Become, live into, and express the REAL you
“Stay real, brother”
“Stay real, sister”
What does it mean to be Real? When used as an adjective, it means that what you’re discussing, that thing, actually exists. It’s a fact – not something imagined or supposed.
A second definition is that part of a substance or thing which is not imitation or artificial, it’s genuine, authentic.
Being true to yourself and your values makes you Real.
In order to be true to yourself and your values, you must know what they ARE. This kind of self-analysis and introspection doesn’t always come easy. We may be living into and standing for values that aren’t truly ours. Where do our values come from?
Since I’m no longer a “spring chicken,” I’m used to thinking about my values. Many of them derived from my upbringing – is that where yours came from? Who were the influences in your life that helped define your values?
Your parents? People who lived in your neighborhood? Folks you attended church with or school with? In thinking about your values, think about what matters to you. It’s a proven fact that what’s important to one person may not be important to another. Some of those differences are what makes the world more interesting!
For instance – one of my foundational values is owning my own home. Where did I get that value? From my parents. They scrimped and saved to buy the first home I remember in Detroit where I grew up. I remember the discussions about finances in my home and how they taught us what mattered. My father would bring home his paycheck in dollar bills and we children would count out the piles needed to pay the house payment, the utility bill, a set aside for groceries, for gas to put in the car, etc.
It was a physical and obvious lesson for us – the paycheck would only go so far. What we valued – what made life easier and what was necessary – took priority. Other things – like fast food dinners, going to the movies, buying new toys – those things may have to wait, or might not happen at all.
What has value to you?
Many people place value on their spiritual life and personal relationships – they’ll tell you gladly and firmly that those subjects matter more to them than material possessions or outer appearances.
You can always tell the people who are devoting time and energy to activities that have value for them and provide value to them. It’s the people you see at your house of worship every week, the family you see at the playground with their children, or the couple that’s out walking every evening with their dog.
You make time for what you value.
Humility is a value worth making time for.
When you practice humility, you’re able to laugh at yourself. Not taking yourself too seriously empowers you to learn and grow. Learning that you can love yourself – and that you’re deserving of love – even when you have spinach stuck in your teeth is a valuable lesson worth holding on to.
You don’t have to be perfect to be valuable. Humility helps you to keep your struggles and victories in perspective. No matter what, you should accept yourself for who you are – in your perfectly imperfect glory.
Being stuck in the idea that you must be perfect, without fault or mistake, is a recipe for disaster. There are no perfect human beings. It’s our imperfection that makes us special! Dealing with our imperfections is what helps us to grow, get stronger, and be better. Not perfect, just better.
Vulnerability is a value worth making time for.
When you’re willing to be vulnerable, you can share your deepest thoughts and dreams with trusted allies, family, and friends. To show someone your true, authentic self is to pay them a huge compliment.
It’s saying they can be trusted with the most important parts of you. Not everyone in your life can fulfill that role. You can work next to someone for years and not know everything about them – not know what makes them “tick.”
I recently said goodbye to a co-worker I’ve known for over 20 years. We started working together before the year 2000, and when I moved on from the department, they stayed. They took the foundation we built together and kept on building it. The systems we put in place in the beginning are still there, but clearly updated and different.
Even having worked together and closely for so long, there are still things about them I don’t know, and I’m okay with that. I do know a lot about my soon-to-be-former coworker, and I’m happy that I was trusted with that knowledge.
Honesty is a value worth making time for.
I have a lot of respect for people who function and live from a position of honesty. Even when it may not be easy to hear, people should know that when they ask you questions, they’ll get honest answers.
They will come to value you for the candid feedback you provide that helps them to see where the potential pitfalls are that would derail their progress. They’ll be grateful for your suggestions for changes that need to be made so that you can take your next step forward and reach your goals. Part of the value of Honesty is in telling the truth even when the results of your authenticity may be uncomfortable or inconvenient.
That doesn’t mean you set out to make people uncomfortable with the truth – it does mean that you let them know in advance what you’re about to say might be harder to hear, but it’s necessary.
One way to frame that in a discussion is to say, “If I knew something that would help you move forward, though it might be hard to hear, would you want me to tell you, or keep it to myself?”
You’ve given the other person the decision and some of the power. If they WANT to hear the truth, you can then tell them. If they don’t want to hear it, leave it alone.
The focus of honesty in this instance is on helping others rather than coddling them or simply blowing smoke up their noses.
Trustworthiness is a value worth making time for.
It’s not something we are born with; it must be earned. When you speak sincerely and uphold your commitments, people around you learn that you can be trusted. When you try to deliver all that you promised, in any situation, you teach others that you are a person of your word and that you can be trusted.
When you support and stand by friends, family, and co-workers in their time of need or when they’re challenged by circumstances, you earn trust and can be described as trustworthy.
You must continue to reinforce your trust in yourself as well. Taking breaks from the daily grind gives you the opportunity to look inward and see what you’d like to change. Can you trust yourself to do what is necessary to promote a feeling of peacefulness in your own heart? Do you take actions to relieve the pressure of daily life for yourself?
Figuring out what your mind and body need to perform at their best and then taking action to promote those qualities makes you trustworthy to yourself. It may feel like trusting yourself is an innate characteristic, but for we perfectly imperfect human beings, that’s not true.
We need to demonstrate that we can and will take care of ourselves. We need to reinforce that we will protect and nurture our authentic selves.
We must take the time to listen to our own inner voices – because listening is the first step, and the second? Taking authentic action to implement what we’re hearing. If your authentic voice is telling you that your current job is toxic and you need to leave, take action.
Put together a plan to get out of that toxic situation and every day, take steps to bring your plan to fruition. Decide what it is you really WANT to be doing and take action. It may not happen overnight – in fact, you don’t want it to happen overnight – but when you make an effort every day to know that it means to be real to yourself, and you get closer to that mark, you’re succeeding.
Combine your Humility – your ability to laugh at yourself and love yourself anyway; your Vulnerability – showing your true, authentic self; your Honesty – sharing the truth with others; and your Trustworthiness – speaking sincerely and keeping your promises – and you’ll become, live into, and express the REAL you.
Journal Prompts to Help You Get and Stay Real:
- How can discovering and living my authentic truth set me free?
- How does seeking the approval of others prevent me from being authentic?
- How does it feel when I’m honest with myself?
- How can dealing honestly with sensitive subjects help my relationships?
- Who am I vulnerable with, and are they deserving of my vulnerability?