Yet I can't count the number of times a client has said to me that they are hoping to learn to be more authentic, more 'themselves'. It sounds on the surface as if that makes sense too. Yet given the number of personalities we all can display, I sometimes wonder which 'authentic' we'd chose from!
Who is your authentic self?
Where will you go looking for you?
How will you know when you've found you?
Does all this mean that in a lifetime of searching I might miss myself, pass myself by and somehow never experience what it's like to be me? It sure seems that way.
So before we run off to find ourselves, what is this me I am seeking?
A friend and mentor I love dearly and have the great privilege to work closely with at Supercoach Academy is Michael Neill. Michael shared this distinction in this years' class called "Natural vs Normal." It's an important one. I'm going to give my version of what I see Michael might be pointing to and why it's so important in the context of being oneself.
'Normal' is what you might call the familiar way in which our human system operates. In the normal way of things, it's 'normal' to argue when you are upset. It is also 'normal' to get upset if someone calls your Dad a loser or cuts you off in traffic. It's normal to be worried and stressed out. It's normal to have concern for your children.
I'm not suggesting normal is bad. I'm just saying it's, well, normal. Normal is the conglomeration of things that we really take for granted because so many of us agree that it's just the way it is. Normal is what we take for granted. Which means it is also invisible to us. More on this in just a moment.
By contrast, 'natural' is the state we find ourselves in when we are not all wound up. It's what happens (yes, naturally) when we are not triggered or speeding around. It is less a state you evoke, a more a state that is just there when nothing else is getting in the way. I'm struck that the saying 'the natural order of things' is one of those sayings we think refers to mother nature alone, and yet it too suggests a state of being (not a way of being) that is utterly effortless, so completely in tune with life itself as to be almost unnoticeable. It's funny how we think of nature and humans as somehow different. Surely we too, have a natural order. One that really can't get messed up.
In other words, when we are not lost in our worried thoughts the natural state of a human being is just that: A human. Being.
Our natural state is a human with all the capacities pre-loaded -- to love, feel connected, to sense what's best for us. And those simply are as natural as it gets.
I think the problem with going out there looking to find ourselves is that we are always looking to the world and our experience of what's normal rather than the delicious feeling of what's natural within us. Maybe we wander off from knowing what that feels like, but it is always there waiting for us. You'll feel it in moments when you might least expect it -- a surge of joy, a sense of feeling nicely settled, a sense of being connected to someone.
Our own authenticity is really what we experience in ourselves when we are simply in our natural state of mind.
I absolutely know when I am in my natural state, because I feel good. Warm feelings, pleasant feelings, these are the signs of your natural self. You don't have to go anywhere or do anything for this to arise in you. It is just there.
In that sense you could say that stress and worry are unnatural states. Even if they are very normal!