Last spring news of a global pandemic hit, the realization of its seriousness became apparent and confusion seemed to reign in how to best address it. By the summer we found ourselves in an even more contentious environment with social unrest, and by fall full on political dissention, all magnified by entities on all sides hard at work to silence thoughtful discussion, urging friend against friend, and brother against brother. It goes without saying the situation has continued to digress to shocking levels this first month of the new year.
The underlying bottom line that has crept into every community. All you have to do to be “wrong” is to think “differently” than me. And it seems we are determined to make each other wrong.
Authenticity can very quickly get mired in the quicksand of such stress, chaos, and anxiety. Our inner critic seizes these exact moments to deal with us even more harshly while it also moves us to deal with others just as harshly.
We can begin to feel powerless as if we are sinking in quicksand.
To assert ourselves, perhaps we think to even save ourselves, we can think of no other way but to claw and scratch our way out of the quicksand. That can take the form of raised voices, unkind social media posts or emails, and rude comments. Our inner critic tells us to get louder and make “them” know that they’re wrong and we’re right overriding the better judgment of our authentic voice. Be honest- have you clawed along the side of the quicksand trap of self-righteousness and judgment? Now stop, take a deep breath, and think before you answer, “Not me.”
Alternatively, our inner critic can begin to push us down into the quicksand until the breath to express our authentic voice is smothered. So, we choke on the lie that we have nothing of value to say and in this climate, who would even want to try?
Lately I’ve heard things from my clients like, “I’ll be judged or ridiculed if I try to share my thoughts. It’s just not worth it.” “I have to work with her.” “I have to see him at church.”
“It’s just not worth it”. Can you relate to this approach? Well, you’re not doing yourself or the rest of us any favors. Just because you feel powerless doesn’t mean you are. But your inner critic knows exactly what button to push to keep you small.
Keeping your authentic voice small can take the form of dismissing and shouting over others’ or shrinking into the background and not contributing at all.
You always have the power to choose. That is the true strength of your authenticity.
You can choose differently in the next situation you are faced with that is in true alignment with what authentic you really think, feels, and believes while honoring your character.
You can take a pause and tell your inner critic to calm down. That’s right. Right now, you can look in the mirror and say, “Enough. I won’t be sucked into disrespecting my brothers and sisters just because others are.”
Or “I have important things to say. My voice matters. The next time I feel like letting other voices take over, I will step up and be a voice of calm and respect.”
Your life experiences give you a perspective that needs to be part of this dialogue.
During times of stress, we all can tend to either lash out or retreat. Neither are who we were created to be. Sometimes our authentic self calls us to stand firm with respect. Sometimes it calls us to take a step back, so we don’t contribute to the chaos. But never are we called to give up on living fully as our fearless authentic self. When we wake each morning with that as our purpose, we make space for others to do the same.
We all need to call our highest and best authentic self forward now more than ever.
We are at the dawn of a new decade. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of serving our brothers and sisters better to do. The emotional climate of our world can feel very stormy and overwhelming. We do not have to feel overwhelmed. Let’s use our authentic voices to do our part in our own communities and neighborhoods toward that purpose. When we do, not only will we pull ourselves out of the quicksand, we will find the strength to lift up our world.