True story. During film school I needed a part-time job and I really wanted it to be a writing job. One day I got an email from my dad telling me he had an interview for me at the DC office of one of our state representatives. I wasn’t at all excited about the prospect of working in politics but I needed something. I called the office, talked with his Chief of Staff, who it turns out, I knew and scheduled an interview for later that week.
It’s important to know that I interview fairly well. People generally like me; I am articulate; I do my homework so I can ask intelligent questions. I come prepared to respond thoughtfully to the interviewer.
When I arrived at the congressman’s office, I discovered a couple of addiitional friends from high school who were working for him. I started thinking how great it would be to work with all these people from my home town even if the job wasn’t something I was particularly jazzed about. The interview began, the Chief of Staff asked me how I liked living in D.C. and about my graduate program. He told me about the job and the work the congressman was doing and finally asks me what I enjoyed most about politics.
The answer that popped out of my mouth? “Oh, I don’t like politics at all.”
As you can imagine, I didn’t get the job.
Our authentic selves are funny little creatures. They can hide away for years while we muddle through figuring out who we are and what we want to be. But when they are ready to be heard, they don’t like to be ignored. They make us do or say things sometimes we can’t explain -things that can run the gamut from simply embarrassing to completely destructive. If we are lucky, we learn from these situations and take appropriate actions. Very often these situations occur at the most inconvenient times in a desperate attempt to save us from ourselves.
Authentic selves can be brutal when they decide they’ve been ignored long enough. I know of people who’ve suddenly (and seemingly accidentally) quit jobs they’ve had no intention of leaving and then flourished when they branched out into something completely different. I’ve heard of first dates where a normally reserved person blurts out “I’m going to marry you,” and then does a few years later. A CEO of a wildly popular group coupon website runs a Superbowl ad mocking an oppressed nation even though he once founded a social action website aimed at saving the world and finds himself having to prove he’s actually still an activist and not a capitalist at heart.
Authentic selves don’t want us to be comfortable; they want us to be honest with ourselves. And sometimes, they take no prisoners.
The only way to really avoid these types of situations is to be completely authentic every moment of our lives. Have you ever met someone like that? I haven’t. I’ve met people who spend the majority of their time living their authentic life — and they are truly awesome, inspiring people to be around. But nobody’s perfect and I bet that even they have a story where their authentic self decided it was time to be heard. It happens and hopefully we are able to recognize it as the wake up call we need and adjust our lives accordingly.
Perhaps you will never run an offensive Superbowl ad. Perhaps you’re not even sure what your authentic self would say if it chose to be heard. Just try and remember that if your authentic self pops out an inconvenient time, it’s time to start really listening to what it’s trying to say and maybe make some changes that allow you to align yourself better with the best version of yourself.
Has something like these examples ever happened to you? Leave a comment and let us know about it.