Does Being Authentic Mean Being Consistent?

By Joy Mazzola

Recently, I hit a point with a coaching client where I realized he needed more than I could give him.

Up until that point, I had been listening, holding space, supporting, encouraging, asking a thoughtful question here and there, and assigning gentle practices. This had worked for a while, but now his storytelling was starting to underscore beliefs about his life that were no longer serving him. He needed to be awoken to this pattern, and that was going to necessitate working with someone much more assertive – one who could interrupt his anecdotes, give clear instructions and guidelines, listen carefully but also speak firmly.

The path of least resistance

I decided that I needed to stop with this client and refer him to another coach. One who was more skilled, stronger, more assertive. Someone with a personality that was more amenable to working with someone in this way.

I spoke to the coach I had in mind, who also happened to be a teacher of mine. Rather than rescue me and take the client, he very simply – almost nonchalantly – reaffirmed what I knew this client needed. Inferring, in a way that didn’t doubt I could do it, that I could and would continue along with this person using a different approach.

Crap.

I’d have to change how I was working. How I was acting. I’d have to change the rules of the game. In this relationship space that had been the same for months, I was suddenly going to have to show up very, very differently.

I can’t

It occurred to me that I was deathly afraid to do this. Not only with this client, but in almost every relationship. I had established specific rapports with each person in my life … I was caring, or witty, or sarcastic, or silly, or wise, or humble, or some combination of traits that set up the foundation of my bond with everyone I knew.

Now I was faced with the challenge of pulling back into my deepest self, being true not to the space created between me and this client, but rather to the deep voice inside that knew what he needs – and what I need – to take our relationship to the next level, and foster the highest truth in both of us.

What became clear to me is that, in most relationships, I have been acting sweet or cynical or however you “expect” me to be because that’s how I’ve always been with you. It wasn’t always an act … at one point it was genuine behavior. But now it’s sorely outdated. And I understand now that that doesn’t serve either of us.

Why do I do this?

So why am I so terrified to let the most updated version of me show up? Why is it so important to me to be “consistent” with who I’ve always been (and how could I have thought that was even realistic, given that we’re changing dynamically every moment of every day?). The fears came tumbling out in spades as soon as I asked the question.

Rejection. (“Well, you’re not who I signed on to be in relationship with.”)

Ridicule. (“What on earth are you doing/wearing/saying? Haaaahahaha.”)

Gossip. (“Who does she think she is?”)

Worry. (“Has she gone nuts? Is she okay?”)

But more loudly than any of these came the question at the root of it all for me:

“What if they’re right?”

Who DO I think I am? What on earth am I doing? I’ve never been this person. I’ve never said/done/worn this. Am I nuts??

Aha. So the questions aren’t coming from “them” at all. They’re coming from inside – my inner critic, perhaps, or from a deeper, more genuine place of fear. I’m the one most uncomfortable with the notion of transforming into someone I’ve never been. My concern isn’t that my friends, family, clients will be thrown with the rule changes. Rather, as with any loss of identity, I’m the one who will go through a time of feeling confused, crazy, unmoored, and afraid.

So now what?

I don’t know yet. That appears to be the question guarding the threshold to the next phase of growth for me. To be ALL ME, ALL THE TIME is perhaps – no, is definitely ­– going to require some shifts in my relationships. Maybe I won’t be the listener but rather the one that takes up space. Maybe I won’t be so accommodating, agreeable, even happy. Maybe people won’t be so comfortable around me anymore, or maybe I’ll be less awkward around certain folks. Maybe I’ll be kinder or more compassionate with the people who have always taken care of me. Maybe I’ll lose some friends.

I know I can’t force any of this, nor can I resist it. It will absolutely happen in its own time. But I do know that being all me, all the time means allowing for the subtle and dynamic shifts that are happening constantly.

So what about you guys? Does being ALL YOU, ALL THE TIME mean picking a persona and staying there? Or is there a more subtle, fluid aspect to who you really are? And if you’ve figured this out, how do you approach relationships in a way that doesn’t make you feel insane?

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Joy Mazzola is a blogger for Owning Pink and Integral Coach, dedicated to walking along your path with you until you feel more sure of who you are at your most essential, most magnificent core, and feel confident to step forth from that place. Contact her for a free consultation!

29 comments

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago

thanx for sharing

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Paula Gillis
Paula G8 years ago

I have worked with clients for many years and am inconsistantly consistant. What i mean is that, if a client needs total consistancy due to personality type I let them know that I expect them to toe the line. If clients are doing their share of the work I can be more laid back and personable. It is my belief that to have the same rules for everyone means that you expect everyone to respond to you in the same way and end up at the same opoint in the road when you are finished. Everyone is different and requires a different perspective.

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Danuta W.
Danuta Watola8 years ago

Thanks for the article!

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Emma Peach
Emma Peach8 years ago

Hmmm, interesting... my spidey senses are tingling... Jumping what others might think straight to the inner me, am i even authentic to myself... I won;t dwell to long cos i'll start to feel like i'm going nuts lol.. but I don't think i am authentic even to myself.. The persona is a shell, a casing protecting the inner me... it's much thinner than it was say 12 years ago but it's still there... perhaps over time it will wear itself away ... Will i crack it from the inside... probably not.. Sometimes i think i am insane, i'll look at myself in the mirror and thing who are you? as though trying to get a reaction from the reflection.... i look into my own eyes see if i can see in through the windows and catch a glimpse of my soul... I usually turn away as i feel the insnity thoughts creep in...

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Tam L.
T. L8 years ago

It made me think... a lot. I do yoga and meditation every day, either on my own or attending classes. It’s all started by my yoga teacher, I decided to try yoga to relive the stress, and even after first classes I was amazed by her energy and happiness. I got inspired and addicted; now my life is full of joy, positivity and meaning. But no matter how much she loves what she does she cannot transfers that love to everyone, as different things work for different people. I admire her attitude, and I wouldn’t like her to change for other students who come only for stretching and they do not feel comfortable with spirituality, they have the option to try elsewhere, as different people can offer different things. Generally I continually progress and improve as a person and yes I change as a character but only if I feel this might bring positive outcomes. I feel fear, for sure, but I managed to deal with it easy, but when I feel uncomfortable/untrue or guilty then these feeling are good indications for me that there is a problem. I know what works for me does not work for others, I know I don’t share my believes with everyone, I know that I cannot relate to everyone I interact in my life and they cannot relate to me, but what I know is to be true to myself and what feels right for me, so I wouldn’t change for others if it requires changes to my whole believe system. The most difficult people are those who don’t want to change and I think this is your case; w

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran8 years ago

thanks this has been very insightful. i can't pick a persona and stay there. i have different "fight faces" for work, play and personal.

I am only truly myself when I am alone.

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Loo Samantha
Loo sam8 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Lynn C.
Past Member 8 years ago

Consistent? I sure hope not - I'd never make the authentic list. I've been yelling "PUT ME DOWN" since a babe in arms...I still mean it too.

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Olivia Schlosser
Past Member 8 years ago

Thanks. In acting classes I always preferred improvisation because I could create the assertive character that I couldn't be myself. Eventually I found I could be anything I wanted without role playing.

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Gloria H.
Gloria H8 years ago

Is rigid-lacking flexibility,
close to consistent in a extreme form?
authentic being true to one's nature at the time of a particular event/situation?

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