When your child has health concerns, you are stressed. And when you are stressed, you just want things to be easy. Sometimes being authentic isn’t easy – sometimes it seems as if authenticity will lead to conflict or even to a connection that you don’t have time to manage right now. Authenticity is also scary – can the person you’re communicating with handle the truth? Will he or she accept your authenticity or will your honesty drive this person away?
However, the flip side of authenticity comes with its own pitfalls. Who has time to keep track of who you are supposed to be in different situations and with different people? And, inevitably, being duplicitous or lying your way toward easy solutions may work well in individual situations, but it’s a house of cards – when a lie or a broken promise or a comment meant for some ears and not others is found out, the entire house of your credibility can fall down around you.
Authenticity helps people believe that you are who you say you are. It encourages people to believe in the integrity of you as a person.
Unfortunately, most of us have way more practice being inauthentic than we do with authenticity. This means that the first step to harnessing the power of authenticity is discovering what it actually means for you. Who are you, authentically? In any situation, what is your “authentic” way to act, and what is you trying to act authentic and thereby expressing a caricature of what you think an “authentic person” would say or do?
It’s so hard to know! And let’s get back to an important point: If you have a medically complex child, you probably don’t have the spare time or resources to spend a year at an ashram in India seeking your true self. But you do have something else. In addition to making you sprint from sunup to sundown, the trial-by-fire that is your child’s condition can clarify your true self.
You will never be more real than when you child needs you. In these moments, who do you become? Are you a bully or a bystander? Are you kind or are you forceful? Do you play the system by the rules or do you exploit loopholes for your child’s gain? Do you trust others’ opinions or do you stick to your own?
This is how you find authenticity: Through your child’s illness, you have the rare opportunity to distill the essence of your being, to gain the hard-earned wisdom that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy but that can guide your growth. Once you know who you are, authentically, only then can you choose to express it.
Garth Sundem is a parent, husband, and author of books including “Real Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change”.