My intention is to share with you ideas for turning obstacles into fuel and/or for cultivating gifts, insights, or redeeming something-ness. To this end, ‘Realness’ may, perhaps, be a gift from challenge to aid your Real, fab self in showing up more.
Per Merriam-Webster, Realness is “behaving … in a way that feels true, honest, or familiar and without pretension or affectation.”
Perfectionism had this way of holding back – or under – my Realness. It’s “not about healthy achievement and growth…or self-improvement… it is about trying to earn approval and acceptance” per Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection. Perfectionism craftily persuaded me that if I attempt to look, act, and be perfect – ha! – or how others thought I should be, all would be grand. Except, what I felt was shame, self-judgment, and/or self-blame. Ugh.
As chronic illness dragged on into months of my deepest difficulty, perfectionism and being other than True me grew to feel untenable, burdensome, and flat out displeasing. Body, mind, and spirit.
Yet, when incredible hardship is survived, as described by concentration camp survivor – and, I think, thriver – Viktor Frankl in Yes to Life In Spite of Everything, it can leave one barely existing. Or, what doesn’t truly matter burns away, falls off, or sheds giving Realness or “the essential self” room to fill the space.
“What remained [is] the individual person, the human being – and nothing else. Everything had fallen away from him [or her] during those years…; nothing was certain for him [or her] anymore: not life, not health, not happiness; all had been called into question… vanity, ambition, relationships. Everything was reduced to bare existence. Burnt through with pain, everything that was not essential was melted down…. [S/]he had now become just a prison number; or else [s/]he melted right down to his [or her] essential self.”
There’s no intention to minimize or deny pain, discomfort, outrage, fear, or horror here.
To clarify, in my experience, troubles enabled and encouraged Realness’s emergence. With more Acceptance of what’s inside, more showing up to and for myself and others. A liberation and relief – a freedom – in Realness.
Bob Proctor tells what his mentor, Bill Gove, the Frank Sinatra of Public Speakers, well summed up:
“If I wanna be free, I gotta be me.
Not the me that I think you think I should be.
Not the me that I think my wife thinks I should be.
Not the me that I think my kids think I should be.
If I want to be free, I gotta be me.”
Difficulty may be a catalyst to sluff off layers of untruths or falseness so one’s unique, imperfect, and special Realness can express and, even, shine. In a ‘this is who I am’ way instead of ‘this is against others’ way.
From a mess can rise a message – for oneself. Which can ripple out affecting others.
A palpable, precious, potent Realness and even, dare I say, treasures may result from situations we’d rather avoid, not have happen, pray not befall us.
Beneath the surface of incredible triumph often lies arduous trial(s) overcome. Problems can – if chosen – be used to cultivate redeeming, Real qualities, virtues, or strategies.
Beethoven’s Real brilliance in composing actually was amplified by his deafness. Yes, really. His most highly regarded work, including his Ninth Symphony, grew from his imagination after he’d gone deaf. An Arthur C. Brooks article here describes Beethoven’s greatest compositions as resulting from his disability and loss. Brooks wrote:
“it seems a mystery that Beethoven became more original and brilliant as a composer in inverse proportion to his ability to hear his own – and others’ – music. But maybe it isn’t so surprising. As his hearing deteriorated, he was less influenced by the prevailing compositional fashions and more by the musical structures forming inside his own head… Deafness freed Beethoven as a composer because he no longer had society’s soundtrack in his ears.
Perhaps therein lies a lesson for each of us. I know, I know: you’re no Beethoven. [Neither am I.] But as you read the lines above, maybe you could relate to the great composer’s loss in some way. Have you lost something that defined your identity? Maybe it involves your looks. Or your social prestige. Or your professional relevance.
How might this loss set you free?
You might finally define yourself in new ways, free from the boundaries you set for yourself based on the expectations of others…
Give deep thought to the changes in your own life. You might not revolutionize music, but maybe you will discover joy in the freedom that can come from losing something, but allowing yourself to grow.”
Hardship set me on a course which made me realize I longed to be and, eventually, share Real me.
I finally listened to Silence and Gut Knowing. My quirky, word-making-up, wetsuit nearly always when swimming, consigned clothes-wearing, honest about my horrific times being, imperfect yet loving self to show up – first for me and the Divine – then for family, friends, and others. It feels like coming home inside my skin.
My near undoing began and even allowed for, this Opening. My Realness no longer feels like it requires hiding – with discretion of course. Less worrying what others think. More feeling that how the Divine made me, and others too, is dandy.
Perfecting, judging, and shaming myself reduced.
Life’s obstacles created (or forced?) a shift. From attempting to be – albeit poorly – a picture-perfect person to being more Real. Gifted and flawed. Both.
With foibles and, God knows, having made plenty-o-mistakes. My blessings, failings, integrity, oopsies … all of it.
With more clarity, more soul-deep-yes-it’s-Real-me-ness. Although it’s been known to bring on a slight toss my cookies sensation.
Generally, as the weight of effort to meet others’ expectations gradually lifted, Realness felt much easier. Even if, sometimes, it’s less ‘usual’ to the world.
Below are ideas that helped me bring forth more Realness:
• Choosing and leaning into my Truth – not requiring broadcasting necessarily. Maybe just known on the inside. Or shared in prayer, mediation, or to a treasured other,
• Practicing owning errs & oopsies (humbling yet Mistakes are Practice and training for doing differently going forward) along with highlights & successes (not always the female way) – starting small if need be,
• Two letters, N. O., or 3 words, No thank you, kindly stated is ample if something feels off or over a boundary,
• Pausing when unsure or to gather more info before a decision is ok to check in with oneself and/or mull,
• Paying attention to what the body ‘says.’ Breathing a bit easier or gut-churning are examples of helpful info,
• Leaning towards Accepting myself and others, and/or
• Saying what I feel or think – considering audience, timing, situation – after Pausing, Praying/Meditating, Waiting, and Silence, if applicable.
Hard stuff landed me upon a solid rock bottom for the Divine to help my Realness show up.
And, I found it to be Worth. The. Discomfort. For the results.
Because when Realness oozes from the inside and into our exterior lives, it’s a gift – to ourselves and our world.
May you bring more of your Realness forth and shine your gifted, human Light which I believe ‘twill be a blessing for all,
Original Email Date: May 7, 2021
Click to listen to the audio podcast of the above post