In a recent article, I explained why I think authenticity highly increases your chances to achieve your goals. However, this is not obvious and society often discourages us from being authentic. I now have such a strong belief that wanting to try and show I was successful was holding me back that I completely change my personality. I know make sure I am authentic and I don’t try to hide it. But why did it take me so long to arrive to a conclusion that now seems obvious to me?
Society discourages vulnerability — thus authenticity
Was it just me? Definitely not. We are discouraged from being vulnerable and authentic. In our modern societies, when you try and express fully your authenticity, you often feel like a misfit. On top of my personal experience, I have recently observed and discussed this a lot. People often follow one of these 2 paths:
Path #1: they repress their vulnerability, and thus their authenticity, so they can fit in
Path #2: they stay true to yourself but feel like a misfit and disconnect with people around them
The meditation example
I started meditation a bit more than a year ago. I then met with some of my French friends in Thailand for New Year’s. We are a group of competing dudes, so when I told them, they were making fun of me. Not in a bad way, they’re my friends and banter is part of a fun friendship, but it can still deter one from opening up. “That’s so gay! We lost you man!”. Good one! I’m still trying to understand the relation between sexual preferences and meditation. Yoga, eating healthy was gay too.
And to be honest, what if I was gay? Gay people may actually be one of the best example. You cannot eternally repress your sexual desire, so it is very hard to follow path #1 and hide it, so you are often pushed to follow path #2, this is why gay people tend to regroup. Maybe you would follow path #1 at work, to fit in, and path #2 in your personal life, to be authentic.
To come back to the meditation example, I could easily have chosen path #1 or path #2.
Path #1: I won’t tell them. I won’t meditate when they are around. Maybe I’ll even completely stop because I want to fit in. It drags me down because I know I need to meditate, but it allows me to stay with my friends and get closer to them as we’ll get drunk together and compete to get laid Tonight.
Path #2: My belief is strong enough but I don’t want to be made fun of so I stop seeing them. Meditation then makes me feel such a disconnection with my friends.
Choosing path #3: Authentic and proud
I choose path #3: I’m going to tell them I meditate and I’ll do it whatever they think. I’ll tell them why if they ask, I’ll tell them how if they get interested and I won’t talk about it that much if they’re not interested. By the way, if they say it’s stupid (fighting it) or make fun of it, I consider they are interested.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. — Mahatma Gandhi
When your friends all smoke, what makes you smoke too? Is it the smell? Is it the need for nicotine? No, it’s because you don’t want to be the one staying alone at the table after dinner. It’s then very easy to follow path #1 and have a cigarette with them. Path #3 is you go out with them and gently decline when offered a cigarette.
Recently, I was speaking with a very beautiful human being I met in Bali. We spent more than 3 hours over the phone Yesterday. She told me learning Reiki changed her life, made her discover new dimensions of life. At the same time, it disconnected her from some people she loved and from some of her fellow doctors. I see so many people choosing path #2.
So path #3 is: be authentic, show vulnerability but be proud of it. Don’t care too much what people think. But don’t force anyone to change. Don’t get angry if they don’t. Just always leave an open door. This is the best way to eventually reconnect with them. This is how you create an environment where people push each other to thrive rather than to drag each other down.
Why do I choose path #3?
Writing such an article is definitely a big leap into path #3 😛
The reason why I don’t choose path #1 is obvious. I don’t want to avoid progressing in my life simply because I’ll feel I don’t fit in.
I would rather choose path #2. At the same time, living with the conception of being a misfit is hard and is likely to lead to a pretty unhappy life. Plus, I believe there is so much you gain out of human connections that it would prevent me from thriving. I want to stay close to the people around me, friends and family, I don’t want to start thinking they are dragging me down, I just need to share with them my views without filters and try to inspire. They will then inspire me back 10x more.
What makes me think we can follow path #3? When my friends make fun of me, it is often in a group and they react to a conditioning or a habit. Because there is a vicious cycle in a group that keeps you on path #1. When you follow path #3, most people actually connect with you, it may just take a bit of time. In a group, people won’t say it but they may get inspired and curious. The most interesting is when you start talking face-to-face and show vulnerability, then anyone starts to be more authentic because they can do so with confidence. Some people are more receptive than others, but overall, you can engage in a deep authentic conversation with everyone, even with people with whom you thought it wouldn’t be possible.
If you are stuck in path #2, think twice. It isn’t that much that people are not deep or not interesting. It is mainly your projection of others as not interesting that makes them uninteresting. It is easy to create such a negative loop that will strengthen your initial belief. When you change your mindset and expect everyone to be interesting and open-minded, you realise most people actually are and it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
This is so liberating! So encouraging! It gave me a lot of hope and joy. I think a completely different society is actually just a step away. Everything could change very quickly.
How do we do it?
I know everyone is not ready to expose themselves as much as I currently do. This is why I am trying to create environments where people who want to live an authentic life can express themselves with pride and confidence. An environment where people don’t need filters to protect themselves.
I also want this community to be very open and welcoming. Anyone who is willing to make an effort and have an open mind is welcome. I think this way, starting small, we can create a very inspiring community.
Unlockt is just one way. I’m sure there are a lot of other initiatives out there, please share them with me :)
I just thought it couldn’t hurt to create a new initiative and include the people I care about. I have had a few friends doing the challenge I created, and now we connect more than ever. It is such a liberation, such an amazing feeling. I even wanted my own mum to do it to and it helped us connect like never before. We now try to get our partners, family members, friends to do it to, because we have experienced the power of path #3.
How can you do it too?
Now you may think: “who is this guy telling me what I should do and how I should be?”. I’m writing this because I want to help people around me. Now you may think “Help me? Who do you think you are?”
This article doesn’t come out of nowhere. I used to be too proud and too stubborn to listen to good advice, because I thought it would mean I was weak. However, some books, articles and conversations helped me change my mind. Yes, I was wrong and needed help. One friend in particular, that I now consider as a mentor, got me into meditation, which allowed me to be more focused, more relaxed, more productive. Then into reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, because my lack of interest in others was dragging me down. I cannot be grateful enough to him.
So I’m simply passing this on. Who cares about being right or wrong? I am so happy I understood I was wrong when talking to this mentor. Leave the ego aside. It is not about doing what one tells you to do. It’s about living according to what you already know and feel deep inside of you. If you’ve been reading this far, you probably know what I’m talking about. It needs to come from you anyway. If what I say resonates, it’s not being “weak” to take the advice. We all need help sometimes. Free yourself and become authentic and vulnerable and be proud of it. Choose path #3. Choose it now. I’m 27 and wish I had done this change before. But the more you wait, the worse it gets. I’m also happy I didn’t wait until I was 40. Or 60. Or that I would never change.
A path to greatness
"If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both." — Horace Mann
This approach is all the more important in our current society, where continuous learning and reinventing yourself is the key to success. If you want to truly be successful, this is the way. Successful people embrace change, because they know they are not perfect and need to constantly evolve and learn.
How vulnerable is this guy? Do you think he is pretending anything? Do you think he would have achieved 1% of what he has achieved if he was worrying about people’s opinion?
To my French readers, why has this song become so popular? Vulnerability brings people together:
And I leave you with this beautiful and simple yet powerful song by John Lennon: