As I partied last weekend in Amsterdam for Pride, I became acutely aware (not for the first time!) that I'm a little bit weird and at times, I can be very intense. I know from my travels that being in an unfamiliar environment or meeting new people is a great way to learn more about yourself! But I also looked around and thought that we are all weird in our own beautiful way. For a start, there's some crazy shit going on in our minds at times that we don't share with anyone for fear of social exclusion! And yet, the world relies on our uniqueness. Last weekend was a testament to this. So many wonderfully different people, across many spectrums, each contributing their bit to enhance the experience for themselves and others.
Not long after meeting someone, my offering of conversation is likely to be about something like existentialism, or how I think reality is manifested through our thoughts. I might even ask what metaphor they think most reflects their experience of life and it's meaning. Intense, right? Especially if you're just sipping on a cocktail and trying to enjoy the party nibbles. I spent my whole life conforming, desperately wanting to be part of "that group" or wishing I was "more like them/him". I was denying my truth, fearful of just being Adam. But intensity is part of my truth. It is part of the true me.
Without any evidence, I figured that my relentless feelings of shame for being 'different' were (perhaps ironically) quite common for people like me. Yet outwardly you'd never know I had these struggles. I'm often described as confident and self-assured. I'm a lot further forward with these things than I've ever been, but it's a life's work. We can never truly know what battles people are silently fighting.
Brené Brown speaks about shame in her books and TED Talks, which I highly recommend you read and watch (google her!). I resonated with her research that shame cannot exist alongside compassion. Compassion blows shame out the water and makes way for much more positive feelings.
Compassion can come from within, or from others. So many people I meet tell me how hard they find self-compassion. They talk of remarkable acts of kindness towards family, friends and even strangers, yet struggle offering the same to themselves. I'm no different, but I'm getting better. In my experience, the development of self-compassion takes time. It starts with being aware that you need it in the first place.
Until a few years ago, I denied my true self. I didn't show up as 'me' because I felt that true me wasn't enough. I hid my weirdness, intensity and deep thoughts for fear of social exclusion. I was a chameleon - an expert at fitting in wherever I was. I lived through multiple facades.
It was during my travels that I gained this self-awareness. When I returned I decided to start living more authentically, whatever the cost. These blogs and the whole 'me being Adam' thing is about doing exactly that - being truly me. Life coaching isn't a selfless profession. Yes, I help others live more authentically, and with things like confidence and finding a sense of purpose. But it also pushes me to walk the talk, it keeps me in check. I get to remind myself of these lessons and insights almost daily.
I spoke in my last blog about what stops us being ourselves, so I'll not repeat myself here. But there is something incredibly powerful about authenticity. Being more 'me' has enhanced my existing relationships and paved the way for new and meaningful ones. I've noticed that I experience a sense of inner calm more than ever before. But there is a challenging aspect too - when you decide to live more authentically, prepare for attack.
Authenticity (being secure enough in yourself to live your truth) can be incredibly destabilising for people. When you 'fess up' to your insecurities and live your truth anyway, you find that people around you polarise their positions quickly. Some gravitate towards you - you're now insecure buddies connecting authentically and you can offer each other kindness. These connections are special - they make the world a better place and life less shitty (I also happen to believe that is what being human is all about - helping others). But then there are those who will feel threatened by you. They fear that you see through their defences, that you know their game. It's the game many are playing but never talk of - "Don't call me out on my insecurities and I won't call you out on yours."
In this 'threatened group' there is a further sub-divide. Firstly, the runners. They literally see you and run, making no contact. They're done, no sir no dancing today! Then, there are the snipers. They are so insecure and threatened by your authenticity that you become a target - to be exterminated! Expect barbed comments, generally unkind behaviour, or even a full on character assassination. I'm not too humble to admit I've been one of these people, I'm human after all. But compare this to someone who is truly secure in themselves. They do not need to attack others, why would they?
It's hard not to have a shame attack when you get grief of someone who appears to be an arsehole - you put your truth out there and your perceive that it's been judged negatively. It hurts. But whilst tempting, retaliation is not the answer. Look to compassion. When you feel attacked, reach out to the people you love and trust. It's ok to seek healthy validation when you're under siege. Then remind yourself of the words I'm writing here today. In your heart and mind, find space to hold compassion for your attacker. They're scared and vulnerable, and you know how that feels.
Why another blog about authenticity? Because I know that living your truth is fucking hard work. But I also strongly believe that it's the only way to solve the world's problems, gain a strong sense of purpose and ultimately, experience more moments of happiness in what is often a shitty existence.