For the last two weeks, we’ve been exploring how to show up fully as your real, unapologetic, authentic self. In the first week, we focused on stepping out of hiding and standing for who you are and what you bring to the world. Last week, we explored the importance of authenticity in building trust. This week, we go deeper with what it takes to show up fully and in integrity when it would be easier to step back.
Living your real, unapologetic, authentic self is easy when you are with people who think like you think – people who have a similar worldview and a similar approach to life.
However, as soon as we are with people who we sense are not like us – whether the differences are real or assumed – it gets harder. Our presence – who we are, how we think, what is important to us, and how we view the world – can make others uncomfortable if they view the world differently than we do. In turn, we can become uncomfortable. Perhaps we feel judged, not welcome, or not worthy. And frankly, so might the others.
In our efforts to live authentically, sometimes we make choices about which values we will honor and which ones, at least in that circumstance, we feel we must sacrifice. There are times when we stand for our principles, yet perhaps other times when we choose to step back in order to feel safe, whether emotionally or physically. There may also be times when we choose to stand for someone else’s values because, in that moment, that feels like the right thing to do.
Transgender parent LB Hannahs faces these choices multiple times a day. In his TEDxUF talk (see below), he reminds us that to be authentic does not necessarily mean that you are comfortable. “It means managing and negotiating the discomfort of everyday life, even at times when it is unsafe.”
LB Hannahs’ most frequent daily challenge comes when he and his young daughter, Elliot, meet strangers who refer to LB as Elliot’s “mom.”
Does he take the “easy” road and just go along with how he has been identified, keeping the other person comfortable? Even though he is then very uncomfortable? Or does he actually engage with the stranger by communicating that he is Elliot’s “dad.”
The first option may avoid creating an awkward situation, yet the second option feels more authentic. Either option can feel uncomfortable. Sometimes when choosing the second option, the other people just roll with it and the tension diffuses quickly. Yet at other times, there is push back, and occasionally even confrontation.
As a “trans-parent,” to use his term, this is just one of the constant values choices LB Hannahs faces every day. “I’ve had to engage with some of my most uncomfortable parts to move towards my most authentic self.”
When I’ve had the opportunity to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at the lives of some of the people I’ve admired the most, I’ve become aware that part of what makes them extraordinary and amazing in my eyes is the fact that they’ve been willing to face their uncomfortable parts. They’ve chosen to show up in their authentic selves even when it was hard. They somehow found the strength and fortitude to stand for who they are, for what they believe, and for a way of living that is grounded in respect for all. No apologies. In my personal journey, this has also been one of my biggest growth edges.
I invite you to watch the 13-minute video below not so much from the perspective of LB Hannah’s particular story, but rather from the perspective of what his story represents about the daily values choices we all have to make. If you are learning and growing, your authentic self will also be constantly evolving. Therefore, conscious living and leading includes an ongoing quest for living your real, unapologetic, authentic self.
Where do values challenges show up in your life? What kinds of situations bring you face-to-face with the choice between being authentic and keeping it easy?
LB Hannahs wraps up his talk:
Some days the risk of being a gender-queer dad feels too much. Deciding to be a dad has been really hard. And I’m sure it will continue to be the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life. But despite this challenge, every day has felt 100% worth it.
So each day I affirm my promise to Elliot and that same promise to myself: to love her and myself hard with forgiveness and compassion, with tough love and with generosity. To give room for growth. To push beyond comfort in hopes of attaining and living a more meaningful life.
I know in my head and in my heart that there are hard and painful and uncomfortable days ahead. My head and my heart also know that all of it will lead to a more rich, authentic life that I can look back on without regrets.
Enjoy the video.
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- What We Create, In Turn, Creates Us
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- To Be Seen or Not To Be Seen: Stepping Beyond Judgment Into Awareness and Choice