fearing the loss of connection can blind us to the worth of those connections. I also think when we are true to our authentic selves, we sometimes help others do the same thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.