A Horrible Date - Part 1
Let me tell you a short dating story of mine, that happened back in 2011: One day, I walked into a supermarket with a whole lot of empty plastic bottles to return (something we do in Germany but unfortunately not in a lot of other countries) – and there he was, standing in line in front of me: The most handsome guy I‘ve seen in ages!
My mind started racing and shouting commands at my immobile body to do something, but... Honestly. I mean, have you ever met somebody in the bright neon light of a supermarket? It‘s the worst place to flirt and to exchange numbers ON EARTH!
Somehow, he noticed me and I forced a smile while sweating intensely. Don‘t ask me how, because I don‘t remember, but we started a conversation and luckily enough the guy (his name was Chris) shyly asked me for my number. I was over the moon!
But, things went south once we met for a (very short) first date. The first thing I noticed was his outfit. Chris didn‘t seem to feel at ease wearing it. Ok, it was kind of clowny: pink socks in brown leather boots, untied shoelaces, rolled up trouser legs, very tight and very patterned flower shirt, very tight trenchcoat – I swear Queer Eye’s Tan France would have been delighted AF. I wasn’t. Neither seemed Chris. At least he moved in it as he was wearing a disguise and looked super uncomfortable.
Once we sat down for drinks, it only got worse. I swear, that I‘d never ask anyone about their financial situation. Yet, there he was, telling me how rich his parents were, how much he was making and how expensive the private university was, he graduated from. Chris wasn‘t bragging, I figured out, because he was quite shy. He was extremely insecure, had no clue about dating and thought all this pseudo power and money talking would impress me. Well, needless to say, it didn‘t.
A Horrible Date - Part 2
As I said, this happened in 2011. I should have told Chris straight away, that his approach was BS, and should have offered him a training session about how to talk to women on the first date. Honestly, I would have loved to have a conversation with the real him I met at the supermarket – and not with the clown version trying to sell himself as a “good catch”. Instead I walked out on him as quickly as I could (“OMG, my friend just called and she needs me because... Well, she needs me!!!”).
I get where he was coming from. There are a lot of female golddiggers out there, who don‘t care much for the personality of a man but only for his trust fund. Equally, there are a lot of men out there, who only care for the looks of a woman as if she’s nothing more than a pretty accessory. With social norms like that, Chris' dating approach is hardly surprising. He thought that he NEEDED to show off his wealth so I would be interested. But for me – and I‘m convinced for the majority of women – this was a huge turnoff, especially as the very first conversation piece.
So, was Chris only a rare exception or is there a general lack of authenticity when it comes to dating and relationships – and perhaps even in everyday life? What do healthy relationships (no matter if romantic ones or between friends or family members) even look and feel like?
What’s this Authenticity Thing all About?
Let‘s dive first into what authenticity means: It‘s all about stepping out of your comfort zone and choosing to be real over to be liked by trading in your values and beliefs on a daily basis. Choosing to be more authentic is not binary/ a switch you can easily flip. It‘s a process, that needs to be repeated, day in and day out, in every area of life. Even when it comes to dating and to having non-toxic, healthy relationships. Especially then.
I was bullied as a kid. I looked different than others, my grades were exceptional, my favorite hobby was reading and I was a know-it-all (yep, I must have been really annoying, even to my mum). Nevertheless, my mum encouraged me to stand up for my values and beliefs. It wasn‘t easy, because that made me an outsider and one of the most unpopular girls amongst my school mates. Today I know, that compared to them, I was practicing to be authentic.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we‘re supposed to be and embrace who we are. - Brené Brown
Brené Brown is one of my favorite writers. In her book “The gifts of imperfection” she devotes a full chapter to the reasons why we need to be authentic in everyday life. She says that authenticity takes courage because of opening up, telling our story despite criticism and staying vulnerable in order to experience a real connection to other human beings. OMG, did you notice? Those are most of the ingredients you need for great and healthy relationships!
Why We Need to be More Authentic or how Unique do You Think You Are?
