Do you know what it means to be authentic? I didn’t for a very long time. When I first graduated from school with my Master’s Degree I was told “Not to give away so much of myself.” What did that even mean? I had no idea. I continued being me as I gathered experience and worked on becoming a better counselor for my clients. My friends, coworkers, and clients describe me as honest, direct, and straight forward.
When I moved to the South, they told me “Cristi, you are so country.” Again, this terminology kept showing up about what many were considering a character flaw. In some ways it is a character flaw. For social relationships are often dependent on tact, indirectness, and being fake. In reality most people don’t want to hear your truth. Try this experiment the next time someone asks you “How are you?” Answer them honestly. If you are having a bad day, say so. Missing someone, say so. Now, watch the reaction of the person asking the question. How does their facial expression change? Do they change the subject? Do you feel heard?
Most of the time the person asking the question looks confused. Wondering if they heard you right? There were asking a question that social norms dictate. They did not want an honest answer.
Being authentic means to answer the question in the moment. No more no less. For example, you could say it has been a bad day, how was yours? That is being authentic. You were honest. There are those people, who take it one step farther and explain why it has been a bad day. This is oversharing. Think of it this way. The person asked, “How are you?” Not, “Why are you having a bad day?” Big difference between the two.
Being authentic means being true to you. For me it comes a naturally as breathing. I don’t have to think about how to be authentic. I just am. For others it is harder. For a deeper, closer relationship with others it is imperative to be authentic.
Working with me as your counselor means I will always be honest with you. Many of clients report to me that this is the quality they most value in our counseling relationship. I have learned it is one of the greatest assets I bring to my counseling. I am here to help you, not judge you. I can only do that by being authentic. I laugh to myself when I think about that first counseling supervisor that tried to tell me to not be authentic. I can only be who I am, and I am authentic. Photo by Julia Kuzenkov from Pexels