It’s a good day to sit and write a blog post. It’s 7 degrees out with several inches of snow on the ground. I’m perfectly happy to drink tea and think. I’ve pondered ideas for my first official post and decided I’d address the implications of my v/blog name: Keep it R.E.A.L. Each letter stands for something of value to me (Responsive, Engaged, Agile and Authentic Living), each of which I’ll leave for another day. It’s the word REAL I thought I’d discuss. The other words grew out of that one, not the other way around.
So, why the word Real? I consider it a quality of being and relating that has guided my own journey and growth, and one I find vital personally.
In an earlier iteration of my business I used the tag line, Get Real. It sounded like a lot of attitude, but in truth I meant it sincerely…I am deeply driven by a desire to be real in this world. And by Real I mean safe being me.
What’s fundamental to the quest for Realness, though, is the responsibility it puts upon the quester… to be self-aware. Being oneself isn’t about having permission to say and do whatever is wanted, whenever is wanted. It actually demands ongoing work on one’s own Emotional Intelligence, learning to tune in, honestly, to emotions, motives, reactions and truths, even when they’re not pretty.
That’s probably the hardest part – having to be Real with oneself first and to do so with compassion and patience, the way we would with a beloved other or child. When we get Real with ourselves we’ll come face to face with parts that don’t live up to our “ideal” version of who we want, or expect ourselves, to be. To that I say, “Thank goodness!” Believe me, I don’t like when it happens, but it’s just… Real. And it’s exhausting to constantly hold up the mirror of some impossible ideal. Being human is about making mistakes and not being perfect. But it’s also about taking the opportunity to learn from experience and about trying again. And being Real is about taking responsibility for what is ours and at the same time forgiving ourselves as we go.
Being Real with others is the second part of the journey. For some, the first part – being Real with oneself – is the most difficult, and therefore the most imperative for growth. For others – for me – this second part seems to hold the intended lessons for living. I remember being in maybe the third grade and walking out of a school conference with my mom, and looking up at her and asking, “What’s a perfectionist?” Ha! I was pegged early on.
Over the course of my life one of the most painful parts of that perfectionism has been the hurt that comes with feeling broken at times, and showing that brokeness to another, only to find it not feel safe. Yet, my most meaningful and long-lasting relationships have been those that leave room for imperfections. I am most comfortable with and connected to those who are open to, honest about, and aware of their own challenges, shortcomings and missteps as a human. I find it easier to be around them, to be me and to find inspiration for growth.
One of the most necessary qualities to cultivate for true Realness is vulnerability. We’re not often taught that it’s okay to be vulnerable – to show or even feel our weaknesses, fears and doubts, or to use our voice when we’re unsure of what we have to say. Being vulnerable requires risk, and sometimes it ends in disappointment. That’s just… Real.
I find it imperative to work on building both vulnerability and agility, or the ability to remain grounded in something deeper and truer than surface images while moving with what is and what arises. I like the term “agility,” though it’s more commonly called resilience, with a dose of flexibility. Realness requires us to not avoid or deny the hard parts, the hurts, the realities of life, but to face them and name them and know we’ll rise through them. Because we’re real and vulnerable and strong.
For me, creating a safe space for myself, with myself, was key to becoming Real (an ongoing journey)…and I found that safe space ultimately through mindfulness, a topic I will most certainly cover another time. But learning to be a friend to self is critical. I also found it through support systems discovered in counseling and relationships.
Along the way there have been bumps and bruises. But each has been worth it. To live a Real life is far greater reward than traveling a falsely smooth road. Why, you might ask…and I often wonder myself. But I know what it is to try and be something other, and it just doesn’t work for long. To be aware of and embrace the whole of who we are – the magnificent, the scared, the wonderful and the hurtful – is to give ourselves more choice in how we show up each day. I have found it too true that when we try to hide, especially from ourselves, what is real pours through the cracks, and not as we would choose.
It is said that what all humans most deeply want is to be “seen, known and heard.” And I think the rest of that would be…and be loved and accepted for all that is there.
Some First Steps to Take on the Road to Realness…
Get a journal or a notebook. Spend some time – three days a week – writing in it. Consider:
- How do YOU define being Real? What have you taken from this blog post and what’s important to you?
- What would it look like for you to be more Real in your life? How would it feel?
- Think of a time when you felt completely yourself. Where was it? When? Who were you with?
- Think of a time when you didn’t feel Real – how did it differ from the time you did?
Befriend yourself. Understand – the one relationship you are guaranteed from beginning to end is the one with yourself. It deserves time, attention and care.
- Make a list of things that nurture and nourish you – positive, healthy things. Reading, taking a bath, tea with a friend, taking a walk, spending time with a loved one. Things that make you happy at your core.
- Begin to make these priorities in your life, in your day.
- Start small. Begin by marking one day per week on your calendar to do a few of these self-supporting activities. And when you’re feeling less than yourself, do one!
- After you’ve begun a regular practice of self-support, carve out time each day to slow down and be alone. Start with five minutes. Find a place where you can be quiet and just…be. Take a few deep breaths.
- This is actually a huge step, and is ongoing and takes time. I suggest support – counseling/coaching – and patience.
Take yourself on a date. This can be scary, I know. Some of us are uncomfortable being alone. You can take a book, but no phone surfing. Take yourself to a movie or out to dinner, something more passive than active (like the gym or shopping – those we tend to do alone at least sometimes). Stretch your comfort zone and find comfort in your own company.
Consider the company you keep. Is there one person in your life who you can be completely honest with, who holds that with kindness and compassion? But who is also honest and encourages your growth and well-being? Someone who will lovingly “have your back,” but who isn’t about “misery loves company?” Rather, someone whow is about wanting what is good and best for you and themselves?
- If there is, wonderful. Take them for tea or lunch or invite them over and tell them just how grateful you are for them and this quality of your relationship.
- If not…consider what’s missing, and what feels unsafe. It’s important to awaken to what’s true.
- Perhaps there is someone in your life and you haven’t trusted in the value of Realness. If so, take a small step of vulnerability. One you feel mostly safe with, but also slightly challenged. Tell them about this blog and ask their opinion.
- If there isn’t anyone, ask yourself if you’ve open to such relationships? And keep your eyes open. In time, someone just might enter your sphere.