If you look attentively around you, you‘ll notice, that we all look kinda alike – or at least we try. Our society is homogenous in terms of looks and status symbols. The current trend dictates what to aspire after, what to wear, who to look up to, which music to listen to. We all want to have the same smartphone, the same pair of jeans and the same sneakers.
Although we think of ourselves as the most unique persons, there‘s often not much individuality left because our personality gets lost in all this conformity. Because we want to fit in. BUT: To show our uniqueness, we need to be more authentic. There‘s no way around it.
Funnily enough, we are mostly drawn to real and down- to-earth people, people who welcome us with open arms and honest affection, authentic people. Although we wish to be more like them, we struggle to get there. We rather try the route of people-pleasing and only-showing- one‘s-best because of the urgent need of belonging to some social circle, we think is desirable (investment bankers, gangsters... they all behave the same). But that behavior is neither healthy nor sustainable on a long- term basis.
How to be More Authentic: 12 Practical Tips
That you read that far, tells me, that you and me, we‘re on the same page about the need for being authentic. Awesome! Or maybe the fact, that it‘s kind of a ‚How to‘ blog post led you that far and you‘re looking for the practical dating/ relationship/ friendship/ family stuff. Fair enough, here we go:
- BE YOURSELF: Try feeling natural and at ease with yourself in any given situation and stop pretending to be someone else or to like something you dislike. For example: If you don‘t like seafood, say so. If you don‘t like the opera but rather hiphop music, say so. If you‘d rather spend a day with your partner alone instead of all your friends, discuss it openly.
- OPEN UP: Does your partner know a lot about you? Opening up about our past isn‘t easy for the most of us. It makes us vulnerable. However, if you decide to tell a few childhood/youth stories every now and then, maybe even something, that you normally don‘t talk about, it will deepen your relationship with this other person. Only do this, if you trust them enough though. Ah. Yes, there’s a thing called ‘oversharing’, and there’s a fine line. So, please do keep a few secrets and don‘t spill all the beans at once.
- BE GOOFY: We all have those moments, where we goof around or feel the need to be quirky – don‘t be afraid and let it all out. Yes, some people might make fun of you. Laugh with them and know that being yourself is a great filter: You‘ll repel the people who are not compatible with you and attract the right ones. So next time, you feel the urge of doing a little happy dance in public, because something awesome just happened, go ahead and don‘t feel ashamed. It really doesn‘t matter what other people think about you.
- FORGET PERFECTION: Don‘t try to be perfect (perfection doesn‘t exist anyway); be imperfect, embrace your flaws and be proud of them. They make you unique.
- DON‘T PLAY A ROLE: Do you remember Katherine Heigl in ‚The ugly truth‘? Spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the movie yet! Gerard Butler‘s character coached her into playing a role, pretending to be someone her neighbor would definitely fall in love with. The guy did, but in the end Katherine Heigl‘s character couldn‘t stand not being herself (an, in her eyes, unloveable control freak in comfortable and practical clothes), so she reveals all her flaws and fake accessories, she used to seduce him, and breaks off their relationship.
Gerard Butler‘s character however, got to know her real character pretty well with all her imperfections and still falls in love with her (as does she!) although both didn‘t want to. Yes, this movie uses all the clichés out there, yet there is a lot of truth in it. Always remember: ‚Every Jack will find his Jill‘. Click here to see the movie's trailer.
- BE VULNERABLE: Allow yourself to be vulnerable. There‘s no need to be always strong or great at everything. I‘m thinking of the stressful and demanding life of a housewife for example. Clean and tidy house at all time, beautiful yard, amazing kids (ugh, kids alone can already be quite stressful), making them breakfast and lunch every single morning, driving them to school, picking them up, driving them to piano and tennis classes, groceries, cooking healthy and yummy dinner, being in perfect shape and maintaining an attractive appearance all day long, having one date night with the husband per week...
There‘s no way, someone can keep up with something like that, without getting close to a mental breakdown. One “I can‘t do it all alone!” to your partner, sister or close friend can already be very relieving.
