I love the concept of authenticity. The idea of actually presenting ourselves as we really are, with no masks, no walls, no deception. Of course being 100% authentic is probably just an abstract concept. But we can certainly be more, or less, authentic. We can decide how willing we are to expose more of our real selves.
You may wonder why authenticity matters. I can give you many reasons. But I’m going to focus on one specific issue here. One of the big problems with not being authentic is this. When you enter a relationship with someone, any type of relationship, you build your part of the relationship around whom you think they are. Whom they’ve chosen to present to you.
The trouble is that the more unauthentic the person is, the greater the risk that what you think you have will shift, change or even go away. And that happens all too often. I see clients that have lived significant parts of their lives in important relationships that were never what they really believed them to be. I’m not talking about people that openly chose to deceive. I’m talking about relationships where one person simply wasn’t very authentic and may not even have consciously realized it.
This can happen for lots of reasons. Sometimes it is fear – exposing yourself is too scary so you present yourself as someone else. Sometimes it is socialization – this is who society says you are “supposed” to be, so you try to be that. Often it is related to family patterns. But it seldom done in purposeful, deceitful or malicious way. It is often done with the best of intentions.
The real issues can come when that person starts to change. Sometimes the facade just isn’t sustainable. It conflicts with a facade created for someone else – maybe their spouse facade clashes with their work facade. Sometimes the person just begins to have insight and doesn’t like the battle between their real self and the facade they’ve created. So they start to change.
Whatever the reason, when they begin to change it can create a problem. You feel them changing and suddenly what you thought had, the very foundations of your relationship start to crumble and vanish. The very thing you thought you had no longer exists. And what is worse, it actually never really existed. Not in the way you thought. And if you liked what you thought you had, this can be incredibly painful.
I see so many people get stuck at this point. You were happy. You love what you thought you had. And you are frustrated that you can’t continue to have it. You don’t understand why the other person won’t just go back to the way they were. Then everything would be okay. Except that it wouldn’t be. There is no going back. Because what you had…or thought you had…wasn’t really there. That person wasn’t really the person you thought they were. They may not even be the person they thought they were.
There is no doubt that this is unfair. But it is also something that happens in life. So what can you do? Actually there are many options. You may work out a new relationship with that new, more authentic person. You may find a new relationship or relationships to replace it.
You are free to choose the path you want. But what you don’t want to do is be unwilling to acknowledge that what you thought you had didn’t really exist. You can grieve the loss of what you thought you had. But what does not serve you well is to continue to pursue what never was. Going back isn’t an option. Letting go and moving forward is.