This month I have been focusing on the topic of character. In the post called, "Sun Sets and Rises,"
I touched on the idea of letting go and grieving the things we lost in 2020 that forced unprepared families into uncharted waters. In the blog, "When You Can't," I shared the conflict between narcissism and compassion and how they are opposing factors that can result in feelings of guilt and shame. In the Blog, "Character Counts," I talk about recognizing when lies, overgeneralization, and exaggerations can lead to miscommunication. Today, I'd like to talk about how our beliefs will result in behaviors that are telling others who you are.
In an article written in the magazine, "Psychology Today," (February 2021-Validation Starts With You) author Karyn Hall Ph.D provides excerpts from her book, The Power of Validation;
"Be genuine. Do not lie to yourself. Don't pretend to be someone you aren't. Rejecting who you are is high-level invalidation and can be damaging. An important distinction: Who you are is different from what you do. You are not your behavior."
In the same magazine another contributor, Michael Leviton (The Liars of Kindergarten) said he was raised by parents who encouraged him to point out the lies others told. As an adult he said, "After decades of this (rejection from others). I'd had enough. So, I've spent the last 10 years lying." He even admits he lies "daily" and that his family is "not always willing to be dishonest this way themselves." His conclusion, "No matter how dishonest I may be in my regular life, it's always freeing to spend time with my family and not need to lie at all."
It seems to me that these two authors are contradicting each other. The first says to be genuine and don't lie and pretend to be someone you're not; and the second says he must lie and pretend to agree with others in order to belong. I think both authors are missing a valuable component: Identity. In a society where false pretenses and hidden agendas drive the choices of many, we are getting further and further away from knowing our genuine selves.
A person cannot be genuine if they do not know who they are. Michael felt he must change who he is (honest and discerning) to being a liar in order to belong. I think if he felt confident in his values and stuck to them he wouldn't need to change to please others. There is a saying, "You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all of the time." You will always find people who disagree with you. This is why knowing what your values are helps you to remain genuine, even when it means you might lose a friend.
As a therapist, I offer my clients the opportunity to explore their values. To gain knowledge into how their values are being undermined by their behaviors. When we say one thing and do another we can have blind-spots to what is reality. When it comes to recognizing imperfections I ask them if they see the disparity between who they want to be and who they are actually being. Once they recognize the difference between the two (wants and actions) then we begin the journey of rewriting their story so they can have a better ending.