- SET BOUNDARIES: If there‘s something that you don‘t want to do despite peer pressure, DON‘T! Make clear, that your “no” really means “no”. No matter if it‘s being touched by someone, you feel uncomfortable with, anything related to drugs or even something innocent and simple as not wanting to continue the evening with someone in another bar (or at home?) even if the date was nice. If you‘re gut feeling tells you something‘s o! and you feel the need to get out of that situation, do exactly that. Get out.
- HAVE YOUR OWN OPINION (EVEN IF IT'S AN UNPOPULAR ONE): Conversations are great. We human beings need an interchange of ideas so we don‘t die of boredom. There was a time however, when I didn‘t speak up and discuss my point of view, if there was an opinion I disagreed with, only so I wouldn‘t be the unpopular girl again. I would just listen, smile and nod dutifully.
Thank God, I left this horrible behavior behind me. You‘re entitled to your own opinion and if you want to discuss it, please do so. Even on a date. Most of the times, we‘re afraid of making a negative impression on the other person, but only a few people won‘t respect you for having your own opinion and standing up for it. And those who don‘t are not worth your time anyway.
- YOU ARE ENOUGH: Let go of the fear of not being good enough. We all have it, sometimes more often, sometimes less: Being afraid of not living up to expectations others have on us. You‘re enough exactly the way you are. Including all your flaws and imperfections. Nobody has the power to judge you. Repeat after me: I am enough. I am enough. Make that your daily favorite a"affirmation.
- BE HONEST: Try to be always as honest as possible, even when you discuss uncomfortable topics with your partner. The more often you practice that, the easier it‘ll be in the future. If you usually avoid to discuss for example topics regarding your love life, start with something less intimidating. Start small. Once you feel comfortable enough, it‘ll be less hard.
- ONE CAVEAT: Authenticity does NOT mean: Telling your partner ALL your secrets and killing the romance through e.g. farting, burping or taking a dump in front of your partner. Seriously. This is gross. Have some privacy and enjoy it.
- LASTLY: Your partner will embrace and adore you for who you really are and accept all flaws and imperfections, if he or she is the right person for you. This person will stand by your side and inspire and motivate you. If this is not the case, this person does not deserve your valuable time and effort, whatsoever, and you really should move on. Free yourself, so you can attract someone who treats you right.
The Benefits of Authenticity & how to have Healthy Relationships
I wonder if Chris still pretends to be someone he isn‘t. I feel a bit sorry retrospectively that I never explained my behavior to him. Anyway, once you embrace your authenticity, some remarkable things will happen and you will notice the changes happening around you. Your environment will act differently and see you in a new light. This is not always comfortable and some people might even feel threatened by your sudden change.
Being authentic is a good filter for attracting the people who are a good match and for leaving the ones behind that don‘t have your best interests at heart. You‘ll also attract the ‚right‘ human being when you‘re dating. Someone who‘s emotionally available, kind, caring, reliable and compassionate.
If your date acts weird or freaks out during a discussion because you‘ve made your point, he or she would probably not be a good fit for you in the long-term. So no matter how hot your date is, it‘s definitely time to move on, once you notice they can‘t keep up with the real you. If you‘re in a relationship, being more authentic will help you to deepen your relation, and to be as true and honest with one another as possible.
Through open communication and trust your relationship will reach a whole different level of meaningfulness and any struggles will start to disappear. The feeling of truly supporting one another and being there even in complicated times will get stronger every day. The same is true for friendships and family ties.
Yep, I’m finally done, haha. I tried to cover authenticity extensively in this blog post so you can enjoy really great dates and compassion-filled, healthy relationships. To be authentic is a task, we only can get good at over time. So remember: Baby steps.
Are you implementing authenticity in your everyday life and your relationship? How do you do that and what is the reaction of friends and family when they discover the real you? I‘d like to know everything about it, so please share your story with me in the comments section below. And if you believe, someone around you could benefit from this post, please share it with them.
If you’re looking for practical ways on how to be more mindful and authentic in your daily life, I’ve put together what I call ‘The ultimate beginner’s guide to a mindful lifestyle’ incl. a 30 day planner to keep track on your habits. And the best part? You can download it for free 🙂