Are you fed up with your phoniness? Well let me put it another way… are you tired of being afraid to show your true self? Do you obsess over things like image, branding, and etiquette? Do you constantly worry about what people think of you? Do you withhold how you really feel from others for the sake of looking good? Do your friends tell you that you are phony? Do you feel like a fraud sometimes?
I’m sorry if these questions come across as insensitive, but I’ve been “authenticity challenged” my whole life and I want you to know that if you have been too, it’s not your fault.
Phoniness is the shadow of authenticity. Now this does not mean that authenticity is good and phoniness is bad, it simply means that phoniness is authenticity’s test. The ego uses phoniness to protect us from the possible rejection that vulnerability can bring. Phoniness and authenticity are twins and they need each other. You may have times in your life when one is more dominant than the other, but either way you will have to deal with both of them. Some people start off being phony most of the time, and then grow into their authenticity. Some people start off being very authentic but brash, and then they grow into a more graceful honesty later in life. It’s hard but it’s definitely possible to walk the path in between the two pillars.
When I was in college, I had to navigate my issues with phoniness and authenticity because there were too many things about me that were contradictory and deemed unacceptable by others. It’s hard being an introvert when you’re in college, so that stressed me out. It’s really hard having a hyper sex drive when you’re supposed to be a leader in the church, so that was another issue. And it’s irritating when you have a passion for racial equality and justice even though you do EVERYTHING interracially (study, date, work, eat, etc.), so that sucked.
Let me just say, confusion is okay. Depression is okay. And frustration is okay. If you feel like you are a contradiction and a hypocrite, you are well on your way to embracing your duality. Meeting someone who loves you unconditionally helps too. Meeting my husband was the catalyst for my transformation because he made it okay to be myself. When someone loves you when you don’t know how to love yourself, it gives your shadow permission to come out.
Until we are living in a society like the one presented in the movie “The Invention of Lying,” where everyone says exactly what’s on their minds, we are going to have to deal with phoniness. And it’s not all bad honestly. If you make a list of how your phoniness has worked for you in the past, you will find that the list seems quite productive.
Our phoniness shields us from being perceived in a negative light.
2) Our phoniness allows us to navigate through our mind’s many choices without causing people to worry. Nobody wants to know all of your hateful, lustful thoughts. Keep them to yourself or you’ll scare people.
3) Our phoniness is considerate of others’ feelings. “It’s so good to see you again!” Lies!
4) Our phoniness makes us mysterious. Especially to your ex who’s been stalking your Facebook page lately.
I had to cross out number one because it took me some time to realize that the main reason why we choose to be phony in the first place, is the main reason why phoniness is actually counter-productive. No matter how perfect of an image you try to project, people will still hate you if they have a reason to: just look at Beyoncé and Anne Hathaway for example. And it’s because we can’t stand being judged that we resort to phoniness in the first place. “My name’s Blurryface and I care what you think.” And don’t pretend that you don’t!
Now the dirty little secret is that caring what people think isn’t that bad, especially when you expose this truth to the light. All you have to do is a shadow work exercise. You can ask your ego questions and it will answer you. You can get to the bottom of what you’re afraid of and what you really want. What is it that you don’t want people to know about you? Why do you think they will think negatively about you if they know this? What is the worse that could happen if they think this about you?
Your answers don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be tied in a neat little bow. They just have to be honest. For example, I don’t want people to know that at the age of 33, and after almost seven happy years of marriage, I am still childless. I believe that once people know this about me, they will either pity me because they think that I can’t conceive or they will abhor me because they think that I am selfish. Exposing this truth would make me vulnerable, which is what the ego uses phoniness to try and protect me from. My ego feels like I’m supposed to live out this perfect life on social media and the perfect life includes at least one picture of a smiling husband with smiling children. If I’m going to be famous one day, I can’t have people pitying me or despising me, they must all adore me. The issue is not being childless; the issue is what people will think of me being childless.
So now that we’ve verbalized the fear, we have also uncovered the shadow truth: wanting to be famous. I’ve always wanted to be famous. As a kid, I enjoyed performing for adults and seeing them smile and clap for me. When I wasn’t performing and just being a normal kid, I felt invisible. The only way to not feel invisible was to get positive attention. Ultimately, I came to believe that to pursue fame is to run away from invisibility, but it was never okay to admit that I wanted to be famous. So now we can put it all together to get the core belief: I don’t want to be vulnerable because then I will feel invisible.
After you sit with your core belief for a while, you realize that everything is okay. You realize that it is such a relief to admit that you want something you’re not supposed to want. For me it was admitting that I want adoration, and now I can figure out a way to walk in between the pillar of unabashed fame chasing and the pillar of false humility. What is it for you? Do you have a hard time admitting that you like attention- even if it’s negative attention? Do you love money even though you’re not supposed to love it? Does the idea of being vulnerable with people- and I mean really vulnerable- awaken your fear of being despised and abandoned?
To love yourself is to love every single aspect of yourself in every way. When you embrace your phoniness, you embrace your body guard. And it is only after you embrace your body guard, that you can then embrace the vulnerable child that your body guard has been trying to protect.